“What is the cost of lies?” A few quick thoughts on Chernobyl

Holy moly, this show.

As Game of Thrones wound its way to a wet fart of a series finale, I started thinking about what else I could use my HBO Now subscription for. (I frequently confuse the on-demand service with HBO Go, which is just for cable subscribers — which is probably intentional.) Besides an archive of good miniseries from years past, there was a new show that had really piqued my interest: a show about the Chernobyl disaster.

Jared Harris plays Valery Legasov, a chemist who was drafted for the initial disaster recovery and investigation following the meltdown of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. The show depicts Legasov’s descent into despair, exhausted by the magnitude of the task of mitigating the meltdown, and his increasing frustration with the Soviet bureaucracy that hampered the cleanup efforts and cost thousands of lives.

“What is the cost of lies?” He says in the first episode, a scene set after the events of the series. The cost, Legasov explains, is that lies and truths become indistinguishable, everything turning into just stories.

The show has an amazing ensemble cast: Stellan Skarsgaard, Emily Watson, and a roster of character actors playing everyday citizens living through a months- and years-long nightmare in the aftermath of the meltdown.

The show, as noted by many reviewers, has contemporary overtones: climate change denialism, the fabrication of facts by the current administration, a creeping despair among so many in my generation. I’ve also noted some parallels in my personal life with events in the show, but then again I’m drawn to thoughtful, quiet characters committed to the truth (see also: I, Claudius).

I highly recommend it, but be warned: there are depictions of gruesome deaths of both people and household pets.