Originally published via CHS.Today on December 2, 2014
Sarah Koenig’s latest exploration into podcasting, Serial, begins with her asking teenagers whether they can remember what they were doing six weeks ago. Though this introduction confuses listeners, it also draws our intrigue as she begins to explain the case at hand. A murder, a convicted murderer and an attempt to form an alibi.
In the first episode, we’re introduced to the story of Adnan Syed, the convicted murderer and ex-boyfriend of Hai Min Lee. Our ears are already at attention as Koenig brings us deeper into the bizarre. The case took place 15 years ago, the jury seemed to arrive at a fast verdict, and yet Koenig seems to find something wrong. She has spent months obsessing over Syed’s case. Chasing down anyone who had any involvement in the case and collecting as many interviews, case files and interrogation tapes as she could manage to get her hands on.
Yet Koenig doesn’t first introduce this information. First, she makes sure we’re familiar with the prosecution’s story, a story that rests almost entirely on one witness, a friend of Syed’s Jay. Jay’s story paints a gruesome tale of a boy angry of a breakup who takes his anger to a great extreme, one that ends in the death of his girlfriend. As crazy as the story seems, we are shocked into submission, quickly picking up the story and readily accepting it, the details seem so elegantly pieced together as Koenig leads us down the rabbit hole she’s been digging out through her research.
This is the point where Koenig begins to make us, her listeners, feel as though we’re back watching Sydney Lumet’s 12 Angry Men, with us, the listeners ready to convict and Koenig being the sole juror unwilling to quickly convict as she spots errors in the prosecution’s story. The phenomenal aspect of the podcast comes in here, we were ready to convict Syed, in fact we had. Not in a literal sense, but in our minds we all felt Syed was at fault. We had connected so much with his ex-girlfriend that we had easily jumped to the conclusion that Syed is evil. That in his mind, he was allowed to do this.
So it’s rather surprising to us as we, the at-home-juror are slowly fed the details Koenig has prepared for us in her compilations of interviews with Syed, his friends, his family and even a trip to the location of where the body of Syed’s ex-girlfriend was discovered. Koenig slowly begins to chip away at the prosecution’s story slowly leading us to lose our sure conviction, and slowly begin to descend into a confusing rabbit hole of conflicting accounts and mystery all the while the smell of conspiracy thick in the air.