Chernobyl writer discusses the storylines that were the most heartbreaking and bleak to adapt
The superb show ends tonight.
In the final episode of Chernobyl, which airs tonight (Tuesday, 4 June), viewers will return to the events that occurred on the fateful night of 26 April, 1986.
At the very beginning of the drama, we were informed about the fate of the deputy director of the Kurchatov Institute, Valery Legasov (Jared Harris), but with just one episode left, it's clear that the political ramifications from the horrific accident are beginning to amplify.
As the final episode approaches, writer/creator Craig Mazin deserves an immense amount of credit for his depiction of the horrific events that unfolded. In terms of production design and historical accuracy, the miniseries is incredibly faithful to the era and the events that occurred.
However, the biggest strength of Chernobyl is that it doesn't feel voyeuristic or exploitative. Obviously, this was an event of unimaginable horror that destroyed so many lives, but rather than fixate on the misery and suffering, it excels in showing the many acts of heroism from the people that were living in the town of Pripyat and beyond.
Medical staff, soldiers, politicians, miners, scientists, firefighters, civilians; their heroism, bravery, and sacrifice were all equal and remarkable.
Every single person was influenced by the disaster but in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Mazin was asked if there was one storyline that he found particularly difficult to conceive.
It turns out that Ireland's own Jessie Buckley gave Mazin the most problems when he was writing the scripts.
"The hardest one to write, the one that hurt me the most, was that of Lyudmilla Ignatenko (Jessie Buckley) and her husband, Vasily Ignatenko (one of the first firefighters on the scene the night of the disaster, played by Adam Nagaitis) because it’s just so endlessly heartbreaking. The character of Lyudmilla that’s portrayed by Jessie Buckley — this is a beautiful person," Mazin said.
"This is a person that’s overwhelmed by love, and because she’s overwhelmed by love and because she could not imagine not standing by this person that she had kind of thrown her whole life into, she did things that were not smart and were dangerous and came at their own cost, and yet they were understandable. She wasn’t stupid, she was just overwhelmed, and I just thought that was the most human thing possible."
As you may remember, despite being pregnant, Lyudmilla ignores the health and safety protocols in place when she goes to sit by her husband's bedside as his condition deteriorates. Mazin said that the performance from Kerry actress was absolutely incredible.
"And my job was to portray that in a way that didn’t feel like I was nudging it too far one way or the other, but just letting people see it for what it was and hoping that they get it," he added.
"I had the advantage of the most incredible performance from Jessie Buckley, but also from Adam Nagaitis, who portrayed her husband so beautifully."
While every heartbreaking second of Chernobyl feels like a punch to the stomach, the most recent episode was almost too much for some viewers to watch because it revolved around a bunch of 'liquidators' that had to kill all the contaminated wildlife in the area.
Granted, seeing the loss of human life was catastrophic and absolutely horrific, but there's still nothing that can prepare you for seeing a dog about to be shot.
As for that harrowing episode, Mazin said that some parts were left out because they were just too bleak.
"Episode 4 is a tough one," he said.
"The scenes with the liquidators and the dogs was really hard for a lot of people to watch, and that story actually got worse [in real life]. And it was a first-person story, I was not making it up. This is an account that somebody told in Svetlana Alexievich’s book Voices From Chernobyl. We shot it, but it was just too much.
"It felt abusive, and there’s a really weird line between 'No, you need to look at this and see this and know that it happened' and [taking it too far] — and the line is different for different people. I’m just grateful that it seemed like after episode 4 aired, for most people, we got it right. For a few people, we did not. If we had done this other thing, I think a lot of people would have just been like, 'You know what, no, now you’re just being mean'.”
The finale of Chernobyl airs at 9pm on Sky Atlantic.