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‘Serial’ Podcast Finale: What We Know (and What We Don’t Know)

'Serial' Podcast Finale: What We Know (and What We Don't Know)

Yesterday, Funny or Die shared a video skit featuring Michaela Watkins playing Sarah Koenig before the final episode of “Serial.” Though poking fun at a real-life murder investigation is in questionable taste, the spoof did get something right — the pressure on Koenig to deliver a satisfying ending to the blockbuster “This American Life”-spinoff podcast.

So now that the “Serial” is over, did Koenig manage to deliver? 

[Spoilers follow.]

Anyone who is expecting the 12-episode podcast to wrap up like a scripted series (other than “Lost” or “The Sopranos”) will invariably be disappointed. There’s no surprise ending. The butler didn’t do it. But to be fair, Koenig never promised we would have hard answers by the end of her investigation into this 1999 murder. Part of the appeal of “Serial” all along has been that we’ve all gotten to be amateur sleuths, speculating on everything, asking “what if” to infinity. And the speculations continued with the latest episode.

The episode delivers some updates, but mostly, Koenig and her colleagues recap what they know about the murder of Hae Min Lee and the case against Adnan Syed.

In a frustrating move, Koenig spends too much time talking to a new player in the “Serial” story, Josh, who worked with Jay at the porn video store back when Hae was murdered. Josh says he remembers Jay being afraid of people connected to the murder and was freaked out about a van parked across the street from the video store.

But Josh’s recollections, ultimately, don’t really add up to much except that he didn’t think Jay was the type of person to be involved in a murder (as if anyone can identify that type of person so easily).

“He wasn’t the type of guy that you really got the sense he could do something real,” Josh said about Jay. “He wasn’t a killer and he wasn’t a thug in anything. He was kind of the opposite. He seemed like he was in way over his head.”

But again, that’s neither here nor here.

Koenig also finally managed to talk to Don, Hae’s boyfriend at the time of her murder. But aside from confirming that Adnan was a good guy, nothing really comes out of that conversation either (although interestingly, Don, like Adnan, also didn’t call Hae after she went missing).

So many questions still remain and, as Koenig herself pointed out, “there’s something that’s not computing here.”

After running through the cell phone call record and the infamous “Nisha call” yet again, Koenig acknowledges the unresolved discrepancies — discrepancies that may never be resolved.

She comes to a realization that honestly, you’d have hoped she would have reached quite some time ago: that it’s not a question of whether Jay was lying or Adnan was lying, but rather the possibility that they were both lying. Ding ding ding.

But, as Koenig says, there’s so much speculation here and “all speculation is equally speculative.” And then she speculates some more.

Koenig defers to her colleague Dana Chivvis, who is more impartial to the case (the “Dr. Spock” of “Serial,” according to Koenig). If Adnan didn’t kill Hae, then he certainly had a string of unusually bad luck, Chivvis concluded (and, certainly, being convicted for a crime, if he didn’t commit it, is spectacularly unlucky). 

Instead of focusing on the “most likely” explanation, Koenig decides to focus on the “most logical.” But so much of the case defies logic. Did Adnan just happen to lend Jay his cell phone and his car on the day that his ex-girlfriend went missing? Why did Jay help Adnan (or whoever the killer was) bury Hae’s body if he wasn’t involved? If some random serial killer or murderer killed Hae, how did Jay get involved? If Adnan is guilty, why did he agree to participate in the podcast?

“I think you shouldn’t really take a side…just go down the middle,” Adnan told Koenig, offering advice about how to end the podcast. “Leave it up to the audience to determine.”

Though clearly Koenig is reluctant to draw any conclusions, she knows her audience expects her to deliver a verdict. 

“I don’t believe any of us can say what happened to Hae,” said Koenig. All that’s really know is that Jay knew where Hae’s car was, but does that really prove anything? “That all by itself is not a story…it’s not enough to me to send anyone to prison for life, let alone a 17-year-old kid.”

So if she was a juror, Koenig said she would have to acquit but “as a human being,” she admits, “if you ask me to swear Adnan Syed is innocent, I couldn’t do it.” So more hemming and hawing. 

“Most of the time, I think he didn’t do it….why on Earth would a guilty man agree to let me do this story?” she adds. Still, “as much as I want to be sure, I’m not,” Koenig confessed at the end, leaving us as confused as ever.

Though the episode didn’t resolve anything, there is some real news about Adnan’s case: The group from The Innocence Project has filed a motion to test the DNA from Hae’s body, which, unbelievably, was never tested 15 years ago. It also turns out that there’s another possible suspect: a serial criminal responsible for a couple of rapes and at least one murder was out of jail and in the area at the time of Hae’s murder. But then how would Jay know anything about the murder and where Hae’s car was?

Which leads us to more speculating… At least one thing we know for sure: Adnan’s appeal, based on inadequate counsel, is still alive. So we’ll continue with the “what ifs” until there are more answers…or more questions.

READ MORE: Obsessed with “Serial”? You’ll Love These Documentaries

Season 2 of “Serial” is coming sometime in 2015.

Listen to the final episode below:

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