Reviewing Chernobyl - The HBO miniseries

Amit Merchant · November 1, 2019

“What is the cost of lies?”

That’s the tagline of this show and it’s to the point. Well, I’m not a person who watches this “series thingies” more often but there are some exceptions. I’ve been always interested in the Chernobyl nuclear disaster that happened in Ukraine back in 1986 ever since I’ve been a teenager. Our textbooks have a little details about the incident but that was very brief. I’ve always wanted to know how and why this disaster happened and what was its aftermath. And then one day I’ve heard about this miniseries by HBO called Chernobyl which is about this very incident and its aftermath. Since then it was on my bucket list and finally I got a chance to watch it yesterday.

I’m writing this article to jot down my thoughts regarding this series and regarding the disaster itself because it’s the series that have left me numb and shocked and amazed by the end of it. I liked it so much so that I decided to write this article about it and this is the first time that I’m writing a brief article about any webseries/movie.

Plot

The plot of the series is quite simple. I’ll try to avoid spoilers. So, the serices is mainly divided 5 episodes which covers the stories of the people who caused the disaster and those who responded to it. The series depicts some of the lesser known stories of the disaster, including the efforts of the firefighters who were the first responders on the scene, volunteers, and teams of miners tasked with digging a critical tunnel under Reactor 4.

The series revolves around the chaos that occurred in the reactor’s control room after the disaster happened where chief engineer Anatoly Dyatlov, Plant Director Bryukhanov, Chief Engineer Fomin tried to escape what had happened and endangering their subordinates by ordering them to manually lower control rods and restore cooling of the reactor(even if the core of the reactor was entirely exploded) leaving them suffer from acute radiation syndrome (ARS). It also depicts how the firefighters have been kept in dark by not telling them the what risk they are into which left many of the firefighters receives a lethal dose of radiation.

The story then revolves around the investigation of chief of the commission Valery Legasov, how he had proposed immediate solution to minimize the damage that had already done. This includes to suppress the fire with sand and boron as an initial step and to prevent destructive steam explosion by draining the water in the flooded basement with the help of three volunteers Ananenko, Bezpalov, and Baranov.

The story then unflods the aftermath of the disaster which resulted into the evacuation of the city of Pripyat, the decontamination operations of all the trees and animals which they suspect could be affected due to radioactive contamination.

The final episode shows the trial of all three convicts Dyatlov, Bryukhanov, and Fomin are put on trial in the abandoned city of Chernobyl. This depicts the testimony of Shcherbina, Khomyuk and Legasov which testifies on the events leading up to the accident, based on interviews with people in the control room. It shows that the explosion occurred because Akimov activated the emergency shutdown, but a design flaw in the control rods spiked the power to ten times the reactor’s limit before it exploded.

The ending shows pictures and video of the real-life Legasov and other major figures, revealing their fates, as well as the ongoing aftermath of the accident. It ends with a statement that the show was dedicated to those who “suffered and sacrificed.”

Acting

All the actors of the series have done a tremendous job protraying the horrors of this incidents. The acting was as real as it gets. The main leads Jared Harris as Valery Legasov, Stellan Skarsgård as Boris Shcherbina and Emily Watson as Ulana Khomyuk were marvelluous. Not to forget the supporting characters that includes the Adam Nagaitis who played the role of Vasily Ignatenko, a Pripyat firefighter and first responder to the Chernobyl fire. And Jessie Buckley who played the role of Lyudmilla Ignatenko, the wife of Vasily Ignatenko.

Direction

As far as the direction is concern, it’s very well directed series. Director Johan Renck has done a great job at keeping the essence of the incident as real as possible. This also includes maining the historical accuracies(but of course some liberties were taken for dramatic purposes). The cinematography was top notch. It gives you the feeling of creepiness throughout every episodes that you sometimes feels like it’s a documentary.

In closing

The crux of Chernobyl is that how ego and lies just few men can be resulted into the incident of this severity which resulted in casualty of nearly 93000 deaths. The series looked so realistic that by the end of the it I felt radiated as well and it certainly has changed my perspective of how I looked at things and value of human life. I recommended everyone to watch it once in their lifetime.

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