Currently on HBO is a five-part series created by Craig Mazin and director Johan Renck to tell the story of the 1986 disaster we all know as “Chernobyl.”
In April of 1986, an explosion rocks the Soviet Union in more ways than one. A nuclear power plant known as Chernobyl has exploded and from the moment it happened, no one realized exactly how devastating it would all become.
With a cast that stars Jared Harris as scientist Valery Legasov, it is his knowledge of what he saw once called in for his expertise by Boris Shcherbina played by Stellan Skarsgard that is riveting. Adding Emily Watson as Ulana Khomyuk, another scientist who fills in even more terrifying news that has so far rounded out those in the know about what to do next.
Director Renck doesn’t leave a single thing out in the way of devastation both to the building and the human beings left inside trying to discover how bad it is. Once Legasov and Shcherbina comes together, they are the brain and the mouthpiece that need to convince Mikhail Gorbachev (David Dencik) that action, although late, needs to be swift.
From the moment of the explosion, reality may be in front of the eyes of the crew and firefighters with an almost instant effect, but it is those in charge who fail to accept what is truly happening.
That is another riveting aspect of “Chernobyl”, watching the average citizen slowly become aware that something is seriously wrong and knowing at the same time it is unlikely their government would tell them the truth. One woman who isn’t about to wait around for answers is Lyudmilla Ignatenko (Jessie Buckley), wife of firefighter Vasily (Adam Nagaitis).
There is no doubt that “Chernobyl” does not have happy moments in the first few episodes because there can’t be. In fact what the first few episodes show us is nothing short of a hellish nightmare filled with not only the instant horror but the horror to come for the people living around the plant and other countries in the path of a nuclear cloud.
Harris as Legasov knows immediately what they are up against but also knows that he has a partial gag in being allowed to speak. There is a presence in Harris’ performance that is just short of him wanting to scream out the truth yet has the good sense to tread lightly. That is until its time to not treat lightly. His performance continues to astound me and I can not wait to see the final three episodes.
Skarsgard is one of my favorite actors and in this role he gets a chance to play both sides against the middle. Almost immediately believing Legasov (especially when he sees with his own eyes what has happened at the power plant), Skarsgard takes his character to a dangerous place and that is in making decisions without the direct approval of Gorbachev.
Watson as Ulana comes in before an even larger disaster takes place. She becomes the second scientific voice of reason and both Legasov and Shcherbina trust her immediately. Watson continues to choose roles that are challenging and I enjoy everything she does and “Chernobyl” is brilliant.
The cast is filled with outstanding performances that also include Paul Ritter as Anatoly Dyatlov, Sam Troughton as Aleksandr Akimov, Robert Emms as Leonid Toptunov, Adam Lundgren as Vyacheslav Brazhnik, Karl Davies as Viktor Proskuryakov, Jay Simpson as Valery Perevozchenko, Billy Postlethwaite as Boris Stolyarchuk, and Adrian Rawlins as Nikolai Formin.
Also starring Con O’Neill as Viktor Bryukhanov, Donald Sumpter as Zharkov, Barry Keoghan as Pavel, Ralph Ineson as Nikolai Tarakanov, Mark Jones as Vladimir Pikalov, Alex Ferns as Blukhov, Michael Colgan as Mikhail Shchadov, Alan Williams as Chairman Charkov and David Dencik as Mikhail Gorbachev.
The show is jaw-dropping and even heartbreaking in the story it tells. When looking for a show that is absolutely worthy of your time, might I suggest you tune in and see for yourself as “Chernobyl” can be seen on HBO.