'Serial' Season 2 Is Here

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Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the controversial subject at the center of the new season. (via NPR)

Yes, Serial fans -- amateur sleuths and broadcast journalism geeks alike -- our wait has come to an end. The second season of the wildly successful podcast, a longform spinoff from This American Life, debuted today. You can download the first episode right here.

Unlike the first season, in which host Sarah Koenig and her production team selected a little-known and nearly cold murder case from a Baltimore suburb as the subject of their investigation, this season revolves around the well-known controversy of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, an American soldier stationed in Afghanistan, who walked away from his base one night in 2009 and wound up living as a hostage of the Taliban for five years. The Obama Administration successfully negotiated for his release in May 2014, trading five prisoners from Guantanomo Bay in return -- a move that was highly criticized by the GOP.

Since that time, the soldier has found himself at the center of a heated debate: Was he a deserter who endangered his fellow troops with his actions, as Sen. John McCain, among others, has argued? Or a would-be (if confused) hero, who set out to warn top Army officials about serious problems within his platoon, as Bergdahl himself insists in the podcast's first episode? Bergdahl is currently awaiting a ruling on whether his case will go before a court-martial; found guilty of all charges, he could face life in prison.

In putting together the new season, Serial producers used some 25 hours of recorded conversation between Bergdahl and Hollywood screenwriter Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty), who reached out to Bergdahl a few months after he was released from captivity in the hopes of eventually turning the soldier's story into a movie.

"I’m going, 'Good grief, I’m in over my head,'" we hear Bergdahl say in the premiere episode, recounting the first moments away from his base. "Suddenly, it really starts to sink in that I really did something bad. Or, not bad, but I really did something serious."


We'll be covering the sure-to-be-addictive story as the season continues, but for now: Get listening! Initial discussion points include a new theme song and advertisers other than MailChimp. Whatever happens, you'll want to be able to trade theories about it around the water cooler.

Meanwhile -- if you had any doubt about the high-profile podcast's potential to actually change the course of subjects' lives -- recall that a Maryland judge recently reopened the case of Adnan Syed, the subject of Season 1, which could cut short the life sentence Syed is currently serving for murder. Watch this space for more.