Craig Mazin’s Chernobyl intertwines a series of fascinating human-centric narratives as a way of emphasizing the pure devastation which resulted from the explosion and subsequent fire that engulfed nuclear reactor four. While recounting the actual events surrounding this catastrophic moment aren’t challenging as most historians have covered that and then some, very few have taken the time to focus on the human element of this event. What get’s lost in the devastation and grief is the thousands of men and women who were put into harm’s way, and thus their life is cut short.
The leads in the series are about as good as they come. Jaren Harris, Stellan Skarsgård, and Emily Watson always seem to strive in character-driven pieces and make no mistake, Chernobyl is precisely that. This five-part series spends more time dealing with these inner conflicts these individuals faced following the events of the accident. Professor Legasov (Harris) has to weigh whether not telling the truth ( thus protecting state secrets) is more important than being honest with everyone. Deputy Shchebria (Skarsgård) has been a man who has always done what was best for the ruling party but what happens the current governing body is wrong? Professor Khomyuk (Watson) has to fight to get the bottom of what indeed occurred in the control room, and a quick fashion as much of her key witnesses are dying from radiation poisoning.
Mazin certainly had a keen sense of pacing in this miniseries as he allows each of the five episodes to serve a particular purpose ranging from the first moment of the blast and the politics which seem to be impeding the government’s response. Stellan Skarsgård stood out as the best performer of the entire series. Harris and Watson were great, but Skarsgård’s character goes through quite a personal arc which allows him to develop empathy for those afflicted by these nightmarish events.
Chernobyl is a fantastic television series and is well worth your time. Be sure to check it out starting this Monday at 9 pm on HBO.