Chernobyl: If you want to feel depressed for five hours of your life, boy do I have a show for you.

HBO is trying really hard to keep you with their services after that diarreaha fountain that was the Game of Thrones finale. It was an assault of promos that featured magic bears, doped up teenagers, tophat lesbians, and some bizarre Watchmen thing. I don’t think that seeing promos for a Blade Runner Westworld or even new Curb Your Enthusiasm was enough calm people the fuck down from that disastrous cripple fueled GoT ending. In the fury, HBO almost quietly released probably one of the most depressing and fascinating mini-series about melting people ever released.


”Comrade, Scherbina. As the scientific authority here, I must say that shit is fucked.”

Over the course of five episodes, we are walked through the 1986 Chernobyl disaster and subsequent damage control the Soviet Union is forced to take. While the story bounces from a multitude of characters, it is centered on the perspectives of Boris Scherbina (Stellan Skarsgard) a duty bound and stern party member, Professor Legasov (Jared Harris) who was primarily the lead physicist on the investigation and containment, and nuclear physicist Ulana Khomyuk (Emily Watson). In a dour fashion we are shown not only the events and effect of the incident to an unsuspecting population, but also the struggle of working against politics with its own heroes and villains.

”I’m trying to tell you that shit is fucked!!! IF I have to say it again, YOU will be fucked, comrade!!!”

The show is amazingly put together, but the real star of the show is radiation who manifests as a silent killer. You never see it directly, but the show is a massive quilt of moments that show its effects. Firefighters dying from something they never understood. Helicopters dropping out of the sky from flying to close to an open reactor. Workers culling local animal population. The suffering of plant workers blistering and dying in their beds. It creates this oppressive backdrop that almost suffocates the protagonist as they scramble to put a lid on this mess. When you see Scherbina yelling into the phone for materials in the containment effort or Legasov visibly struggling with the moral price of it all, these extremely well-done scenes have the ominous killer commanding dread looming over it all. You are watching one of the biggest and dangerous train wrecks in history competently put together on the screen and it is hard to pull away.

”Hurry up and turn the pipes, Alexi so shit is not so fucked. This is Russia not Game of Bullshit.“

The gripes I have are very minor with the show having a cliched writing in a couple scenes towards the end and maybe some sort of uneven message about Soviet politics, but it still ended strong. I could heap praise on the actors, the script and screen telling, the music, and how it all the pieces worked together nicely. Probably what makes this more memorable than any of this is the fact this actually happened and how close the world came to be in a very bad spot. It’s a haunting, uneasy thing that I whole heartedly recommend, but not sure if I want to watch again.