Serial, Season 3

I made it through three episodes, set it aside, came back to it, set it aside again. My problem: How hard Sarah Koenig and crew labor to make sure that you come to precisely the conclusions they want you to come to. It’s strange, in a way, because they also assume that you’ll share their views about everything. They know that their audience will find Judge Gauls (episode 2) just as appallingly insensitive as they do — and yet they can’t stop themselves from critiquing him again and again and again, just in case you waver, I guess. At one point in that episode Koenig reminds the audience, with evident incredulity, that an offender named Vivian had had to come back to to Judge Gauls repeatedly “for three-and-a-half years and counting, for fewer than five grams of cocaine.”

But that’s not true. Vivian keeps getting sent back to Judge Gauls primarily for theft — in one case for stealing and using a friend’s credit card. And she keeps failing drug tests too. Her situation is not about “fewer than five grams of cocaine,” even per Koenig’s own reporting. In her determination to reject Jodge Gauls’s methods and to show that Vivian would have been better off in drug court, Koenig misdescribes her own account of Vivian’s history.

Based on what Koenig & crew tell me — which is of course all I know — I’d also send Vivian to drug court. I too find Judge Gauls smug and condescending and insensitive. But why not let me come to those conclusions on my own? Why must Koenig remind me again and again and again what I ought to believe? Enough with the lecturing — just tell me a story, please. I mean, come on: they’re already editing the story in such a way that it’s virtually impossible to see these things in any way other than the way they do. The ceaseless and repetitive commentary just pounds the reader’s head with an interpretative mallet. Now I have a massive headache.