If you guys are not watching Chernobyl yet, I don’t know what to do about it. I guess pray, if you’re into that sort of thing. Though praying does nothing against radiation or the devastation it causes. We talked about incompetence last week, and this week is pretty much more of the same. In all honestly, it is incredibly frustrating to watch. The bureaucratic nonsense really kicks into gear in this episode. But in my opinion, the main takeaway is the treatment of scientists.
In the episode titled “Please Remain Calm” (which is a paradox) we finally get to see the main cast in all of its grandeur. We are introduced to the fictional Ulana Khomyuk, played by the amazing Emily Watson (Recommendations: Breaking the Waves, Red Dragon) who represents the hundreds of scientists who worked to clean up the catastrophic explosion. While they are boiled down to one character, you feel the weight they had to carry with the performance of Watson. We are also introduced to Stellan Skarsgard’s vice chairman of the Council of Ministers Boris Shcherbina. If you are familiar with his work (sarcasm) you already know he’s going to put on a master class. But the real star, which by the end of these reviews you will get annoyed by how much I admire, is Jared mothereffing Harris. We got to see Harris’s Valery Legasov briefly last week, but this week we get to see him in all his glory. There is not a single scene he’s in that he doesn’t steal, and that is hard to do next to freaking Stellan Skarsgard.
Bureaucratic BS starts right at the beginning of the episode when Ulana (Watson) discovers that the radiation around the city of Minsk has spiked. When she takes her concerns to the Central Committee, who’s head was a shoe maker before he was given a high-ranking official, dismisses her by saying scientists don’t care about facts, they only spread hysteria. It is multiplied when Legasov (Harris) is brought in to meet with the committee overseeing the explosion of Chernobyl. He is expected just to sit there silently, but he can’t keep his frustration and fear at bay. He knows just from the report how serous it really is, he lets his concerns known “calmly and with all respect” to General Secretary Gorbachev who sends Legasov to Chernobyl with Shcherbina (Skarsgard). There they learn how bad it really is. Remember when we talked about roentgens last week? And how the plant’s dosimeter only went to 3.6? Well, the true reading is over 15,000. You’ll have to watch to hear how bad this really is. But it is really, really, really, really, bad.
We also see the aftermath of the horror last week. The hospital scene is absolute chaos. We see the radiation burns eat away at flesh on anyone who comes into contact with the people, the firefighters, and even the clothing. No one is safe, not even the high-ranking officials. A harsh truth is the only reason Shcherbina finally orders Pripyat to be evacuated and that only comes after he is personally affected. A plan is put into place on how to put out the fire, but Ulana shows up and points out a gigantic problem. This leads to the culmination of the episode. I don’t want to spoil it here because it is so damn good, but it is another reason why I consider the show should be included in the horror genre.
Once again the episode was absolutely beautiful and is the highest quality of acting you will get from a cable (premium cable I guess you could say) show. The dread and tension you feel carries you from episode to episode leaving you wanting more like an addict. We know there is no happy ending for this miniseries, but there is no way in hell I am getting off this ride.