...Ulana Khomyuk (played by Emily Watson) has a conversation with a Soviet apparatchik about the “incident” at Chernobyl that brings the analogy fully home. “I’ve been assured there’s no problem,” the bureaucrat says. “I’m telling you that there is,” Khomyuk replies. “I prefer my opinion to yours,” he says. “I’m a nuclear physicist,” she counters, adding, “Before you were deputy secretary, you worked in a shoe factory.”
The action veers between ludicrous, Death of Stalin–style farce (the radiation level is reported as 3.6 roentgens per second, since that’s as high as the counters go) and grindingly tense body horror (babies burned bright red, incessant retching, open sores). Johan Renck, who directed all five episodes, instills a sense of visceral fear that culminates in one striking scene where nearby townsfolk bask joyfully with their children under falling flakes of deadly nuclear ash...
Chernobyl is a thorough historical analysis, a gruesome disaster epic replete with oozing blisters and the ominous rattle of Geiger counters, and a mostly riveting drama. But it’s also a warning—one that straddles the line between prescience and portentousness. Whether you apply its message to climate change, the “alternative facts” administration of the current moment, or anti-vaccine screeds on Facebook, Mazin’s moral stands: The truth will eventually come out. The question he poses, however self-consciously, is whether hundreds of thousands of lives must always be sacrificed to misinformation along the way.
Reposted from May to add this video -
- and a comment that I thought the series was superbly done.