Chernobyl is a five-part re-telling of the infamous nuclear accident aired on HBO and Sky, created and written by Craig Mazin.
In the late hours of April 26th, 1986, the reactor four of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the then-blossoming town of Pripyat in Kiev, Ukrainian USSR exploded during a safety test. An accident corrupted by protocol breaches and cover-ups resulted into what is by far the worst nuclear disaster in history. This led to thousands of radiation-related deaths, as well as a factor for the Soviet Union’s collapse.
Mazin’s surprise 2019 hit Chernobyl chronicles the events of this explosion and its aftermath to the Ukrainian USSR.
With its gripping details interweaved in a masterful sequence injected in a balanced pacing, Mazin inarguably delivered one of the most discussed television shows of 2019—and has become the highest-rated series on IMDb. It’s a story that has been heard before, but revived for the information-driven audience.
Every aspect of the dramatization of the disaster has its own ghastly and devastating tales. From the “voices” of Vasily and Lyudmilla Ignatenko to the impressive testimony of Valery Legasov. It’s a story told in different voices, but are all yearning for the same thing. We can’t help but hope for the safest ending to their stories, when safe was an unlikely inclination for Soviet Union 1986. And while we cannot completely differentiate fact from fiction (other than that Ulna Khomyuk is indeed, a fictional character), every minute got us at the edge of our seats.
Mazin, who was known for being the co-screenwriter of two comedy franchises, The Hangover and Scary Movie, penned a riveting story that also manages to educate. The excellence obviously backed by careful scientific research and lots of reference-gathering.
While some writers are typically tight-lipped and mysterious about their process, Mazin is generous. Probably too generous enough to share his bibliography in a Twitter thread, which also serves as an extensive learning aid for the super curious. As an extra parting gift, he even released his own fruits of labour with all five episode scripts for free.
Jared Harris’ Valery Legasov is the brainchild of the events’ progression, a man so inevitably smart and persistent on the country’s survival. Though he may seem like the undisputed hero of this tragedy, the real heroism was with the ordinary individuals who chose to risk their own lives in favour of millions. Emily Watson as Ulna Khomyuk represented the many scientists who attempted to dissect the causes and effects of Chernobyl.
We’re also taking our hats off to director and cinematographer Jakob Ihre, a man accountable for Chernobyl’s haunting picture, giving a tone that feels straight out of a David Fincher film.
Chernobyl holds no bars to its realism. However still open to interpretation. But like every story, there were two sides: bureaucracy and science, and how it spawns an unfriendly collision when ignorance takes place. Although it’s been over 30 years, the endgame of the miniseries was the kickstart of a bigger conversation.
This is where the clear relevance arises, as it would take more than 20,000 years for Chernobyl to be liveable again, while its consequences are still in effect. The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is now a government-protected ghost town and a far less dangerous tourist destination. But with a city that used to be so young, it begs to wonder of what could have been if decisions were made right.
What are your thoughts on Chernobyl?
Text: Audrey Vibar