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October 9, 2017 | by  | in Podcasts |
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Serial

It would be hard (almost a sin, maybe?) to write about podcasts and not mention Serial. Now three-years old, this true crime podcast is widely considered the catalyst of the “podcast resurgence.” It broke records by becoming the fastest podcast to reach five million downloads in the history of iTunes — the podcast equivalent of going viral.

I can at least personally vouch for this; prior to Serial my podcast knowledge was limited to wondering what “the point” of podcasts was and getting the vague sense it was all a little nerdy. Flash-forward to my life post-Serial and I probably listen to at least two podcasts a day. That is the power a riveting murder mystery podcast can have over your life.  

The series follows American journalist Sarah Koenig as she investigates the murder of 18-year old Hae Min Lee, who died in 1999. Who killed her? The police believed it to be Adnan Syed, her ex-boyfriend who was convicted of her murder in 2000. But Koenig’s digging casts doubt upon his guilt. It is the ultimate question raised by the podcast, the question that splits its fans: did Adnan Syed really murder Hae Min Lee?

But really, it is not simply the facts of the case and the information the investigation brings to light that make this podcast so compelling. What sets Serial apart is Koenig’s ability to craft a narrative, to draw the listener deep into her own mind where she struggles to decide who and what she believes. Koenig very much becomes the main character in the story. As you listen to the episodes she does not pose as an all-knowing narrator — rather, you follow her as she learns new information and delves deeper. You listen to her speculate and go back-and-forth on her opinions while you do the same.

Serial wasn’t created to exonerate Syed; it doesn’t promise to “solve the mystery” or answer all the questions. If anything, it raises far more questions than it answers. But rather than cheapening Serial, this is its power. The unanswered questions are the reason it is still talked about today; the reason there are podcasts and countless Reddit subgroups dedicated to discussing it; the reason that it will go down as iconic.

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