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‘Serial’ (Season 1) Review: A Shrimp Sale at the Crab Crib

Let me tell you one thing, right off the bat, so you’d understand where I’m coming from in this review: I’m not a fan of podcasts. Sure, I’ve given the medium a fair shake over the years, sporadically downloading and listening to a few podcasts on and off, but I never really felt that it was a medium that really worked for me.

Now that you have a little bit of context on how I feel about podcasts, this makes my fascination with Serial a bit of an anomaly. I can list off a bunch of things why I liked it, but I’ll spare you the speculation because it boils down to just two things: Sarah Koenig’s great narration, and Adnan Syed’s plight.

Much of Serial focused on the brutal 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee, 18-year-old student at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore, Maryland. Her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was convicted afterwards. But here’s the thing – he has maintained his innocence throughout the entire trial and even up to this day. It would be an open and shut case if there was still lingering doubt that Syed really did murder Lee, with the primary witness’ testimony changing with every confession.

Adnan Syed
Adnan Syed

Koenig digs up evidence from 16 years ago, and the thing is, she started thoroughly convinced of Adnan Syed’s innocence. But in the one year she investigated his case, she discovers things that make her believe Syed is innocent one day and doubting him the next. At one point she loudly wonders if she is talking to a charming sociopath.

There’s something about this podcast that kept me listening; in fact I sat through the entire 12-episode season in around two days. However, I could tell that Koenig, despite her doubts, skewed the narration for Syed’s innocence. I may not agree with that narrative decision – I’m firmly in the camp that Syed should not have been convicted due to reasonable doubt, but it’s possible that he did commit the crime – but how she picks apart the evidence, testimony, and the state and defendant’s cases is a compelling listen and worth your time.

I’m not even going to dive into the details of the case here and speculate on whatever happened that fateful day – go listen to the podcast for that. Serial has often been praised as the podcast that made the medium mainstream, and rightfully so.

Listen to Serial here, and come back here and let’s talk about what you think. I need to talk to people with theories. Come on. Let’s do it.

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Ade Magnaye
Ade Magnaye
Ade is a bassist who blogs way too much about Doctor Who and Batman.

Check out his blog at Noisy Noisy Man and follow him on Twitter: @AdeMagnaye
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