Chernobyl: Name of Infamy

DATELINE: Episode Starts  Off with Bang!

jared harris Jared Harris, Chain-smoking Star

If you had no historical or geographic knowledge of Chernobyl, you might think it was located outside of Liverpool, simply based on the accents of the actors in all the key roles. HBO, not History Channel, has taken on the 30-year old horror of history.

The main character, a scapegoat played by Jared Harris, hangs himself in the opening minutes of the mini-series. It’s a Vertigo moment in a horror story.

If you think that the dour and drab social world of 1986 is strictly limited to the Soviet Union and its failed policies and diminished treatment of the individual, you might be partially right. The onerous opening tones signal the problem with lies.

Hearing enough of them makes you give up on truth. That was true in Chernobyl in 1986 or the White House in 2020.

The HBO series has been hailed for its verisimilitude: every small detail seems apt and metaphorical. It’s only the big details that make one queasy.

The horror of radiation poison and radiation burns are brought to ugly effect while leaders and small-time bureaucrats deny, deny, deny, that there is a melt-down in their future.

We suspect idiocy was never meant to be limited to the Soviet government. Delays and misinformation might be handled as much the same in the United States. Containing the problem was a better solution than saving the public.

The blame game in the Soviet Union in 1986 was even as deadly as Germany in 1944 or under Stalin around the same time.

Episode 1 is hideous for all its creepy mortality whose name no one dares to speak. Only when everyone is throwing up their guts and birds fall from the sky do we realize that lies are only tiny part of a melt-down.