Chernobyl & the High Cost of Lies

 

the burning reactor in Chernobyl

Chernobyl

Created By: Craig Mazin

I could probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve been this immediately engrossed by a television show. Going into this I didn’t know if I was going to be able to watch it all at given what I heard about episodes 3 and 4 instead I couldn’t stop watching it.

Chernobyl is a (now finished) 5 episode mini-series on HBO. It is about the events surrounding the nuclear disaster in 1986.

children playing in ash in Chernobyl

The show is quiet, devastating and hard to watch as it is to look away from with a haunting soundtrack and visuals along with the excellent performances.

The central question is what is the cost of lies that lead to the explosions and followed it. Which I find even more interesting now because if you google the miniseries you get all kinds of articles where even now the truth and the right or wrongness of it depends seemingly on what you are pushing.

jared Harris in chernobyl

Jared Harris is really excellent as the scientist who basically becomes charged with cleaning up the mess. While the first episodes starts with the explosion we do go back and see the hours leading up to it while he explains nuclear power in such a way that I even understood it.

Stellan Skarsgard as a committee man who comes to understand the cost of lies and Jessie Buckley as the wife of one of the dying firefighters are also really good.

Emily Watson in Chernobyl

Which brings me to the one nitpick I had. Emily Watson is fine in her role. But she’s a made up compilation of several of the scientists that helped research the disaster and she’s far too much of the perfect Hollywood insert in a history that’s about the deep fallibility of humans.

She’s perfect, noble and righteous throughout and at one point though hundreds of miles away with only the information she got over the telephone and coded at that she figures out what they are doing wrong. Naturally. She annoyed me.

Also amazing props to Paul Ritter who played Dyatlov the guy in charge of the reactor that night who might be one of the biggest assholes ever.

firefighters in chernobyl

Word of warnings episode 3 shows the men who had the worst of the radiation poison and died within days. I would say its quick but if illness is something that might upset you these men suffered horribly and you may want to skip those scenes.

Episode 4 showed the team that had to hunt down and kill the animals. Honestly that was the biggest worry for my watching. Luckily it is a team of men and they are introduced so you know when its coming. I basically muted those scenes, ducked my head and watched the subtitles and was fine.

It was an interesting watch over all because as a viewer I had the tendency to be yelling at the screen, “Don’t listen to him!” “Don’t go down there!” “Oh, idiots!” But then I have to ask myself the question what would I do? What would I have done?

You have these normal people who in one second enter a nightmare the likes of which no one on Earth has ever experienced and boy is it easy for us to yell on Twitter 30 plus years on about what we would have done.

I also thought Chernobyl treated the people like real people even if it exposed the system they lived in at the time. Interesting Russia is apparently making its own series where reportedly KGB agents will be looking for American spies causing the explosion. The cost of lies indeed.