With the final series coming to an end, I was worried that I wouldn’t find anything to fill the Game of Thrones shaped hole in my life, but then along comes writer, Craig Mazin (Hangover 2, Identity Thief) with the hard-hitting HBO mini-series, Chernobyl, which is currently sitting pretty as the highest rated series on IMDB.
The explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in April 1986 is, to this day, the worst nuclear disaster in history. This five-part series depicts the events of the disaster, and the subsequent clean-up operation that, at the expense of hundreds of lives, prevented a global nuclear disaster.
As terrifying as the mere thought of a nuclear explosion may be, what is truly disturbing is the sheer ignorance and incompetence of those high up in Soviet power, which this mini-series does not shy away from showing. It is highlighted particularly well in the very first episode, and then truly hammered home during the epilogue at the end of the season.
The set and costume design has a very understated feel to it, which for me, adds to the realism. It may be, only slightly, before my time but I definitely think that people who grew up in the mid-80’s will be get a real sense of comforting familiarity with regards to the location, the people and the time. You would be forgiven for thinking that, despite the subject matter, that you are about to sit through an interesting, yet safe depiction of a traumatic event, but you would be wrong.
The entire five and a half hour runtime of the series is incredibly tense and suspenseful. The minimal use of music gives the whole experience a very close and solemn feel, like a heavy storm cloud overhead, and the gore, for lack of a better word, is used sparingly but ever so effectively. This series leaves you feeling shocked, battered, bruised and heartbroken.
What really sets this series apart is the sheer talent in the cast, there is a surprising number of actors with incredible calibre that are only onscreen for a matter of moments, but they are not cameos, each and everyone of them is integral to the story and that is something that is quite rare to see.
Chernobyl starts and ends with Jared Harris, in arguably a career-best performance as Valery Legasov, the nuclear scientist who was Chief of the commission tasked with investigating the disaster, and minimising the consequential impact of the event. Harris carries the lead well and I am excited to see what doors this will open up for him in the future.
Supporting Harris, we have Stellan Skarsgard as Minister for Energy, Boris Scherbina and Emily Watson as Ulana Khomyuk, a composite character to represent the entire scientific community that were involved in determining the truth of the explosion.
I already had a lot of admiration for Skarsgard, he is an incredibly versatile actor, but he really shines in this series. His character arc is one of the only redemptive ones in the show and he delivers it perfectly. I’ll admit, I’m not overly familiar with Watson or her work but after watching her in this, I will definitely be keeping an eye on her work.
Strong performances from the likes of Paul Ritter, Jessie Buckley and Barry Keoghan round off the stellar casting in this must-watch series.
Honestly, watch it. You will not be disappointed.
Watched it already? Let me now what you think.