The End of Serial, Part One

by Michelle Dean

Tomorrow morning will see the airing of the very last episode of Serial. At this point everyone’s spilled so much ink on the podcast you might be feeling some fatigue, but I’ll throw my own writing on the subject your way anyway. I’ve been following closely and also doing some reporting on the subreddit that became a sort of second character on the show as things moved along. It has been a strange, sad, and oddly moving to experience and observe this phenomenon. I’m still trying to figure out what to make of it all.

I’ll write more in the morning once I’ve heard the episode, but it seemed worth recording my last-Serial-eve feelings of trepidation with you. I am not expecting fireworks tomorrow. I am expecting a whimper.

I may be wrong to do so. It’s of course possible Koenig will announce that she has found evidence either that Adnan Syed is either innocent or guilty of the murder he is now in prison for. But more likely, I think, is that we’ll get a kind of meditation on how weird this whole experience has been for Koenig herself. And then she’ll sign off. And we’ll all be left looking at each other, wondering exactly what it is we’ve done by opening this whole case up to rabid public attention if there was no endgame in sight.

It may sound like I’m condemning Koenig there. I’m not. I’m oddly sympathetic to her. I don’t think she could have predicted the rabid attention this podcast got, and I especially don’t think she could have predicted that the last episode of this show would come freighted with so many feelings. Tonight has got to be a strange night of her life.

And you know, I’ve done enough of my own reporting to know that this is the way things are, if you do non-fiction. Sometimes stories don’t pan out. Life doesn’t offer happy endings. Telling stories about other people involves, all too frequently, hurting them. It most certainly involves leaving them to their own devices after you’re done reporting, to live on their lives as people who were once written about. I think most of my weird feelings amount to that, actually: what will happen to Adnan Syed now, one the white hot spotlight of national obsession leaves him?