What if you could quantify someone’s lies? Not the number of lies, but rather the cost of lying. That’s the theme of HBO’s miniseries Chernobyl.
The fifth and final episode aired this past Monday and boy howdy I can finally take a deep breath again. Chernobyl was one of the most gripping and horrifying shows I’ve watched in a long time.
Writer Craig Mazin does an incredible job of telling the story of both the improbable sequence of scientific events along with the Soviet Union’s culture of lying that allowed Chernobyl to happen.
Chernobyl happened the year before I was born. I knew enough about it to understand it was the worst nuclear disaster in our history. But I’ve never considered the terror of watching your skin melt of your bones or having to abandon your home and pets because of a lethal invisible cloud. Never once did I think about the number of lives lost or the hopeful couples suddenly unable to have children after a lifetime's dose of radiation in a matter of seconds. And I certainly never considered the compounded debt of lies that created this disaster.
Mazin throws us right into the disaster from the start of episode one. The reactor blows at the haunting time of 1:23:45 a.m. and the subsequent investigation begins. Following chemist Valery Legasov (Jared Harris) and Council of Ministers' deputy chairman Boris Shcherbina, (Stellan Skarsgård) we learn along with them that without quick intervention, the entire continent is in danger of nuclear holocaust. And when the Iron Curtain wants you to keep the outside world from knowing the truth, the stakes are unimaginably high.
I recently signed up for an HBO subscription so I could binge Game of Thrones. I wasn’t about to be the only person on Twitter not trashing Bran the Broken. The plan was to unsubscribe as soon as Thrones ended and wow, I’m so thankful I’ve been too lazy to do so. If I was financially proactive, I might have missed Chernobyl. This was infinitely better than the last season of Thrones. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss could learn something from Mazin on how to wrap a show up in five episodes. Maybe because the truth can be more terrifying than fiction, but Chernobyl is undeniably one of the best written shows I’ve ever watched.
I highly recommend checking out Chernobyl if you haven’t already. Also, download the official podcast hosted by Peter Sagal of Wait Wait... Don’t Tell Me. His interviews with Mazin help break down the Soviet names and customs that can make the show a tad difficult to follow.
I write the words I'm too uncomfortable to say.