In a world that has an insatiable obsession with the visual, Serial brings relief. I sit in bed at 9pm on a Thursday, eyes closed, no earphones necessary. I want Sarah Koenig’s voice to bounce off the walls and into my head like a paintball machine, sploshing much needed color on the lazy canvass that my imagination has become. ‘Serial’s back!’ I say to myself, noticing the subtle tingling in the back of my head I’ve longed associated with excitement. It spreads down my neck, washing the day away as I nestle cosily into this season’s pilot ‘DUSTWUN’.
For the second season of Serial, Koenig has teamed up with Mark Boal, screenwriter of films like The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. Boal has been corresponding with Bowe Bergdahl, whose famed five year Taliban captivity, prompted both celebration and questioning stares upon his release in May 2014. Many, including members of Bergdahl’s platoon, have called him a deserter. Others question whether or not he has been “turned”, which would explain his survival after so many years in captivity. Questions and conspiracies abound, Bergdahl is currently stationed in Texas in a clerical position, as he awaits news of a possible trial that could result in him spending the rest of his life in federal prison.
Koenig’s narration begins with a description of Bergdahl’s release before exploring his reasons for leaving the army base at Mest-Malek. The show’s staggered style and intermittent commentary from the accused, his peers and contextual analyses from the US war in Afghanistan (5 Guantánamo Bay prisoners were released as part of the deal for Bergdahl), is comforting in the most ironic of ways. It takes me back to the stories my sisters and I made up during pre-screen years, when children rode bikes outside and you found out where a friend lived by simply going to their neighborhood and asking a passerby. We would draw out stick figures and invent lives for them, the stories becoming increasingly convoluted as our child-like sketches of houses, cars, trees and other stick people began to crowd the boundaries of the A5 lined school paper we weren’t supposed to be tearing out. Each of us would take turns in adding an image to the story, never knowing where it would lead. The completed canvas, while in no way endearing, was always like magic.
Back in the real world, Serial‘s unique format has also been proof of how the court of public opinion infiltrates courts of law. The popularity of its inaugural season, helped reopen the case of Adnan Syed after the show publicized the omission of critical evidence in the initial trial and fans responded with a petition. Though technically unconstitutional (I’m guessing juries are sequestered for a reason), a refreshing attribute of the Screen Years has been its ability to incite people to action. It should be interesting to see if or how this season’s investigation impacts Bergdahl’s case.
Listen to the first episode here: https://serialpodcast.org/