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Serial's second season launches with surprise premiere

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The podcast's sophomore year gets a stealth release

The second season of Serial, National Public Radio's monster hit podcast which ran its first set of episodes last fall, premiered today. The first episode of the investigative audio drama launched early this morning without any prior warning.

Host Sarah Koenig announced the season's debut in a post on the podcast's website at 6 a.m. ET. As opposed to explaining why the team had chosen to go the route of a "stealth release" for the launch, Koenig instead used the update to discuss this year's subject matter.

In its sophomore outing, Serial is deviating from last year's "unsolved murder mystery" theme to reveal a slightly more recent story: that of soldier Bowe Bergdahl, who vacated his post only to be captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2009.

"Unlike our story in [season one], this one extends far out into the world." Koenig wrote. "It reaches into swaths of the military, the peace talks to end the war, attempts to rescue other hostages, our Guantanamo policy."

Koenig also announced that Serial will be opening itself up to fans via its social media channels. This will give listeners a way to reach out directly to the team, possibly to share their own findings or interpretations; the first season memorably garnered a strong Reddit following, with Redditors working together to dig up further clues to the central case.

Interactive maps and other graphics will also posted throughout the season to help illustrate the story.

Season one's episodes premiered on a weekly basis, but Koenig did not confirm a release schedule for this season. You can listen to the premiere on the Serial websitethrough iTunes or on Pandora, a first for the series.