The second season of Serial is off to an auspicious start. The only podcast to win a Peabody Award scored the first interview with former Army Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl, who left his base in Afghanistan in 2009, was captured by the Taliban and has been silent publicly since being released as part of a controversial prisoner swap in May 2014. The interview was widely discussed on cable news this morning — wresting some airtime from Donald Trump, who’ll probably end up suing someone over being treated this unfairly — and featured a left-field reference to one of Hollywood’s biggest action film franchises.
The wildly popular one-topic-per-season podcast is focusing on the Bergdahl case, with Episode 1 being released this morning on iTunes. Host Sarah Koenig of This American Life said the new season will draw heavily from about 25 hours worth of Bergdahl interviews done over the phone with Mark Boal, the Oscar-winning screenwriter behind The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty who is researching a film project about the case.
In today’s episode, Bergdahl told Boal that he left his post in part to get the attention of top military and intelligence brass in something of a whistleblower role. “All I was seeing,” he said, “was basically leadership failure — to the point the lives of the guys standing next to me were in serious danger of something going wrong, somebody being killed.” But that wasn’t the only reason. “I was trying to prove to myself, the world, to anybody that knew me that I was capable of being that person.” Boal then asked, “Like being a super-soldier?” To which Bergdahl replied, “Yeah, capable of being what I appeared to be. Doing what I did was me saying I am like … I don’t know, Jason Bourne.”
But that’s not how military officials — and some members of the media — saw Bergdahl’s case: He was charged in March with desertion. The case remains active.
Future episodes of Serial‘s Season 2 will be released weekly.
The first season of the podcast from This American Life and WBEZ Chicago drew millions of listeners as it followed the case of the 1999 killing of Baltimore teenager and her ex-boyfriend’s subsequent life sentence for murder. Last month, a Maryland judge reopened that case. That court action came five weeks after Christopher Miller & Phil Lord and Fox 21 Television Studios optioned the rights to the podcast phenomenon with plans to develop a cable series that would follow the making of Serial as it follows a case.
Back in May, the podcast from This American Life and WBEZ Chicago was greenlighted for a second and third season.