HCAU Reviews: Serial

HCAU Reviews: ‘Serial’



While I was traveling this summer, my friend and fellow HC girl, India, got me into listening to podcasts during one of our long bus journeys across Spain. If you’ve never listened to podcasts before, I urge you to give them a go! They are great – informative and entertaining, easy to download, and entirely addictive. There are endless genres of podcast but the first I listened to was ‘Serial’ and after that I became totally hooked. For anyone new to podcasts I highly recommend ‘Serial’ as a starting point.

So first of all, what is ‘Serial’? It is a podcast produced by Sarah Koenig, a journalist for ‘This American Life’. It was first released in October 2014 with weekly installments, ending in December 2014 with the twelfth and final episode, “What We Know”. The podcast was released after a year of research surrounding the murder of Hae Min Lee, who went missing in Baltimore on January 13, 1999. Her body was found a few weeks later in Leakin Park, she had been strangled and her body and car abandoned. For the beginning of the investigations her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed was thought to have been involved. He was later charged with her murder, convicted and sent to prison for life plus 30 years. He has continued to declare his innocence to this day.

As I listened to this 3 years after all the episodes were released, I was able to listen to all 12 episodes in one journey (yes I was that obsessed), even listening to some episodes more than once, trying to work out how I felt about evidence presented or an opinion shared. Every episode began with a prerecorded prison-call greeting and went on to discuss the evidence surrounding the case. Over the year Koenig had been researching the case, she had regularly spoken to Syed over the phone and recorded their conversations. Koenig trawled through evidence, interviewing people 15 years after the event, asking for their personal recollection of that day. Within the podcast she is able to go through what the state has said happened on January 13th, while listening to old suspect interviews, checking phone records, and basically going through and evaluating every detail. All the time she’s doing this, she presents what she has found to Syed, so we hear his reactions and explanations. As a listener I feel we are able to make our own judgments on the case from these conversations, taking into consideration the evidence that may suggest one thing and then listening to the honest reactions from Syed himself, which for the most part suggest something entirely different.

I don’t want to give away too many details about the case because I want you to listen for yourself and form your own opinions, but personally, the series gave me a lot to think about. I felt sympathy for Adnan Syed, and confusion about further confessions from his friends. Moreover I felt a kind of friendship with Koenig, relating to her confusion and desire to learn the truth. Overall the podcast shared the voices of the many people involved with the case, detailing accounts and theories in a gripping, conversational style. It is clear that Koenig wanted to solve all the small mysteries that seem to be part of the bigger picture. What really happened that day? Who was involved? Does Syed know more than he’s telling us?

I feel the podcast acts as a story, guiding us through these questions in an easily understandable way. However, directly hearing the reactions of Syed as well as others highlights just how complex the justice system is. The podcast sounds much like thrilling fiction but in reality what we are listening is a lot more profound than just that.

You can find ‘Serial’ on the iPhone Podcast App or online at https://serialpodcast.org


All photos taken from Google Images