Chernobyl: A Haunting Incarnation Of A Fatal Catastrophe


“Man is the cruelest animal”

At the outset of the year 2014, HBO had announced the premiere of a brand-new star-studded crime show of the channel’s own production. To no one’s surprise, this show had instantly caught the world’s eye upon its release. Starring the renowned duo Matthew Mcconaughey and Woody Harrelson, True Detective was the most hyped-up series of its time, overshadowing all its contenders back in the day for it was regarded as one of the finest jaw-dropping thrillers ever aired on TV. The motto of this show, however, was profound and rather gloomy, following its punch line, “Man is the cruelest animal.”

5 years later, HBO revived True Detective’s murk with a new televised project. This time, it didn’t feature the visceral killings of some ill-minded psychopath nor did it articulate the cunning acts of serial killers. However, it depicted the evil that resides in present-day civilizations and the downsides of modern sciences that are capable of impairing our entire species had they been misused. Following the aforementioned motto of True Detective, Chernobyl constitutes a melancholic view, suggesting that human beings are the cruelest creatures, and that their so-called attainments are, in fact, malicious doings that threaten their own existence. Similar to global warming, animal extinction and water pollution issues, Chernobyl sheds light on one of the deadliest environmental catastrophes that have ever happened on Earth, which ensued from the avarice and injustice of humans.

Set in the year 1986, Chernobyl trails the epidemic that took place in the Soviet Union on the 27th of April, when the Chernobyl power plant exploded on the back of the eruption of its core. This incident had put the lives of the masses at stake for the ample lethal radiations that preyed on all those who resided within the perimeter of the power plant, killing and ailing millions of individuals, and severely mutating their genetics. After things go terribly awry, the show delves into the particulars of the rescue operations and the exertions of the commanding team, led by scientist Valery Legasov, who takes it upon himself to concoct the process of containment. To right the wrongs of the situation, he also had to come up with workarounds to overcome the intricacies that hamper the rectification of the unprecedented predicament.

As it chronicles the sorrowful happenings that went down in Chernobyl, the show made use of 4 narrative aspects to portray its all-encompassing take on the incident. The first narrative has highlighted the societal consequences of the Chernobyl eruption on the dwellers of the surrounding perimeter. As we escort one of the firefighters who rushed to the scene upon the explosion, we eye the physical, mental and psychological aftermath of the incident on him as well as his wife. Although it wasn’t the most enticing aspect of the Chernobyl, this narrative has showcased the atrociousness of the 1986 epidemic through its shocking visual conveyance. Additionally, it offered adequate insight into the hardships of civilians, who were either severely ill, forced to leave their contaminated town or at death’s door already.

The second plotline has shed light on those who were in charge with the palpable matters during their operations on the ground. Whether they were firefighters, coal miners or technicians from Chernobyl power plant, the deeds of those individuals were really inspiring and heartwarming as they willingly agreed to take part in suicidal missions with a sole purpose, which is to salvage the situation. The portrayal of their stories will definitely tug on your emotions, and their heroic idealism will restore your faith in human beings, whose mindsets are now only driven by materialistic needs, unfortunately.

As for the third narrative aspect, it featured the investigative work that was conducted by the lead female character, Ulana Khomyuk, as she aimed to lay hands on the whys and grasp the reasons that led up to the nuclear explosion. This narrative was centered on connecting the dots and piecing the givens together through holding interviews and inspecting old records to hold the delinquents accountable for their actions. Given that such information was only unveiled in the final episode, the series’ finale was when all threads culminated, reaching the zenith of this plotline.

Last but not least, the fourth and best narrative has articulated the events from the perspective of the rescue team, who were obliged to get a handle on the situation, come up with efficient containment strategies that don’t induce further health deteriorations, recruit proper workforce to pull off the on-the-ground operations and consolidate with the authorities and ministers. This narrative was brimmed with jittery moments for the disastrous givens that our two lead characters, Valery and Shcherbina, were exposed to on a daily basis. Suffice it to say that this nuclear explosion could turn a dozen countries inhabitable for an entire century, not to mention that its impact is, by far, more destructive than Hiroshima’s bomb. The dire urgency for diminishing this clutter and halting what could turn into an actual annihilation has amplified the intensity of this narrative, which had it stand out.

In addition to fleshing out the fatal proceedings of the incident, Chernobyl has also depicted some of the attributes of the Soviet Union era, when the Union’s external image was of sheer prominence to the Soviet authorities. For the Soviets, maintaining a prestigious character for the nation had prevailed over the citizenry’s rights, which had the civilians suffer from corruption, cruelty and the fear of being continuously monitored. Thus, the show suggested that such foul environment had catalyzed Chernobyl’s events. On the other hand, Chernobyl has also pointed out the feelings of mightiness that the Soviets possessed, and its key role in shaping the authorities’ response to the epidemic, which started with denial, followed by bare acknowledgment of the catastrophe, and ending with tweaking the facts to maintain their esteemed image worldwide.

On a similar note, the show has excelled in breaking down the complex nature of nuclear science into simpler content that the viewers can decipher. It was no mean feat for the show creator to have the viewers comprehend the technical details of the processes, given the intricacy of such field of study, so it’s definitely a commendable aspect. Also, having all dialogues conducted in English albeit the non-English nature of the Soviet nation was quite convenient as it has facilitated the process of communicating with the proceedings, and had us feel for Chernobyl’s characters.

Chernobyl is, indeed, a riveting 5-episode experience, and the fact that it exhibits an authentic historical tragedy that took place in the 20th century ignites its grisly gist. On the course of its 5 episodes, it portrays the good and bad in human beings, and depicts a thorough look at one of the most harrowing happenings in history for us to contemplate it in awe.