Serial ranked number one on iTunes even before its debut and remained there for several weeks. Serial won a Peabody Award in April 2015 for its innovative telling of a long-form nonfiction story. As of September 2018, episodes of seasons 1 and 2 have been downloaded over 340 million times, establishing an ongoing podcast world record.
Koenig has said that Serial is \"about the basics: love and death and justice and truth. All these big, big things.\" She also has noted, \"this is not an original idea. Maybe in podcast form it is, and trying to do it as a documentary story is really, really hard. But trying to do it as a serial, this is as old as Dickens.\"
The concept for Serial originated with an experiment in Koenig's basement. Koenig and Snyder had pitched a different idea at a staff meeting for a weekly program on events during the previous seven days, which staff members received without enthusiasm. When Ira Glass asked Koenig if she had any other ideas, she mentioned podcasting a story that unfolded over time, a serialized narrative. In an interview with Mother Jones, she explained that each episode would return to the same story, telling the next chapter of a long, true narrative.
Switching to a bi-weekly schedule mid-season caused some to believe the series was losing momentum. However, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Sarah Koenig and executive producer Julie Snyder said the download numbers for Season 2 were 50 million, higher than the numbers were by the time Season 1 ended.
The videos included Bergdahl saying the United States government was lying about the true number of soldiers killed in the war, while Bergdahl himself had to say on camera he was being cared for extremely well.
In the coming days (and just how many days is another matter of He Said/They Said. Bergdahl says he was gone for nine days, while the Taliban claims it was only two or three. His debriefers, Koenig explains, settled on eight and a half days.), Bergdahl explains there were a number of close calls. Yet despite the risk, Bergdahl says he would have much rather died out there than from decapitation, a form of death he was forced to watch in numerous videos from his captors.
At the tactical level, when thinking in time and space, units occur risk in two areas; during times of transition, and in the seams between unit AOs. When the Army moved to the BCT construct, the number of transitions under a Division HQ increased, thus maintaining a higher level of risk throughout the course of the war. The mistrust between the 48th and the Blackheart Brigade exasperated this risk to a higher level. Unfortunately, these toxic relationships set the stage for events yet to come.
The Pentagon is working to provide accurate numbers of troops deployed in combat zones, including Iraq and Syria as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the Pentagon's mission against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.
The Force Management Levels for Iraq have been given at about 5,200 while the number for Syria was about 500, though the actual numbers are higher due to troops moving into the country on temporary assignments.
The next two subsequent Serial podcasts in December 2015 detailed Bergdahl's capture and attempts to escape. According to the series, the Taliban regarded Bergdahl as a \"golden chicken.\" Taliban members told Serial that Bergdahl seemed important because of the number of people searching for him after his capture. Shortly after his capture, Bergdahl said he escaped, but only for 15 minutes. He was recaptured, beaten, and placed in a cell. Bergdahl described his experience after that attempt in these words, \"Picture someone taking a bag, throwing it into the closet, shutting the door and just forgetting about it. That was basically how they treated me.\" According to Serial, about a year later, Bergdahl attempted another escape, climbing out of a window by tying bedsheets together. He eluded capture for nine days, but was finally apprehended and taken back to remain a prisoner until his release four years later.