Serial fans! Your time has come.
Sarah Koenig's insanely addictive podcast Serial returned for its second season this morning.
This year, Koenig and co. focus on controversial soldier Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who left his Afghani base in 2009 and spent five years in Taliban captivity. In 2014, he has released in exchange for five Taliban fighters, a move that was immediately criticized after rumors circulated that Bergdahl was a traitor who switched sides. Bergdahl says instead he was a young, egotistical soldier who wanted to alert commanders there were leadership problems in his platoon that could put his comrades in arms in danger.
The first season of Serial, detailing the trial of Adnan Syed who was accused of killing his high school girlfriend, dealt in similarly murky waters. Was he innocent or guilty? That season was downloaded nearly 100 million times and earned itself a Peabody Award.
Koenig, who calls State College home, says that while there was a firestorm around Bergdahl – in October, Donald Trump insinuated that Bergdahl should have been shot – the sergeant himself is a cipher and has never spoken. Until now. This season, Koenig partnered with screenwriter Mark Boal (Zero Dark Thirty), who was working on a movie about Bergdahl. Boal gave Koenig access to the 25 hours of interviews he has with Bergdahl. In the first episode, Bergdahl talks about what was going through his mind the night he decided to leave his base with only three liters of water, two knives, a camera, a journal and vacuum packed chicken: "I'm going, 'Good grief, I'm in over my head. Suddenly, it really starts to sink in that I really did something bad," Bergdahl says. "Or, not bad, but I really did something serious."