As a Moments subpage, all spoilers are unmarked as per policy. You Have Been Warned.
- When it becomes clear a team needs to go in to drain the water underneath the meltdown to avoid a steam explosion, nobody wants to volunteer. Shcherbina, already shaken by the revelation he may already be dying in five years just by being there, stands up to give a Rousing Speech about how three volunteers can save millions, and that their culture as Soviet Russians always required sacrifice from every generation to serve their country.
- It's enough to convince three men to stand up and volunteer, even though each man looks at each other knowing what the risks will be. Just by volunteering, in that moment those three were the bravest men on the planet.
- That three-man liquidator crew - Boris Baranov, Alexei Ananenko, and Valery Bezpalov - went on that terrifying Suicide Mission to drain the water tanks beneath Reactor #4 in order to prevent the disaster from becoming far, far worse. And contrary to everyone's expectations, they survived!
- That simple moment where the three divers get out of the tunnel and simply raise their fist in the air to say they succeeded. The whole group of soldiers around them immediatly start cheering and offer them some vodka. Even Legasov, Scherbina and Pikalov looks, for a few moments, relieved that things finally go their way.
- And they did it even as their flashlights - in Real Life there was only one - die on them as the radiation fries their batteries. So they released the water gate in total darknessnote , with their Geiger counter ticking so hard it was a constant screech.
- The sacrifices made by the Chernobyl Liquidators both in the miniseries and in Real Life. A lot of them died or remained sick for the rest of their lives... but they did it knowing if they hadn't, millions would have perished.
- Upon confronting Fomin and Bryukhanov over the graphite (which, keep in mind, was only supposed to be in the reactor core itself, meaning that yes, the core did in fact explode), Shcherbina rips Fomin's allegation that the graphite was merely "burnt concrete", pointing out that while he may not know anything about nuclear reactors, he knows concrete, and the jet-black lumps on the roof looked nothing like concrete. Fomin and Bryukhanov are left stunned, and after the true radiation levelsnote come to light, Scherbina orders them arrested. Also counts as it shows that Scherbina is willing to listen and understand that the Chernobyl situation is dire.
- It's a doomed gesture, but Legasov's final speech at Dyatlov's trial openly indicts the Soviet system for making the disaster inevitable with their insistence on secrecy and propaganda.
Legasov: Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later, that debt is paid. That is how an RBMK reactor core explodes. Lies.
- Legasov gets a pretty good zinger in on Charkov at their final meeting.
Charkov: After all you've said and done today, it would be...curious if you chose this moment to lie.
Legasov: (with a smirk) I would think a man of your experience would know a lie when he hears one.
- After the Epic Fail that was the German robot they attempted to use to clear graphite off the roof, Scherbina gets on the phone with Moscow and, despite the phone call being monitored, lets the person on the other end of the line know just how much of a pack of fucking idiots the government is for refusing to take Chernobyl as seriously as it should be just because they don't want to lose face. He ends it by screaming at the guy to tell every higher-up he wants, including Gorbachev, before smashing the phone to pieces.
- Shcherbina's Character Arc in general can be considered this; he starts out threatening to throw Legasov out of a helicopter and even threatens to have a helicopter pilot shot if he doesn't fly directly over the core - later, he screams at Moscow for fucking up with the robot and later still he appears in court and presents evidence. A lot of people have praised how well-handled Shcherbina's HeelFace Turn is.
- In an absolutely terrifying way, the explosion itself. When it's shown in flashback during Episode 5, we see the nearly 800 pound (350 kilo) control rod and fuel channel caps bouncing up and down. After the fatal shutdown procedures are initiated, we get a shot of the fiery core itself surrounded in a twisted mess of graphite rods, which soon blossoms upward into an explosion.
- Though he never lived to see it, Legasov's efforts to expose the truth of Chernobyl and prevent another nuclear disaster paid off as the publication of his account of the disaster, as well as the public outcry over his death, finally forces the Soviet government into correcting the RBMK's design flaws. As a bonus, it also gives a proverbial middle finger towards the KGB's efforts to Unperson Legasov and silence the truth.
- At the end of Episode 4, two Liquidators climb up the ventilation stack of Reactor #3 and then unfurl a red flag at the top, symbolizing the "end" of the clean-up operation.note
- General Pikalov, when told that there's a good chance that whoever would take the radiation readings at the fire would still die despite the heaviest shielding possible, tells Legasov this:
- Pikalov's moment is awesome for two reasons: first, he refuses to risk his subordinates, instead putting himself in extreme danger, with only a NBC suit and some lead plates on his truck for protection. Second, he knows that Bryukhanov and Fomin (the highest on the totem pole in Chernobyl and Pripyat) could stall the cleanup efforts by claiming that a simple soldier could've misread or misused the dosimeter's readings in order to save their skin. Pikalov is both the commander of the chemical troops of the Soviet Union, and a veteran of the Great Patriotic War, so even Moscow can't dismiss or ignore him. The man knew the dangers, but also that he had the clout to make things move forward instead of doing things the Soviet way of passing the buck and act as if nothing happened.
- Despite everything the Soviet Union and the KGB did to cover their tracks and hide their mistakes when it came to the Chernobyl disaster, ultimately they didn't succeed. The investigations, books, interviews and survivors that inspired this series exposed the whole mess and everything that led up to it, showcasing the price of complacency, corruption and lies. It also lead to the Soviets finally admitting that yes, the RBMK reactor was flawed, and went to fix the remaining active ones.
- The miniseries itself started off with relatively good ratings the first night, but incredible word of mouth and reviews turned the series into must-see TV. And by the final episode, earning serious plaudits as the best show of the year. Soon after the final episode aired, its aggregate IMDB rating shot up to a 9.7/10, making it the highest rated TV show of all time on the site. Similarly, its aggregate Letterboxd score went up to a 4.6/5, tying it with Twin Peaks: The Return for the most critically acclaimed TV series on the site.