"But the real pull of the show wasn't the promise of solving the mystery, it was seeing just how thick and convoluted the mystery became. Listening to the last episode, I found myself strangely enthralled by Don, Hae's last boyfriend, and Josh, an associate of Jay's so tenuous that his big rhetorical question is to wonder why Jay would have shared any personal information with him whatsoever — characters who didn't shed light so much as provide shading. 'Serial' was driven by plot, but like any good mystery, was taken over by atmosphere. Don’s LensCrafters punch card, the porn store where Jay and Josh talked their teenage shit, the sad nobility of the park streaker, Mr. S.: By the end of a story so engrossing, even these small things took on the magical air of significance, regardless of how insignificant they actually were. In my most fevered moments, even the Mailkimp girl seemed to glow.
"Which gets us further from the story of 'Serial' and closer to the world in which it unfolded. Over the course of the show, we pass through a hall of quiet American evils: the shifty prosecutor who seems annoyed that a witness didn't make his target look worse, the suburban drug-dealer who isn't as big as the game he talks, drunk janitors, vaguely racist schoolteachers, empty Best Buy parking lots in the middle of the afternoon, and lots of people who can’t be bothered to even try and pronounce the name Adnan correctly. This is a mean and Kafka-esque place, one that those who inhabit it don't seem to understand fully."