In the sixth episode of Serial titled 5 O’Clock Shadow, Sarah Koening, our host, revisits the beginning of the beginning before Bowe began his downward spiral into chaos. A straight laced soldier to the T, actually reading the Ranger Guidebook, volunteering for extra duty, caring after his fellow soldiers and weapons alike, Bowe was everyone’s top pick. A driven and observant infantryman, Bowe was logical in everything he did. Staying silent and making the occasional joke or two was all strategic to Bowe. He observed his surroundings, like an anthropologist conducting a field study, and used what he learned to avoid rocking the boat. That was who Bowe was, so his decision to cause a DUSTWUN was stunning although not unexpected. In the years leading up to Bowe’s departure, his behavior slowly grew more and more radical. He would become vexed over issues other soldiers would let drop and allowed the turmoil to build in his mind until one day it erupted.
In this episode we saw a more aggressive Bowe Bergdahl than presented in previous episodes. Maybe this was done purposefully by Sarah Koening so the audience wouldn’t feel impartial towards Bowe. By introducing Bowe to the audience as rash but good hearted and naive, we’re confused but less inclined to believe the rumors spread among the media. Sarah Koenig gave us enough information in the beginning to separate fact from fiction. As the pod cast progressed, we learned the what, when, who and where, but still didn’t understand why. Of all the information we received, there had to be a better solution than walking away from the military base to gain attention.
Through the various sources Sarah Koening interviewed or quoted, the problem would shift. Bowe thought the problem existed in the leadership of his platoon; rather than caring for the welfare of their soldiers, those in command were more concerned about their outward appearance to the public. This enraged and frighted Bowe. He believed, “He [Battalion Commander Clint Baker] was unfit for what he was doing. And, you know, I wouldn’t put it past him to be the type of guy to purposely put me and my platoon mates in harm’s way just because he has a personal grudge against us, because we soiled his reputation or whatever bullshit idea he had in his head.” (Bowe, Serial ep. 6) Bowe felt threatened and knew things would continue to worsen if someone didn’t do something. If he didn’t do something.
But when asking other sources, like the soldiers in Bowe’s platton, they wouldn’t completely agree. Bowe held onto issues versus shaking it off and accepting it as apart of miliary life. Bowe was disillusioned by the reality of his situation. That they, the military, were not the heroes shooting bad guys but eran boys performing busy work.
When gathering the information used to tell Bowe’s story, Sarah Koening had to look beyond Bowe Bergdahl. In order to put Bowe’s story in context for the audience of Serial, Sarah gathered information from primary and secondary sources