HBO, drawing some flak for the final season of Game of Thrones quietly made way for Chernobyl, which as of writing this article, is the highest rated show ever on the history of television. People may argue that the ratings of IMDb may fluctuate after some point of time as the number of voters will increase too, but that’s for another day.
Chernobyl, being a mini-series proved yet again that the quantity of episodes doesn’t matter as long as the content is good and the limited number of episodes give a sense of closure to the storylines which are being portrayed on the show. Chernobyl, inspired by the true events of the explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Soviet Union in 1986 is a fitting and horrifying television watching experience. The simple sound of meters checking the intensity of the radiation is horrifying and sets up the tension between the viewers and the characters being portrayed in the series. The 90-second scene where the firefighters are asked to clear the debris from the roof is probably the best scene of the show where the irking sound the meter is simply adding the right amount of horror in that scene.
There is a particular scene in the series where the firefighters, clearly oblivious about the radiation encounter the broken granite rods on the ground yet they keep pouring water onto the plant. As a viewer, it’s heart-wrenching because we already knew what happened to them. One particular firefighter, Vasily Ignatenko who was the first responder to the Chernobyl fire has been used to show the effect the radiation had on the human bodies of the people who were directly in contact with the radioactive air. His character was based on the accounts that his wife gave to the book ‘Chernobyl Prayer’.
The two actors who play the main characters of the show, Valery Legasov, played by Jared Harris and Boris Scherbina played by Stellan Skarsgård deserve a special mention. Another notable performance is given by Emily Watson, who played Ulana Khomyuk.
What worked for the show was the fact that the tension stayed throughout the series. The first two episodes were about the tensions and the adamant Soviet Union while the third and fourth episodes were about the aftermath and gruesome effects of radiation. The mass killing of animals gave me chills and that was probably the most brutal way of depicting the loss of life. The scientists at fault, Anatoly Dyatlov, Viktor Bryukhanov, and Nikolai Fomin were limited but effective in their screen presence.
Overall, the series deserves a pat on the back for being brutally honest, even though some portions of the series were dramatized for storytelling purposes. Craig Mazin, the writer of the show deserves applause for creating and effectively maintaining the balance between fiction and reality, making Chernobyl a show which would be called a gem and one of the most popular tv shows on the planet.