The miniseries’ gritty, horror movie-like atmosphere sets up radiation as an invisible agent of death.
But the real drama driving the five episodes is the battle of expedient lies versus inconvenient truths.
It’s impossible to not see parallels in the threats: the invisible radiation crawling into every nook and cranny of Pripyat and the invisible greenhouse gases piling up in our atmosphere.
Similarly, both the explosion and nuclear fallout that followed at Chernobyl and the current climate crisis require a sustained, coordinated response to keep worse calamities from unfolding.
Legasov is conscripted by the state to help deal with the explosion that nearly caused one of Chernobyl’s nuclear reactors to meltdown, but he and Ulyana Khomyuk—a fictional physicist who is standing in for all the real-life scientists that Legasov worked with—find that the reactor had a fatal flaw in its shutdown mechanism that caused it to explode, a flaw that exists in all the Soviet reactors.
The last shot in the show is an aerial view of that car shuttling him through the Exclusion Zone back to an ostensible life of exile in Moscow.