Why the 'Serial' Finale Was the Best Possible Finale

by John Boone 12:19 PM PST, December 18, 2014
Photo: Serial

Short of a guilty confession by Adnan himself, or some as-yet-seen piece of evidences that proves without a doubt Adnan is innocent, there was no way the Serial finale could satisfy everyone.

For those who don’t understand what any of that means, a brief recap: Serial is a podcast spun off of NPR’s This American Life. Week by week, it unraveled the 1999 case of then 17-year-old Adnan Syed, who was found guilty of killing his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. He’s been in jail since. Serial, which premiered in October, is the most popular podcast ever, completely addictive, and today the first season came to an end.

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And it was a good ending, all things considered. Here are the reasons why:

(WARNING: This post contains spoilers for episode “What We Know.”)

Photo: Serial

1. The Deal With Don: Hae’s boyfriend at the time of her death, Don, had been discussed on the show before. But he has a solid alibi and refused to be interviewed, so for the most part, that was that. In this last episode, he finally agreed to speak.

The most interesting part of his conversation with host Sarah Koenig was when Don revealed, “I testified, [then] they pulled me into a back room, and let me tell you how fun that was to have the prosecutor afterwards yelling at me because I did not make Adnan sound creepy.”

2. More on Jay: If Adnan actually is innocent, the next easiest person to point the finger at is Jay. And with his ever-changing story, many did. Jay was never interviewed on the show, but this episode saw an old coworker of his, Josh, give more “insight” into his mindset.

Josh claims to have worked at a porn video store with Jay, and says after Hae’s murder Jay was terrified of, supposedly, Adnan. If you ask us, Josh’s story isn’t less sketchy than Jay’s ever was, and Josh seemed like he may have been too affected by listening to the podcast himself. So Sarah spending 10 minutes talking with him may have been unproductive. But any insight into Jay is always interesting.

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3. Lingering Questions Were Answered: Definitely not all of our lingering questions, but a few found somewhat conclusive results. We don’t know if Adnan called Nisha that day, as the prosecutors claimed, but we do know, officially, that it could have been a butt dial. The Nisha Call is no longer the smoking gun it once seemed like. And the Best Buy probably, at one point, did have a payphone.

It also gave us a handful of new questions: What was that note Hae left for Don? Where did Adnan and Jay really go on the morning of Hae’s death? What was prosecutor Kevin Urick up to?

4. More Dana-isms: A little levity goes a long way in a murder investigation, so fans have been appreciative of producer Dana’s often weird, always quote-worthy comments. Sale at the Crab Crib, anyone?

While trying to track down a class action lawsuit against AT&T (re: that aforementioned butt dial), Dana visited the old records department of New York Supreme Court (“or something like that”), provoking this conversation:

Sarah: “It looked like the Mad Hatter’s like, archive room.”
Julie: “Were you the first humanoid who’d come down in like, 15 years?”
Dana: “They were like, what news do you bring?”

Photo: Serial

5. Life After Serial: Anyone who expected this to be wrapped up in a nice little bow was deluding themselves. And it didn’t. But it did offer up the threads that will continue on after the show ends: The Innocence Project is perusing DNA testing to connect the murder to a serial killer at the time named Ronald Lee Moore. Adnan’s legal team is filing another appeal, based on the Asia McClain letter.

Sarah may not be there to narrate what happens next, but Adnan’s story doesn’t end with Serial. And maybe she will return to the case: No official story has been announced for the second season and a lot could happen in the next few months.

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6. Sarah Took a Stand: Many assumed the podcast would end with Koenig turning it over to the listener, saying, "Here is all the information I have. You decide if you think Adnan was innocent." And actually, Adnan suggested she do this.

But she didn’t. She said, clearly, that if she were a juror she would acquit Adnan. “If you ask me to swear that Adnan Sayed is innocent, I can’t do it. I nurse doubt,” she said. “Most of the time, I think he didn’t do it. For big reasons, like the utter lack of evidence, but also small reasons, things he’s said to me, off the cuff, or moments that he’s cried on the phone and tried to stifle it so that I didn’t hear. And just the bear fact of, why on earth would a guilty man agree to let me do this story, unless he was cocky to the point of delusion.”

7. But Acknowledged the Other Side Too: Dana represented the skeptics in the finale, to oppose Sarah and, not accuse Adnan, but, as Sarah paraphrases her, point out “If he didn’t do it, my god, that guy is ridiculously unlucky.” So we don’t answer with a definite answer. We probably end with more questions that we had at the beginning. But we can’t imagine how the finale could have ended otherwise.

It’s important to remember this podcast comes from a real death. It’s not a fictional story. They’re not made up characters for our amusement. So we end with: R.I.P. Hae Min Lee.

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