Cast your mind back to early May when all that was on everyone’s mind and lips was Game Of Thrones, the biggest show of all time coming to its conclusion. Halfway through Season 8 and we had just seen the aftermath of the biggest battle ever put to screen, the next day, episode one of Chernobyl was released.

As the last three episodes of Game of Thrones aired, it was an increasing concern to fans how the conclusion was playing out, eight years of character development thrown out the window with sub-par writing since the original material ran out. In the end, the majority of fans would agree the season, as a whole was bad, a disappointing ending to an epic journey. However, this isn’t a review on Game of Thrones.

HBO are possibly the biggest network in the world having created some of the most iconic shows of the 21st Century: Westworld, Girls, Silicon Valley, Boardwalk Empire, True Blood, Six Feet Under, Big Little Lies, Sex and the City Deadwood, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Sopranos, Veep, The Leftovers, The Wire and of course, Game of Thrones. Alongside this incredible list is the highest rated television show ever on IMDb (9.7/10) which currently holds 95% on Rotten Tomatoes, that show is Chernobyl.

Most people know the basic facts about Chernobyl, the catastrophic nuclear explosion near the city of Pripyat that occurred in 1986, creating the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone stretching to Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and farther where radioactivity contaminated areas are, and no one is allowed in. It is one of the most known events in history and one of the most disastrous.

So what does Chernobyl show and why has it been so highly praised. Well, the show starts with the events happening just seconds after the explosion from inside the power plant, we see the confusion, the denial and the men who sacrifice their lives. As the show progresses we follow our three protagonists Valery Legasov (Jared Harris), Boris Shcherbina (Stellan Skarsgård) and Ulana Khomyuk (Emily Watson) as they try to uncover the truth as to how and why the reactor exploded while attempting to prevent further disaster from the plant itself through then modern day technology but mainly through human sacrifice.

Con O'Neill, Adrian Rawlins, and Paul Ritter in Chernobyl (2019)
Con O’Neill, Adrian Rawlins, and Paul Ritter in Chernobyl (2019)

Throughout the five episodes we are met with outstanding performances from every actor put on screen and hauntingly beautiful cinematography showcasing the absolute horror of the raging fire from the reactor, the emptiness and isolation of a once vivid city, the confined death traps of underneath and inside the plant and the horror, fear, and disgust and in some cases, death, from each character. The story is paced incredibly well; each episode draws in increasing tension with expanding problems and conflicts, regardless of victory in some places the overall arc of the story is pure terror and sadness.

The political stance on the event to the real-life people who were there and experienced it are expertly put on screen. In some cases, the story and characters have been dramatised for impact, but this absolutely does not lower the standards, with every single film and television show that adapts (or takes from real life accounts) there is a form of added fiction, some do to a point unfortunately dismantle the art to poor taste but others rise and look past it, creating masterpieces, and this has been happening since films, and television began. The most acclaimed films and most adored television shows have been adapted and changed to suit the filmmaker’s desires in storytelling.

For Chernobyl, it was a difficult show to create from accounts that were noted down at a time where they were still under Soviet control with the KGB at every corner, lies were thrown around and facts and figures made up to suit whomever.  However, the show does more than that; it shows us the men and women who sacrificed themselves, the men who lied and the people who told the truth, how authority is mistreated, the mistakes made and the human cost of it as well as the fall of an empire.

In overall, HBO have saved themselves, although maybe that’s a bit harsh as the last season of Game of Thrones hasn’t hurt them. Additionally, it isn’t entirely their fault but what Chernobyl has done isn’t just created a masterpiece of television, but it has dragged people away from taking down about Game of Thrones and got them praising arguably one of the best television show in history.

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