The Pursuit Of Truth
Chernobyl returns for its fifth and final episode as the remaining puzzle pieces are aligned and we see what really happened that fateful night. After a brief introduction showing some of the events in Pripyat 12 hours before the explosion, we begin in Moscow 1987.
Legasov is thanked for a job well done, having lied to the International Committee but it’s a bittersweet thanks. Despite an imminent promotion, the reactor still hasn’t been fixed and worse, Legasov’s hair has begun to fall out – the consequence of exposure to the radiation. As he contemplates what to do next, Ulana pleads with him to tell the truth at the Russian Committee.
The meeting then starts, with all our main players attending and after a brief scientific explanation from Boris, Ulana takes to the stand and talks us through the human cost of what happened that night. Interspersed around these moments, we cut back and actually see what happened before the explosion. Shockingly, one of the people in the control room was a young man aged 25 years old.
Ultimately though, the fingers are pointed at Dyatlov as the man responsible. After losing power and failing a safety test, he tells the others to raise the power again for another test that night. He’s defiant too, despite pleas from his colleagues and messages from the computer recommending shutting down the reactor. He threatens to fire the workers if they don’t follow his command but this leads to lies in the committee, with Dyatlov telling them he wasn’t even in the room when they actioned this.
As things become heated, Boris coughs uncontrollably into a handkerchief prompting them all to take a short recess. One of the stand out moments of the series occurs next, as Legasov and Boris share a touching, respectful moment together, thanking each other for their work done with Chernobyl.
When they return, we jump back to the events of the night again, seeing the devastating impact of Dyatlov’s actions as Legasov talks us through the nuclear reaction. He pauses momentarily, enough time to allow Dyatlov to spew his anger at the truth, spinning it as lies and propaganda but Boris stands and demands they let Legasov continue talking. Which he does. An impassioned speech about the Union then follows before we see that final, fateful moment when the reactor exploded.
After the committee, Legasov is reprimanded, promised by officials that his statement means nothing and that he will fade away into oblivion, stripped of his scientific duties in all but title. We then end the series with a final monologue from our scientist as we cut to see everything that happened to these characters in the following years after Chernobyl.
Chernobyl ends like it begins; with a beautifully written episode and a shocking, humbling reminder of just how devastating this disaster was. Chernobyl doesn’t need big, expensive CGI to get its message across, nor does it need action peppered throughout its five episodes. Instead, this grounded, realistic series relies on the same tactics that made Band Of Brothers such an endearing series that stands the test of time – a gritty, realistic depiction of history.
It’s ultimately what will make Chernobyl go down as one of the best mini-series out there and the reason it’s been so highly regarded by critics and audiences alike. It could easily stand toe-to-toe with Band Of Brothers in terms of its depiction of the truth and respectful portrayal of the true events. Legasov says it best at the end of this episode with a message that’s echoed throughout the five episodes – what is the human cost of lies?