This five-part miniseries scared me. I had trouble sleeping, and often went to bed with the light on for long periods of time. While I knew a little of what happened in the late ’80s with the faulty reactor, I did not know everything. While there are flaws to the show–like representing radiation as though it were a virus–the feel of the miniseries is powerful, thought-provoking, and the stuff of nightmares.
The miniseries begins with Valery Legasov preparing tapes to be left after he commits suicide. Legasov hides the tapes, wrapping them in newspaper, knowing that he is being watched. He feeds his cat, leaving out extra food, and then hangs himself, only after checking the clock.
Two years later, in April of 1986, chaos reigns at Reactor 4 as the reactor core explodes. Men scurry about at the nuclear power plant, and people gather in the street to watch as radiation descends around them. (After doing a little digging, I’m not sure if the Bridge of Death is actually true.) But for a dramatic effect, it creates a horror that cannot be unseen as bits of debris catch in people’s hair. There are men, women, and children present, all watching the sky light up in strange eerie colors from the blown-up reactor core.
“What do you think makes the colors?” someone asks.
“I don’t know. But it’s beautiful,” a woman replies.
Firefighters are called to the scene. Their clothes become infected with radiation, as well as their bodies. Their faces turn red from the level of radiation they are exposed to, and bits of deadly graphite litter the ground. One man picks up the hunk and only after a few short minutes, the radiation has burned through his hand, leaving it bloody. He yells from the pain.
As the series progresses, it tells the harrowing story of bravery, sacrifice, radiation poisoning, and the lies that took place in the Soviet Union about the AZ-5 button. This series will definitely keep you up at night, so either watch it cautiously at night, and be prepared to want to sleep with the lights on.