Season 2 of Serial, the podcast spinoff of This American Life hosted by Sarah Koenig, launched on Thursday, and with it comes a brand-new theme song. Like last season, Serial’s Season 2 theme was composed by Nick Thornburn. The founder of the bands Unicorns and Islands, Thornburn also performs solo as Nick Diamonds when he’s not scoring podcasts, films, and television shows.
If you listened to Season 1 of Serial, chances are you still remember its theme song, “Bad Dream.” The song perfectly encapsulated the feel of the series: the jolting, staccato piano made you feel ill-at-ease right away, as though you knew something terrible was going to happen. As the percussion emerged, we were reminded of rolling thunder, marching soldiers, slamming doors. All harbingers of danger. But the final, few, lone notes sounded almost hopeful? It was hard to say, but they piqued your curiosity, much like the story of Adnan Syed itself. Could there possibly be a happy ending?
Serial’s new season covers the story of Bowe Bergdahl, a U.S. Army soldier who was captured by the Taliban and held for five years. He was eventually returned to the U.S. in 2014, part of a prisoner exchange that saw the release of five Guantanamo Bay detainees. But Bergdahl didn’t receive the hero’s welcome one might expect. Within hours of his return, he was being labeled a deserter and a traitor. Some even accused Bergdahl of colluding with the Taliban. His hometown of Hailey, Idaho cancelled the parade they had planned to welcome him home. Ten months later, he was charged with misbehavior before the enemy and desertion.
Is Bergdahl really guilty of desertion? If so, why did he do it? And what was it like, being imprisoned by the Taliban for nearly five years (the longest anyone’s been held by the Taliban)? Could the new theme possibly hold any clues? This season’s theme starts off with similar high-pitched notes from a piano, but then veers into different territory, this time featuring strings and horns. It conveys a feelings of desperation, which, no matter what the circumstances, Bergdahl likely felt during his time in Afghanistan.
Check out Serial on iTunes, or listen on their website (the theme begins around the 3:30 mark), and draw your own conclusions. And when you’re done, I’d be remiss if I didn’t alert you to this mashup of Serial’s Season 1 theme with “Somebody Gotta Die” by Notorious B.I.G., which is absolutely amazing. NSFW, of course. Happy listening.