The first season of the Internet's most popular podcast, "Serial," concluded on Thursday with its 12th episode.
Since debuting in October online, host and former Sun reporter Sarah Koenig has broken down a different element in the 1999 Baltimore murder case of Hae Min Lee, an 18-year-old Woodlawn High School student whose body was discovered in Leakin Park. Her ex-boyfriend at the time, Adnan Syed, was later convicted of first-degree murder and is serving a life sentence in a Western Maryland state prison.
The series centers on Syed — who comes off as lucid, intelligent and thoughtful in the many recent phone interviews we hear — and Koenig, the inquisitive host who finds the story surrounding the murder suspicious. Like many listeners, she is often charmed by Syed, which leaves her only more confused.
The show has been an increasingly hot topic, online and off, but it also has its critics. While part of the show's appeal is Koenig's heart-on-her-sleeve approach to the case, detractors have questioned the appropriateness of the host making her conflicted feelings so central to the narrative.
(Note: Spoilers ahead.)
As the rest of us parse the finale for more clues and conclusions (and you can see what some on Twitter are already saying in the gallery at the top of the post), here's what others in the media are saying:
• The Sun's David Zurawik loved the series' energy, provided by Koenig, but was turned off by the finale:
"I was dazzled by the reaction to "Serial," but that was largely a reaction to the way Koenig and her team from "This American Life" delivered it on an ever-changing media landscape. ... But once you opened the package that "Serial" delivered with its final episode today, there wasn't much inside -- at least by the standards of traditional journalism that Koenig said she adhered to with her talk of what "we know to be true."
• Dwight Garner of The New York Times praised Koenig's abilities as host and investigator, but still described his feeling of the finale as "a bit baffled":
"The last episode was a tangled and heartfelt yet frustrating hour of radio, in which Ms. Keonig hemmed and hawed and pored back over old evidence and asked, “Did we just spend a year applying excessive scrutiny to a perfectly ordinary case?” The answer to that question, apparently, is no and yes, and yes and no. Unlike the conclusions of Agatha Christie novels, real life can make only murky puddles."
• Alan Sepinwall of HitFix said the finale wasn't "as definitive as some fans might have asked for" but was still satisfying:
The elusive nature of the case made it impossible for Sarah and her team to get the definitive answer they wanted, or that some fans might have hoped for when they started listening. But I also think that, ultimately, the very messiness of the case, which all the experts talked about in the finale, is what made "Serial" such a compelling listen.
• Ester Bloom, writing for New York Magazine's Vulture blog, summed up her feelings on the show:
When “Serial” began, it seemed like something out of Sherlock Holmes. After the police bungled the case, a desperate friend of the family called in an outside expert. It seemed as though Koenig might talk to a couple of new witnesses, tap her pipe a couple of times, and come up with a new understanding of the case, embarrassing the cops and freeing a wrongly imprisoned man. Instead, “Serial” turned out to be not a detective story but a noir, an increasingly complex and murky meditation on truth, memory, and our deeply flawed criminal justice system in which perhaps no one is innocent.