HBO’s New Hit Series

Chernobyl will take you on a journey through the disaster of its past

photo courtesy of Greenpeace.org

Alexis Bahensky, Staff Reporter

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HBO has brought us award-winning shows time after time, such as the well-known Game of Thrones and The Wire, and now they have brought us a popular new mini-series, Chernobyl. This particular series is based on the true event, as well as the effects that came afterward, of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant incident on April 26th, 1986 in Ukraine, which was a part of the Soviet Union at the time, near the city of Prypait. There are only five episodes, each about one hour long, in the entire series. 

(Warning, if you haven’t seen the series, or if you’re planning on watching it soon, there are spoilers ahead so be aware. Warnings to this series may include sensitive, and graphic content).

At the very beginning of the first episode, Valery Legasov, a Chemistry scientist in Ukraine portrayed by British actor Jared Harris, can be heard recording his thoughts about the Chernobyl incident onto cassette tapes, two years after the initial crisis, before taking his own life. This scene was not only able to grab viewers’ attention, but it also set background knowledge for what was in store for the upcoming scenes. 

Right after the first scene, the audience is shown the night of the incident. In a series of flashing red lights, while workers attempted to attend to the situation, as an audience, we’re able to understand more about what really went down on the night of April 26th at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. The power plant’s No.4 reactor burst into flames as it exploded. If you know anything about nuclear reactors, you would know that the likeliness of the reactor causing an explosion is very unlikely. However, according to World-Nuclear.org, Chernobyl’s reactor suffered an explosion due to a power increase. 

While workers rushed back and forth attempting to fulfill orders given to them by Viktor Bryukhanov, portrayed by actor Con O’Neill, they were unable to die down the situation. Because of this, not only did the explosion happen but, according to Russia Beyond, Bryukhanov, and many others in Ukraine at the time, didn’t fully understand the drastic measures of the situation which lead to many consequences in the future. 

The person who first figures out the direness of the situation was a female nuclear physicist by the name of Ulana Khomyuk, portrayed by the English actress Emily Watson. Unlike the first few characters mentioned above, Watson’s character wasn’t a real person during the incident. According to Bustle.com, creator Craig Mazin explained that due to the lack of women empowerment in political powers at the time, he added in Ulana to reflect the real-life women who were prominent in medical and science fields in the Soviet Union. 

Though Ulana was the first to figure out what was going down at Chernobyl, it was Valery who brought up the situation to the Soviet government. At first, they didn’t think of it as a big deal, however, as Valery went on to explain how it could affect the whole Soviet Union they sent both him, as well as Chairman Boris Shcherbina, portrayed by Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård, to deal with the problem.

The rest of the series goes on to explain all the effort put into stopping the power plant from causing any more damage, the effects the reactor brought upon the people nearby, as well as the environment, including radioactive burns on the skin. 

I absolutely loved this series, not only because of the plot, but I enjoyed every single character that was shown on screen. They were able to capture every detail in each and every historical figure and interpret it to their actors. Irish singer Jessie Buckley, who played Lyudmila Ignatenko, looked almost identical to her historical counterpart. 

photo courtesy of Movie Insite
Irish singer Jessie Buckley plays Lyudmila Ignatenko in the Chernobyl mini-series.

Not only were the characters on point, but the history behind the idea of the story was also accurate through the entirety of the series. Though they did make a few changes, such as the addition of Watson’s character Ulana, for the most part, they were able to take the information gathered through their research and interpret it into each episode, such as the stories of each of the historical characters. This kept me intrigued throughout each episode because it switched between each character’s story within the series, which made me want to keep watching so I, as the audience, could piece together each individual’s story, as well as the entire story behind the Chernobyl incident. 

I would definitely recommend this series to anyone who enjoys short, yet intriguing series that make you sit at the edge of your seat till you end up falling off because of the intense and dramatic scenes from the Soviet Union’s past that the episodes portray. 

5/5

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