No spoilers ahead.
HBO’s mini-series Chernobyl has become one of the most talked about TV series of the year. The series may have introduced a relatively unknown cast but it skyrocketed to the number one spot on IMDB after settling at an impressive 9.6/10 score.
It’s true, the series is astonishing television. Johan Renck masterfully delivers suspense while successfully portraying the intensity of the situation. To portray a real-life disaster requires a particular level of nuisance, where the shock and horror of the event are achieved without glamorizing the suffering of the real-life people that were involved for the purpose of entertainment.
It’s in this respect that Renck and the writers of the show excelled. Our mouths hung open in amazement almost all the way through and yet we were consistently reminded that this is not just a TV drama. It actually happened.
While I do not doubt that there are historians among you, I would also bet on the fact that most of you, like myself, had no idea the extent of the risk of the Chernobyl disaster. Valery Legasov (Jared Harris) informs authorities early on that if something is not done, a second detonation will occur and that this explosion will render Europe uninhabitable for hundreds of thousands of years. He later explains that if the radiation is not contained, water supplies in the whole of Eastern Europe will be fatally contaminated.
What is remarkable is how few Europeans were aware of the imminent danger that may have existed in their own lifetimes. The cost of preventing a moral panic by Soviet Russia was that the thousands of men who risked their lives to contain the disaster have remained unknown by those whose lives had been saved. Until now.
Where Chernobyl arguably succeeded the most was, therefore, in the homage that is paid to those who lost their lives and risked everything in the face of one of the worst man-made disasters the world has ever known. From the firefighters who obliviously entered a highly radioactive zone to the hundreds of miners and thousands of soldiers who made sealing the power plant possible, a huge debt is owed by millions – and it’s a debt which can never be paid.
Ultimately, Chernobyl is worth watching for its Oscar-worthy script, performances, and production. More than this, however, it’s an invaluable watch when it comes to one’s own personal education. “The end of the world” was once a true possibility for many and it is high time the world paid their respects to those who prevented this from happening. Watching HBO’s Chernobyl is an excellent place to start.