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The Schmooze

‘Serial’ is Back – and It’s a Hanukkah Miracle

Best. Hanukkah. Present. Ever.

The long wait is over: “Serial” has returned, just in time for the 5th night of Hanukkah. And it had me dancing and spinning around like a dreidel.

RELATED: Sarah Koenig Makes this Year’s Forward 50

Welcome back, long break room conversations, arguments with co-workers and grating week-long waits for the next episode (during which you end up listening to podcasts about Serial than you dare admit).

Last season, we said goodbye to Adnan Syed, whose story is still documented by Rabia Chaudry in her podcast, “Undisclosed.” Now, “Serial” is telling a vastly different story, week by week, for 10 episodes.

This season, Sarah Koenig and her team chose to focus on a big, explosive story, one that already captured the attention of every news outlet in the U.S. I’m referring, of course, to Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured by the Taliban when he was stationed in Afghanistan in 2009.

You may remember the announcement of his release in 2014, in the White House’s rose garden. Bergdahl’s father’s thank you speech was impassioned — he even uttered a few sentences in Arabic. You may also remember the ensuing media storm, in which reporters and pundits called Bergdahl a traitor, and a deserter, that he abandoned his base out of his own free will. Conspiracy theories about Bergdahl collaborating with the Taliban were quick to follow.

Sarah Koenig wasn’t able to interview Bergdahl for this podcast. (He refuses to speak to the media until his case is settled.) But she was able to procure over 40 hours of exclusive audio footage with Bergdahl through journalist and filmmaker Mark Boal (“Zero Dark Thirty”, “The Hurt Locker”). These interviews are just as good as the ones in season 1 between Sarah and Adnan. Bergdahl is charming and quirky.

And his story about why he chose to dessert his base? Well, I won’t spoil it. You can hear it in his own words in the season’s first episode.

Will this season of “Serial” be as good as the first one? It’s hard to say. Can you really compare the mystery of a murdered teenager in Maryland to the intrigue of a soldier abandoning his base in the middle of Afghanistan?

So far, the characters involved seem just as engaging and intriguing as last season’s players. And if you know Koenig from before her “Serial” fame, you’ll know that the podcast insane success was not just a fluke. She has the keen eye and the storytelling chops to make season two just as fascinating as you hoped it would be.

Coming up in Episode 2? Koenig interviews the Taliban.


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