Serial: S03 Episode 09: Some Time When Everything Has Changed
November 16, 2018 7:58 AM - Subscribe

The state of Ohio decides where Joshua belongs.

This season's final episode.

SK's list of recommendations she'd throw in the big suggestions wheel in the lobby:
- Go minimalist: don't pile six charges onto a single crime when one charge will do;
- Don't overcharge to force a guilty plea;
- Don't lock anyone up unless they're demonstrably violent;
- Admit that police officers lie under oath;
- Get out of the punishment business, and turn toward the urgent problem of fairness;
- Keep obsessive track of who exactly is being charged with what crime, how their sentence shakes out, and what their life looks like in 3 years, or 5 years; take note of the color of their skin and how much money they make - and don't shove what you learn in a drawer and forget about it;
- Don't be insensibly tempted into a loose way of letting bad things alone, to take their own bad course (quoth Charles Dickens)
- Cops, prosecutors, judges, lawyers: call out the colleagues who degrade your profession;
- Pay assigned attorneys and public defenders at least twice as much as you're paying them now;
- Judges: stop choosing assigned attorneys;
- Citizens: mix up the bench;
- Stop electing judges county-wide;
- Overall: slow down - doubt yourselves.
- Imagine that every other person is part of your family, and reflect on the far-reaching pain of prosecution
- Don't tape anyone's mouth shut in court
- Consider getting rid of the grand jury

If only allowed one suggestion:
- Let's all accept that something's gone wrong. Let's make that our premise.
(I would add her further point: Every joint in the skeleton of our criminal justice system is greased by racial discrimination.)
posted by progosk (5 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
All the suggestions seem to assume good faith on the part of cops, prosecutors, and judges. The idea that the judicial system isn't doing exactly what it was designed to do, with the enthusiastic, actively racist, and monstrously unethical participation of everyone involved (except many defense attorneys and a hand full of judges) is charming. But, I'm skeptical.

"Admit that police officers lie under oath," a fine idea. That prosecutors and judges are doing otherwise accidentally is hard to take seriously.
posted by eotvos at 1:50 PM on November 18, 2018

This series has me feeling a bit... let down? That's not the right word, exactly, but the first two seasons of Serial were constantly surprising to me and taught me things I didn't know. This season just confirmed what I already believed about the world. The individual episodes were all very good, and each story was interesting. I guess I was just hoping for a bigger payoff than this.

That said, I've found it interesting to think about the way that Sarah Koenig and her team went about structuring this as a story. The structure was very strange and particular, and I feel like I'd have to listen to the whole thing again to get a sense of what they were doing and why. The first two seasons were very direct, by comparison, with a strong narrative through-line.
posted by Kattullus at 3:33 AM on November 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

I was let down, too.

That said, it's been fascinating seeing how Konig has had to try and rethink the show's structure. It seems as though she's been very thoughtful about whether/how/why S1 was so problematic in terms of journalism ethics, and has tried incredibly hard to be as ethical as possible going forward, and that's laudable. But the first season worked so well because it was a deep dive and recreation of those kids' whole world, both before and after Hae Min Lee's murder. The second season was a deep dive, but the world that the show dove into was too small (confined mostly to one soldier's head) and the turning point (of his desertion) wasn't much of a turning point, it didn't catalyze enough change in the world at large or even within him, so examining that turning point wasn't that illuminating or even interesting. And this third season has a very large and complex world filled with people facing their own life-changing turning points, but it hasn't been a deep enough dive, in a way. This season goes broad instead of deep, and that's just not as interesting given the podcast/radio format, because this format's strength is its intimacy.

It seems to me that Konig also isn't quite sure how she caught lightening in a bottle in that first season. First, I guess she thought, "maybe it's because Adnan made for such an ambiguous and fascinating character study?" and she tried (unsuccessfully, I think) to do a character study on another man she thought would be similarly ambiguous and fascinating. Then, she thought, "maybe it's the study of a complex world that's constantly in flux, filled with people temporarily trapped together in an institution, but with the specter of sudden and complete change always hanging over their heads?" and did a study of a courthouse. I thought this was unsuccessful, too, because I frankly didn't feel like the world or the people she looked at this time were profiled in enough depth. I don't feel like I got to know these defendants the way I got to know the teenagers in S1, or that Cincinnati sprung to life as much as the kids' little corner of Baltimore did.

I both didn't really enjoy this season much, and am really intrigued by next season already. Mostly because I'm wondering about how Konig will adjust the show from here.
posted by rue72 at 8:05 AM on November 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm with you, reu72. I think S3 is better than S2, which I did not like at all really.* SK does true crime well, but the most interesting stories in S3 were the recurring character bits when she covered someone in more than one episode. I can see why she's afraid to do anything resembling Adnan again (though I guess Joshua is the equivalent in S3), but it makes the show not as good. Her having no involvement herself with Bowe was really eh and seemed like she was ducking it. This season seemed like a compromise by having some one-offs and a few recurring characters. My impression of SK is that she both has to have another "hit" for work reasons, and at the same time is trying not to do it in the way that appealed to people in the first place due to the controversies that came up. She has to have a hit but doesn't want THAT big of a hit, I guess.

* "Oh, Bowe Bergdahl! Such a mystery! Why did he do that?" "He's mentally ill and should not have been allowed back into the military in the first place and now it's just sad." Not a mystery. DONE.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:00 PM on November 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

That's an astute point about seasons one and two being deep dives, rue72, while season three cast a wide net, and the problems that come with the latter (though I disagree about season two, which has really stayed with me, I find myself thinking about Bergdahl and his ordeal, and various other side-stories, regularly).
posted by Kattullus at 1:02 PM on November 20, 2018

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