Chernobyl & the High Cost of Lies


the burning reactor in 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.


19 thoughts on “Chernobyl & the High Cost of Lies

  1. I watched the first episode and I need to get back to it. I’ve noticed too that there seems to be controversy even now over what happened, whose version to believe, etc. I’ve heard the show is pretty faithful and then others have said no it does this or that wrong. I need to sit down and watch it and then maybe do some reading too.

  2. Wonderful review! My husband and I have watched the first two episodes and are half way through the third. I’m not sure I can say we’re enjoying it, but it’s certainly fascinating. From what I’ve read, most of the controversy over what’s factual and what’s not, seems a bit nit picky. For example: the helicopter that’s shown crashing didn’t actually happen until 6 months later, or the ongoing debate over the people on the “Bridge of Death.” I expect a certain amount of artistic license with these tiles of shows and it seems that the creators of Chernobyl for the most part took great pains to make this as factually accurate as possible. I agree with you regarding Emily Watson’s character though. I love her, but wish they hadn’t made her the one and only fictitious character.

    1. Yeah the helicopter blip was weird it didn’t really add anything. Really amazing imagery of the choppers trying to drop the stuff and throughout. There’s a podcast that talks about it really in-depth and including the changes they made but I haven’t finished that yet 🙂

  3. Thank you so much for the warning about the animals scene! I wanna see the series but there is no way I can endure that part

    1. Understand 🙂
      Also if it’s going to upset you there’s a bit during the evacuation where a girl is forced to leave her dog behind. I looked away for that one to!

  4. The sad thing is that without the authorities lying to those first respondents, nobody would have gone there and the environmental aftermath would have been much, much worse. Similar disasters in Three Mile Island (1979) and Fukushima (2011) show that there are basically no ways to be prepared for catastrophes of this kind and the recurring pattern of political mongering, corporate lies and minimizing of aftermath. By consequence, most European countries have adopted schemes to abandon completely nuclear energy.

    1. I’ve been googling so much stuff I haven’t really looked at modern practices or what people are moving into so thanks for pointing that out! I should definitely be looking into what the other options are!

      1. The only good option is to install a mandatory 2 (or max. 5) KW jumper in everyone’s household to force them to save on energy and to switch for renewable energy-production.

  5. Great review and I completely agree with it- I love it, although I’m only 3 episodes in. Fascinating story, one which gave me goosebumps. Can’t wait to finish it soon!

  6. A coworker just told me about this. Thanks for the review. I was very young when this accident happened so I have very little knowledge about it. The title of your post is powerful. Many do not consider the high cost of lies. How many lives could have been saved if only truth was revealed and no one cut corners? I work in hospital safety and I’m very interested in process improvement and cause analysis so I’ll definitely have to check this out. I pray for the victims of this tragedy, who no doubt could suffer with health ramifications for many generations to come. I pray Jehovah God remembers them and they gain peace in God’s future Kingdom where lies will no longer cause others to suffer (Revelation 21:3,4; John 5:28,29)

    1. I was six when it happened so don’t remember any of it either. I just started reading Voices from Chernobyl which was written in 96 I believe and very different but still a fascinating look at the people affected. But it does talk to the victims and about some of the health issues also some war refugees actually went to live in the exclusion zone because it was better than where they had come from and they felt safer. Good luck to you with your research!

  7. Whew. This is fire. I’ve been on the fence about watching this, but most of the shows and films you’ve recommended have been hits. Episodes 3 + 4 look scary, so I might have to watch those two during daylight hours.

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