I come to praise Serial, not to bury it

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 06.50.17Anticipating the usual clickbait backlash out there on the interwebs, I just want to leave this here now that Serial has reached its 12th and final episode.

If you are one of the 7 billion or so other people who haven’t been obsessing on Serial and don’t feel inclined to binge on all 12 episodes but maybe would like a taste of what all the fuss is about, try this. Obviously, you could just listen to episode 1. I would defy you then not to be hooked, but if you’re really short of time, then I suggest a different thing altogether.

One of the all-time great episodes of This American Life is “Dr Gilmer and Mr Hyde” (http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/492/dr-gilmer-and-mr-hyde), about a small town doctor who investigates a patricide committed by his same-named predecessor. It’s compelling, gripping, surprising, and brilliantly narrated by none other than Sarah Koenig, the journalistic force behind Serial. Listen to that, which fits into an hour, and then you’ll know something of what Serial is like. “Dr Gilmer and Mr Hyde” had me frozen, mid-step, in the kitchen, holding my breath.

So to the last Serial episode, which was very well done. It was scrappy, but always interesting throwing in different voices and some new information that might take regular listeners time to process. The main thrust of the episode was to include all the possibilities, all the voices, and to acknowledge that those who still affirm that Adnan did it have more on their side of the line than just an opinion. He did have to have been extremely unlucky for those circumstances to stack up against him. I still find it puzzling that someone would get a new mobile phone and immediately leave it with a friend, along with his car. He denies it, but a couple of people have said that he did ask Hae for a lift that day – although he argues that he wouldn’t have because he knew she was supposed to pick up her cousin every day.

You could ruminate for hours on all the things that point towards Adnan as the culprit, but then here comes Don.

Don was the new boyfriend. They’d officially been an item for less than 2 weeks, and yet, according to Don, she spent the night with him on the 12th January, the day before she was killed.

To me, this is the big piece of information that nobody seemed to know before. This girl, who had been keeping her previous boyfriend secret from her parents, this 18 year old school girl, is spending the night with her new, older boyfriend? And she has written a note that was found in her car, which read, in part: sorry I couldn’t stay. Don says now that she wanted to stay and take the day off school but he had to work and told her she ought to go to school. So was the sorry in the note sorry because he wouldn’t let her bunk off school? Or is Don’s version departing from the truth?

And how would Hae’s family and friends react if they learned that she’d just spent the night with Don? It opens the possibility that Adnan, who presumably never got to spend the night with her in that way, might well have lost his shit. Or maybe somebody else did.

“Big Picture”

Another strand of this final episode was an update from The Innocence Project, who have identified a potential serial killer who was released from prison at about the time that Hae and Don started officially dating. Ronald Lee Moore also seems to have targeted at least one other young Korean-American woman. So there’s a petition to get the DNA evidence in the case tested (finally). The problem with this third party option being that Jay appears to have known too much about Hae’s burial not to have been in some way involved. As people keep pointing out, Jay knew where the car was. Sarah Koenig expresses this thought, and is told, “Big picture, Sarah.”

This could be interpreted as, don’t focus on small details at this stage. Or it could be interpreted as, shut up, this is the only way to get the DNA into evidence, and who knows what we might find?

The show drops in that Hae was interviewed by a local TV crew on the day she died. Amazingly, this short interview, and film of Hae with her lacrosse stick in the school gym, is available on YouTube.

As for the Jay knew where her car was line, well. Maybe he did. Maybe he was involved, with Adnan or the third party. Or maybe he spotted the car some time in the weeks between her disappearance and the discovery of her body. Or maybe there’s another reason he knew.

Finally, Sarah Koenig concludes that there was never enough damning evidence to convict Adnan Syed, and I agree. She also confesses to still having some doubts, though she believes most of the time that Adnan is innocent. Nobody, says Adnan, except the real killer and himself can know for sure that he is innocent.

What was going on that day with Jay and Adnan? I’d speculate that they were on a mission to get weed. I think weed was on their minds all day long. And if Adnan did leave his car and phone with Jay, it was because Jay had need of them to get weed. So a mission for weed, maybe, turned into a murder. Or a mission for weed, maybe, turned into some involvement with a third party who turned to murder. Or a mission for weed, maybe turned into paranoia and a cooked up story that laid the blame at Adnan’s door. Jay may have known where the car was, and what Hae was wearing when she was buried because he was coached in those details. We’ll never know, unless one of the cops confesses on his death bed, or Jay comes forward and admits that he lied.

Anyway, I was hooked from the start and bereft now it has finished.

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