The first time I became familiar with the Chernobyl incident was the year 2007, the much-anticipated game Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl came out. At the time, however, just having started working and as a single guy with a lot of free time on his hands all I cared about was playing the game. Soaking up the atmosphere and completing its missions. Beyond that, I have no memory of me ever researching up on Chernobyl. In the years after the game came out, I never played games of the nature much. While the atmosphere it generated was extremely good, it also meant it was bleak and lonely as hell.
Enter June 2019 and I see HBO’s Chernobyl being mentioned everywhere. The thing was I never really lost interest in finding out more about what happened at Chernobyl. I just hadn’t chosen the right medium to understand it. Also, the game I was playing came out in 2007. I am more than a decade older. Perhaps I am more receptive of this kind of subject matter.
This 5 part mini-series is a must-watch for several reasons. It feels extremely authentic and well researched. From the very first episode right until its last it is relentlessly grim and uncompromising. It tries to tell its story sticking as close to what they could have established as fact. It never tries to take sides. I have never had a series show me so clearly as many aspects of a catastrophe as they have managed to do here in just 5 hours.
By the end of it, I actually understood the basics of how a nuclear reactor works. The incredible sacrifices that scientists can make to ensure that the truth can emerge. The lengths that a state and its government can go to preserve their image in the eyes of the world. All of the efforts that went into ensuring that the nuclear accident did not escalate. The lateral effects of the disaster, not just those who died but all of those who had to leave their homes at short notice, to never return. To say any more would spoil what is actually a gripping tale full of unease and tension that never lets up.