Now Reading: “Chernobyl”: A Haunting, but Necessary Depiction of A Nuclear Accident


“Chernobyl”: A Haunting, but Necessary Depiction of A Nuclear Accident

June 5, 20196 min read

Following the backlash against the final season of Game of Thrones, HBO has surprised the viewers yet again and now, in a more pleasantly-unexpected way. The new miniseries Chernobyl in the scope of a few weeks has become the highest-rated show on IMDb, praised by numerous critics, viewers and those, who in fact, have been affected by the nuclear disaster. In just six episodes, the show produces a gripping portrayal of the horrors of the accident and the chaos that follows.

The show is based on the true story of the 1986 accident in the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, which is considered to be the worst nuclear disaster in history. Written by Craig Mazin, the show exposes the viewer to an effective portrayal of the reality of the accident, as well as the fear, the lies and the incompetence of the reactor workers which lead to the accident. Chernobyl is not a completely true story, with some events and characters being made up. Nevertheless, this does not take away from the truth that the show portrays. After all, telling the truth and miscommunication could be named one of the main themes of the series.

Stellan Skarsgård as Boris Shcherbina on the phone – a frequent scene seen in the series, as communication is one of the key themes of the show. Source: Digital Spy

Casting Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgård and Emily Watson as the main heroes of the action, Mazin has managed to map the growth of their relationships and their development throughout the mere scope of five episodes. This could not have been done without the skilful acting that brings the struggle of fighting to save thousands of people into the forefront. However, the show also honours the firemen, divers, miners and soldiers who helped prevent the spread of the dangerous nuclear particles further into Europe and Russia.

Through an intricate storyline, woven with a variety of points of view and perspective, the viewers are able to form a complete image of the event  one filled with sorrow, horror, disappointment and hope. As the characters move towards solving the problem, it is not without loss that thousands, if not millions, of lives, are saved in effect. The show manages to show the horrors of the accident and the decisions made without over-hyperbolizing them and in an unbiased manner, which may be part of the reason why the show is so praised by its Russian and Ukranian audiences.

Positive review taken from IMDb, written by a person directly affected by the nuclear accident.

Many praised the miniseries, comparing it to the final season of Game of Thrones since both were produced by HBO. Source: IMDb

What is more plausible, is the great attention that is given to detail: from set design to costumes, makeup and hair to dialogues. Focusing on the complicated subject of nuclear energy, the show provides any necessary exposition to the viewer at moments when it is needed most. The lack of familiarity of the viewer with this subject in the first minutes of the first episode almost reflects the unknowing of those working in the reactor — confusion permeates the episode for both the workers and the viewers. However, in a non-imposing manner, the writers still manage to provide significant details about the nuclear reactor in a form that is easy to understand.

Jared Harris as Valery Legasov explaining, using flashcards, how an imbalance in the nuclear reactor has lead to the catastrophe. Source: Express

There are numerous dialogues and negotiations that are present in the episodes of Chernobyl. Nevertheless, the show still manages to convey the miscommunication and the lies that are beneath the surface, not only through conversations and words but also through the brilliant visual aspect. The final episode becomes the perfect example of this, as one of the main character explains the reasons why the disaster has occurred through the effective use of simple visual tools, such as flashcards. This brilliant use of the visual aspect is compounded by the work of the director of photography Jakob Ihre, production designer Luke Hall and costume designer Odile Dicks-Mireaux.

Chernobyl is a definite must-watch for everyone, as it does not focus solely on the nuclear disaster, but also on the widespread problems of society and the government and how to fix them in order to prevent history from repeating itself.

Featured Image via Business Insider

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Aly Balakareva

Born in 2003, in Sochi, Russia, I have always had a passion for storytelling. For the past ten years, I've been living in and exploring Cyprus. Currently, I write and edit for Affinity Magazine Arts + Culture section, and in my free time, enjoy watching films and listening to music.