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HBO's 'Chernobyl' is a gripping illustration of the dark tale behind the world's worst man-made nuclear disaster

The series' first episode tells a stirring tale of how the world's worst man-made nuclear disaster began, leaving you gripping the edge of your seats as an unnerving feeling settles at the pit of your stomach

What is the cost of lies?  Valery Legasov, the famed Russian scientist at the helm of controlling the Chernobyl nuclear disaster ruminates at the beginning of HBO's mini-series 'Chernobyl' as he records tell-all tapes of the explosion's details, minutes before his death.

The series first episode tells a stirring tale of how the world's worst man-made nuclear disaster began, leaving you gripping the edge of your seats as an unnerving feeling settles in the pit of your stomach. Legasov, played by the brilliant English actor Jared Harris, recalls the dark days of the nuclear explosion near the town of Pripyat as he records crucial untold details of the disaster on cassette tapes, hiding them from the KGB.


The show goes back two years to the night of the disaster showing moments before the unprecedented reactor explosion that would change the course of history. As engineers run a test at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, near Pripyat in Soviet Ukraine, the junior staff is quick to realize something is amiss as they try to avert a crisis and raise an alarm on the seriousness of the situation.

However, their supervisor Anatoly Dyatlov rejects their warning and brushes off his staff's account when told reactor #4 has exploded, exposing the core. Dyatlov, known as the main person responsible for the nuclear disaster, instead asks his staff to go check the core in person, exposing them to a lethal amount of radiation in the process.

A still from the HBO mini-series Chernobyl.

The first episode gives a detailed, hourly account of how the disaster ensues causing confusion and a haphazard attempt of those in charge to contain a situation already spiraling out of their control. As workers inside the plant begin dying after being exposed to a dangerous amount of radiation, the tension inside the control room heightens as they desperately try to figure out what went wrong considering they went by the book during the test.

Dyatlov issues a command to call firefighters to control the fire. The series ropes in the experience of a firefighter and his wife during the disaster, creating an emotional tether with the viewers as we see how their destiny unfolds.

The firefighters, on that night in April 1986, went into the nuclear power plant not knowing the amount of radiation in the air as it seeped into their clothes, gradually killing a lot of them. Dyatlov and the plant's directors meet with the Pripyat council, assuring them the radiation levels are not dangerously high. 

The destroyed nuclear reactor in progress of preparing for a covering with a new confinement. The wall and roof of the old sarcophagus built in 1986 are clearly visible. The sky is pastel blue on a cloudy autumn day. (Getty Images)

The council eventually decides to seal the town and cut its phone lines to curb the spread of misinformation inadvertently making Pripyat a ticking time bomb. 'Chernobyl' is a dark show, highlighting the shortcomings of the Soviet Russian government entrusted with protecting its people and how gravely its decisions affected its powerless citizens as they stared ahead at death emanating from a power plant with a strange glow. 

The episode concludes with a depiction of a town unaware of the danger in front of them, with poison running through the air as children dance in ashes riddled with radiation falling like snow on them. The mini-series is a must watch.