Reviewing: Serial, Season 1

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Let me start off by saying, I’m always late to everything. I mean, I haven’t even watched “Breaking Bad” yet.

So this past week, I started a new job where I have an hour commute (without traffic). My favorite podcast, Ear Biscuits, is currently on hiatus. So I decided to give this one a try, because I had been meaning to ever since my former bosses flipped out about it.

And, I have to admit, I’m seriously addicted.

Holy shit. Like seriously. Addicted.

For those who are like me and haven’t jumped on the “Serial” bandwagon yet, here’s the low-down:

“Serial” is a podcast produced by journalists over at NPR and is an off-shoot of their other podcast “This American Life.” “Serial” covers a single story, with incredible depth, over the course of 11-12 weeks.

Season one focused on the case of Adnan Syed, who was controversially convicted of his ex-girlfriend’s murder 15 years ago. He was sentenced to life in prison, despite the fact there was not concrete, DNA evidence to support he was the one who killed Hae Min Lee after school in Maryland in 1999. All they have to go on is the testimony of a witness who says he didn’t actually see the murder but allegedly helped bury the body. Lots of stuff was fishy about this case and the way it was handled.

I think the podcast’s voice, Sarah Koenig, does a fantastic job of outlining everything, from the actual day of the murder, to the discovery of Lee’s body, to the strangeness of Syed’s lawyer and her practices, to the question of who actually did it? Not only does the show go in depth with who all the players are, disconnected from the case, but they also discuss the more pressing questions about anomalies in the data and the validity of memory. They also talk about family values, cultural values and how teenagers will always be teenagers.

Go listen to it now. Set aside a good ten hours and just listen.

Here’s the thing, we can never truly know who did it. But I don’t think Syed did it.

And I think a lot of people don’t think he did it.

As discussed in the podcast, The Innocence Project has taken on Syed’s case and have named known-killer as their top suspect for the Lee’s murder. This seems like a bit of a stretch to me, very coincidental. But you never know, right? Stranger things have happened. They are petitioning to have DNA recovered from Lee tested to help strengthen their case to free Syed — the DNA was not tested in 1999.

Syed had a hearing earlier this year to have his conviction overturned, under the condition that he received “ineffective assistance of counsel” from his original attorney M. Cristina Gutierrez, according a post on Serial’s website. His conviction was overturned and he has been granted a new trial.

While I like to think Syed is not guilty, and he could be exonerated and free from prison. It still makes me question what that could mean. “Serial” does not really discuss the ramifications of sentencing minors to life in prison. There is a wonderful documentary on Netflix called Lost for Life, that discusses this issue in depth.

Not only has he had to live with his knowledge of whatever happened for so long, whether he did it or not, but he has grown up in an extremely volatile environment that could exacerbate one’s feelings either way. And readjusting to a new world that he has been shut off from, could be extremely difficult given how much has changed since 1999. To be clear again, I think he is innocent. But these issues need to be addressed as well if that time comes.

“Serial” is a wonderful operation with fantastic journalists working to bring us the kinds of stories I love to hear. It is definitely worth your time. I will be following Syed’s case as it unfolds, so you can expect more discussion on this topic in the future.

Have you listened to “Serial,” Season 1? Do you think Syed is guilty? How do you think his retrial will unfold? Let’s talk.

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2 comments

  1. I’m so happy you listened to Serial! I started listening to it about halfway through the season, and I was addicted to it in the same way! I think they did great with the flow of the story and making the listener second guess their opinion every episode. There’s a documentary on Syed I have yet to watch, but I’m excited to see how his trial goes (I think he’s innocent too, and the evidence was handled so badly!)

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    • Oooh, I’ll have to look up that documentary. I know that there’s another podcast about his trial, “Undisclosed,” but it was started by Rabia – the friend who believes, without a doubt that he’s innocent. I’m a bit tempted to listen to it, but I worry that because she’s essentially running the show, it might be pretty biased. Don’t know, but I can’t wait to see when the DNA comes back and how that may influence the retrial!

      Like

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