'Chernobyl' Episode 3 Review: 'Open Wide, O Earth' tells the tale of heroic coal miners who saved thousands of lives
The episode shows how expendable the miners' lives were considered to be by the Soviet Union that doesn't even give them any provisions for taking on the deadly, selfless task
With just two episodes down, HBO's Chernobyl has turned out to be an engrossing experience so far with a league of brilliant actors and plotline giving the miniseries just enough grit to leave audience transfixed.
As the second episode left us worrying about the lives of the "suicide squad" going back into the mouth of death for a greater good, it also made us wonder what was next for the firefighters in the hospital, Valery Legasov's wrangle with the Soviet hierarchy to make things right and Ulyana Khomyuk's determination to investigate the disaster.
Episode 3 'Open Wide, O Earth' answers all that and more.
The latest episode shows the lengths one is willing to go for love, for their quest for truth, and for saving the lives of thousands. These three issues are explored through the characters of Jessie Buckey's Lyudmilla Ignatenko, Emily Watsons' Ulyana Khomyuk, and a hundred odd miners.
'I am here to see my husband'
We see Ignatenko's desperate search for her fireman husband (Adam Nagaitis' Vasily Ignatenko) come to fruition as she travels miles to Moscow to see him. After bribing her way into Hospital Number 6 in Moscow, Lyudmila finally arrives at the facility where her husband and other firefighters afflicted due to the nuclear disaster being treated. She reaches the unit only to be told that it is life-threatening for her to see her husband, considering the amount of radiation he emanates.
We see Ignatenko flouting the warnings of the nurses there and running into the arms of her husband, not caring for a moment about her own life. The episode gradually turns into a horrid reality of what severe radiation exposure has done to the firefighters as they struggle to survive.
Why did it explode?
We see nuclear physicist Khomyuk ruminating what exactly caused the nuclear reactor in Chernobyl to explode. She discusses this with Legasov, only to be told her answers don't lie in Chernobyl.
The latest episodes show Khomyuk's desperate quest for answers. We see her traveling to Hospital 6 in Moscow to interview the three main workers who were in the control room who are battling with death. She seeks to know the truth they experienced before everything is lost and buried.
Khomyuk finally gets some answers only to be apprehended and taken by the infamous KGB.
'We dig up coal, not bodies'
With the immediate hazard of another nuclear explosion averted, another danger presents itself before Valery Legasov — contamination of groundwater and the Pripyat river. We see Jared Harris' character continue to rail against the Soviet hierarchy to save thousands of lives as he suggests a wider exclusion zone and an immediate plan to build a heat exchanger under the reactor to curb the contamination.
A 100 coal miners, however, emerge as the episode's real heroes as they take on the daunting task of building a tunnel right under the open radioactive reactor, without any protective clothing. The miners — initially skeptical — take on the suicide mission after being told nearly 50 million lives will be lost if they don't install the heat exchanger.
'Open Wide, O Earth' shows how expendable the miners' lives were considered to be by the Soviet Union, which doesn't even give them any provisions for taking on the deadly, selfless task.