For the past 5 weeks I have become utterly obsessed with this podcast, called Serial. I first heard about it quite randomly from friends who were in town to attend another friends wedding in Goa. (And I’m not at all embarrassed to admit that Nowshad and I spent almost all of our “down-time”, between wedding events, feverishly listening to episode after episode of this fascinating story.) As of now, the first thing you’ll see when you visit the podcast website serialpodcast.org are the images below with a link to the final episode of season 1.
Just FYI – Serial – The podcast’s first season is a true crime story about the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee, a senior at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore County, Maryland. Hae’s ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, a 17-year-old student, was arrested, convicted of strangling Hae, and is serving a life sentence in a Maryland prison. Adnan’s conviction was based largely on the testimony of one man: an acquaintance named Jay, who described how he helped Adnan carry out the logistics of his murderous plot and later watched Adnan bury Hae’s body.
IMPORTANT: If you have not heard any of the episodes, and before you read ANY further (AND in fact, if we are ever going to be friends) please immediately go to Episode 1 and listen to the entire thing in sequence and then come back; (please come back, because we need to talk).
In fact, I’ve even imbedded ALL 12 episodes for you here so you don’t have to go anywhere, for a while.
Crazy, right? This is them, back in 1998.
Ok, so I must start by saying that the reason I find Serial SO utterly fascinating is that it involves the painstaking narrative of a real murder case that happened back in 1999. But the way they do it is so… so touchy feely. The narration, the testimony, the voices. It’s what we always recongized in the radio world as theatre of the mind. It allows your imagination to take flight and conjure up a visual that is unique to you and your imagination alone. (Here’s an example of how that works, picture a cube…)
Point being, that listening to a story unfold (especially one based on true events) is akin to reading a book. The magic of which we are all familiar with. Again – theatre of the mind. Because your mind is capable of far greater visual imagery (not to mention CGI effects) than any 3D movie will ever have to offer. But I digress…
By now you are familiar with the disarming voice of the Serial host, Sarah Koenig. I think she does a brilliant job being utterly honest about her own unresolved feelings towards the case and its protagonist – Adnan Syed. I have flipped and flopped with her time and time again thinking, he didn’t do it, did he? He couldn’t have, could he? Or equally often; Oh My God. He did it. He really did, how could he?
PS. Poorna Jagannathan, sometimes I feel like this too :) and btw, it delights me to no end that we listen to the same stuff.
And now I sit here, having heard all 12 episodes, still conflicted (much like Sarah) and here are the questions that bother me most. The ones that keep me up at night. (Also admittedly, the ones I spend hours searching for answers to on Reddit.) I thought if I write them all down it might help… help me, help you? I don’t know. But for what it’s worth, here they are, and any ol’ time you want to have a chat with me about them (or any burning questions YOU might have) just leave me a comment below and you better believe I’ll be back to hash it out!
(Remember these probably won’t make any sense unless you have heard Serial and understand what I’m talking about!)
1. Why doesn’t Adnan EVER say anything about Jay?
I know it’s been 15 years, but surely you’d STILL be pretty pissed off? At the very least hurt, confused, angry and emotional about someone who’s sole testimony sentenced you to life in prison? Apparently for no reason?! Why doesn’t Adnan ever say, Why Jay? Why?
2. What’s up with Jay having Adnan’s car AND cell phone the day of the murder if they were never even that good friends?
3. Are Jay and Adnan BOTH lying about what they did that day to protect someone else?
4. What’s with the almost too-vague reference to some “tension” over Adnan and Stephanie being BFFs and Hae confronting Jay about cheating on Stephanie? How come that never really comes up again?
5. The Asia letters. WTF. (Now look into my eyes and tell me you’re not high.)
6. The Nisha call. A devastatingly incriminating two-minute-twenty-two-second butt dial, really?!
7. How creepy is it that Hae was interviewed on TV about being a student athlete the same day that she disappeared and this might be that very same clip?
8. What if Adnan’s lawyer, Christina Gutierrez, discovered the truth, but defended him anyway and that’s why he’s still so grateful to her for keeping his secrets?
9. What was the BIG rumour that Sarah Koenig said she pursued, but couldn’t verify?
10. How creepy was that “I’M GOING TO KILL” on Hae’s November breakup note? And what exactly happened at 7:45am that day?
11. What did Hae’s note to Don mean when she said, “Hey cutie. Sorry I couldn’t stay. But I promise to page you as soon as I get done, okay?” Was the note even for Don?
12. Who killed Hae Min Lee? I have to know. One way or another. I have to know.
Now to decompress from all this heaviness! Here’s an insanely awesome SNL sketch that nails EVERYTHING about Serial. Twice.
Ok…. so there you have it. A brilliant podcast, and much like life – an unresolved dilemma. Is that the same as reasonable doubt? You tell me. xo