As for fans of Daenerys, no words can console you for how carelessly the show mistreated your queen. It’s almost as if they just shrugged and said ‘bitches be crazy’, before pushing her out the metaphorical window.
Yeah, it sucks. I know. Right now, you probably want to delete your HBO’s number from your phone and block him on Instagram. To those of you thus tempted, I say: “Stop! Have Mercy! Don’t delete your HBO subscription just yet!”
At least not until you’ve watched Chernobyl—the best show on television right now.
Some of them—the firefighters—die within weeks from horrifying radiation burns. Others wait years until cancer claims them.
However, on the night itself, nobody realises that the worst nuclear disaster in history has just occurred. In fact, everyone in charge seems determined to believe otherwise, despite the evidence in front of their eyes.
Deputy Chief-Nuclear Engineer Anatoly Dyatlov, angrily dismisses reports that his reactor is a smoking hole in the ground. Even when his subordinates projectile-vomit blood on his face, he continues to insist that it was just a boiler gone kaput.
“Not great, not terrible”, he concludes, displaying a Monthy-Pythonesque level of denial.
The fire brigade gets called and they rush in without even a face mask for protection, believing it was just a normal ‘roof fire’. Meanwhile, in the nearby town of Pripyat, local authorities decide not to evacuate because it would ‘cause a panic’. Outside, children play in the radioactive dust as if it were snow.
Millions will die in the most gruesome way imaginable if he doesn’t the debunk the Fake News of ‘Not Great, Not Terrible’—and so, debunk it fast he must.
This is the story that creator Craig Mazin wants to tell and, oh bòzhe mòi, is it told brilliantly. The show is so gripping and harrowing that it makes Game Of Thrones look like an episode of Teletubbies. At certain points, I had to pause and go for a smoke because it was just too overwhelming. The immersion is total. You really feel like you’re in the disaster zone beside Comrade Legasov, in the last days of a crumbling Soviet Union.
For the lucky, they will vomit and recover. For the unfortunate, they will soon be weeping pus, blood and diarrhoea onto hospital bedsheets as their bodies literally decompose. It’s like watching a massive game of Russian roulette with thousands of players and trillions of invisible bullets.
This horror is unconventional but visceral. You can stab a zombie in the face, and run away from Godzilla. But how do you stop radiation? It is in the air you breathe and the water you drink. By the time you notice its there, it’s already inside you, shredding your DNA like paper. After a while, the crackle of a dosimeter will haunt your dreams like those silly White Walkers never could.
Below the power plant, three divers (Alexei Ananenko, Valeri Bezpalov, and Boris Baranov) wade their way through heavily irradiated waters to open a valve. The radiation deep-fries their flashlights, but they forge on into the darkness, navigating by touch alone through the bowels of hell itself.
The mini-series does a wonderful job of showing their heroism in ordinary, understated terms. There’s no melodrama or Hollywood heroics here. When the three divers volunteer for what is clearly a suicide mission, they simply stand up, say their names, and proceed to the briefing. There is no stirring orchestra or standing ovations, but you need to be a heartless bastard to not salute their incredible bravery.
Even as they are sending people to their death, they are stalked by KGB agents ready to arrest them should they step out of line. By the end of the disaster, they are tired, disillusioned and angry. Angry at a system that values prestige over human lives. Angry at the lies they must tell and suffer, in a mad world that makes zero sense at all.
“What is the cost of lies,” Valery Legasov asks himself. The answer is, of course, everything. For the men, women and unborn children caught up in this disaster, there is no counting the cost.
What cannot be denied, however, is that Chernobyl is one truly brilliant piece of storytelling. If you can find a better show this year, I will give myself a curry-sauce enema and upload it for your viewing pleasure.
The show is riveting. It is heart-wrenching, tragic and haunting. It is as close to television perfection as one can get. If you’re not moved to pity and sorrow by the end, you must needs possess a heart of depleted uranium.