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     Fridge Brilliance 

  • Boris' initial Death Glare and attitude towards Valery during their flight to Chernobyl was more due to Valery unknowingly and unintentionally embarrassing him in front of Gorbachev during the meeting beforehand than it was the belief that Valery was contradicting the initial report by overexaggerating the radiation spewing into the atmosphere. It was only when they flew close by the plant itself that he begun to have an inkling that Valery was right, and was further cemented when the major reported radiation levels as high as *15,000* roentgen.
    • The look on Shcherbina's face when the helicopter that flew directly over the reactor crashes almost immediately speaks volumes. This was something he was ordering his own helicopter pilot to do hours before but he now knows that Legasov is not only entirely right but that he also owes him his life.
  • The series accurately depicts the high rate of cigarette smoking in the Eastern Bloc, often showing those who have been exposed to radiation or trying to manage the disaster eagerly lighting up. Intentional or not, it is definitely a commentary on the ultimate futility of managing radioactive contamination in order to prevent cancer deaths.
    • One possible reason that Chernobyl related cancer deaths never matched the high initial predictions is that the former Soviet Union has such a low life expectancy from smoking, drinking, occupational hazards and general environmental contamination that Chernobyl deaths can't stand out.
  • Perhaps an unintentional joke, but Zharkov's comment about this event "being their moment to shine" doubles as Black Comedy; "shine" is a term of jargon used in the nuclear power industry for radiation being emitted from a nuclear power plant.
  • Fittingly, when Zharkov gives his speech about leaving matters of the State to the State - thus massively endangering all of Pripyat - the lighting and shadows on his face make it resemble a skull.
  • Bryukhanov's comment about being sent shit equipment and Moscow wonders why things go wrong is a mouth of babes moments when you consider the design flaws in the RMBK reactor were a large part of why it exploded, making his statement about the dosimeters apply to the reactor as well.
  • Legasov's estimation that both Shcherbina and him would be dead in five years can also apply to the Soviet Union: The disaster happened in the 26th of April, 1986 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union happened in the 26th of December, 1991, five years and eight months after Chernobyl.
  • In real life, Shcherbina was born to the family of a railroad worker. A slab track is a piece of rail fastened to a concrete foundation, and concrete itself is used in constructing tunnels and stations. So of course he would be familiar with what concrete looks like, burned or not. Chances are he himself worked on several construction sites for the rail company, or pretty regularly visited them with his parents.
    • As an adult, he was also involved with constructing a number of hydroelectric power plants, which also use concrete.
  • At the end of Episode 4, a pair of liquidators rush up to the top of the cooling tower and plant the Soviet flag. What is the most famous occasion of planting a Soviet flag? Raising it on the Reichstag at the end of the Battle of Berlin. This symbolizes the Soviet "victory" over the disaster and regaining control over the plant.
    • Except in Real Life, it was plain red cloth on a pole, not a Soviet flag, but the symbolism is still there.
  • When Pikalov drives the truck into the plant to record the radiation, he does it not only to spare one of his men from a terrible fate, but because no one would dispute a general. The plant managers already disbelieved one of their own guys who saw the open core with his own eyes. Having a general report a high radiation reading would ensure they can get to work on containment.
  • "Why did I see graphite?" Shcherbina asks this because he knows that if he asks why Legasov saw graphite, Bryukhanov and Fomin will just continue to discredit him and not come with an explanation.
    • Not only that, but while Shcherbina did ask for a very rudimentary rundown of how a nuclear power plant works, the main takeaway was that "graphite is only in the core, you should not see any graphite under any circumstance outside that or a pencil", which makes it very easy to spot bullshitting by Fomin.
  • One from the script, but not the show as the scene was cut: When Shcherbina tells Legasov about Fomin's suicide attempt, he speculates that he may have tried to send a message instead of just avoiding punishment. You can almost hear Legasov deciding to seize this idea for himself.
  • From the final episode's ending, we get the info that Boris Shcherbina died on August 22, 1990, four years and four months after Chernobyl. Just like Legasov had told him - they were both dead within five years.
  • The soldier shooting the old woman's cow in the opening to Episode 4 might seem like gratuitous cruelty, but it really isn't. The animals in the area (plus their produces) are already classified as radiation hazards - hence why the same soldier went on to dump its milk. It also foreshadows the animal control storyline later in the episode.
    • Perhaps unintentionally, but milk from irradiated animals is an extreme risk: strontium-90 is one of the decay products of the reactor's uranium-235 and it bioaccumulates by replacing calcium, especially in bones. Consuming radioactive milk with strontium-90 in it is a quick way to make yourself radioactive, with all the health risks that entails, especially since there's no way to prevent its uptake like there is with iodine-131. The old woman may very well have died of old age before radiation-based cancer set in, but if she'd have regularly drank that cow's milk she'd have chronic radiation poisoning from her own skeleton in short order.
  • Legasov's cutting final remark to Charkov, "Oh, that's perfect. They should put that on our money", is an even deeper condemnation that it appears at first glance. The Soviet Union was founded as a Communist system the lower classes would finally be respected and treated fairly, unlike the evil capitalistic west that only values money. Yet that same state needlessly sacrificed dozens, if not hundreds, of workers' lives by building cheap nuclear reactors with few safety measures. And Charkov, a leader of that state, doesn't even care. Why not advertise the fact that their workers' paradise cares less about safety than saving money by printing that fact on the currency they supposedly don't value?

     Fridge Horror 

  • Dyatlov didn't give a crap about the test's veracity. He ran it under invalid conditions, figuring the results made no difference whatsoever, as long as he'd completed it and he therefore would be put in Fomin's good graces.
    • He also thought if things really went awry they could just shut the reactor down anyway. He was wrong.
    • It was worse in real life. Operators thought that, as long as they follow test's algorithm, everything would be okay. But they underestimated the influence from the surplus of xenon-135 and decided to move all the control rods from the reactor (violating the instruction they had to follow).
  • For that matter, the trio of Bryukhanov, Fomin, and Dyatlov eventually deciding to do the test anyway after they get the order that if they do it they have to wait 10 hours. As Legasov put it, the sensible option when hearing they have to produce energy would have been to raise the output back up to normal which would have burned away the surplus xenon with no issuenote .
  • Being in Akimov's shoes: he's knowledgeable enough to know the potential danger, but also all too-aware, as this is 1980s Soviet Union, he absolutely positively must do as ordered by a superior.
    • To clarify, being fired and drummed out of the nuclear profession (as Dyatlov threatens) is actually the most lenient outcome for this kind of defiance. Imprisonment is likely, and even execution isn't out of the question.
  • Everything about ARS. Your DNA gets destroyed and your cells lose their ability to replicate. From then on, it's just a countdown to death as your cells die without being replaced. First gone are the cells with the shortest turnover period, the white cells, so you lose your immune system; then the skin cells, so besides the pain you lose your first line of defense and are completely exposed to infection. But the worst is not the cells you lose, but the cells you don't: cardiac cells have turnover periods of several years, so your heart keeps pumping blood even as your blood vessels break down causing bleeding and necrotization, and neurons are seldomly ever replaced if at all, so you keep your nervous system and consciousness intact as you rot away alive.
    • The fact that the show actually downplayed this so it would not come as pointlessly exploitative. Of 31 official victims of the disaster, we only saw three wither away like this, and one (Akimov) actually got a Gory Discretion Shot.
    • One effect the show doesn't touch at all (for good reason) is the constant diarrhea of the afflicted caused by their intestinal epithelium dying and falling off, which also caused internal bleeding and inability to digest food.
  • The series has been described as feeling like a horror movie, but that's not quite right. It deals with a force that fundamentally alters the basic universal conditions that we take for granted, which among other things leads to the human body breaking down in incomprehensible and macabre ways. All of this clearly follows some sort of demented rules of its own, but they are not rules that anything in our entire experience as a species has prepared us for. This force can not be fought or defeated, only maybe sealed away at a tremendous cost. Yeah, that's not just a horror story, that's a cosmic horror story! And it actually happened.
  • As the series speculates, the true number of deaths could have been in the tens of thousands. And probably a few hundred of them died of ARS, like Vasily: a hideous, agonizing, protracted death.
  • If Legasov had toed the party line and kept the RMBK Reactor Flaw secret, this sort of accident may have happened again in the years to come. And this time, the results may have been far worse.
  • Whatever happened to Khodemchuk. Anything is possible from being vaporized in either of the two explosions to being crushed by debris, trapped and burned or poisoned by high radiation. He is presumed entombed in the sarcophagus but no remains were ever found. Sadly, there's no possibility to confirm any way; the reactor hall is so immensely radioactive and damaged by the explosion, it'd be next to impossible to find any sign of Khodemchuk.
  • At first, the scene of Legasov and the tourist couple in the hotel is a reversal of the one with Khomyuk and Garanin's secretary. Once it's revealed they are actually KGB, you realize that the exchange was actually a Secret Test of Character and that Legasov would have been in deep trouble even if he had just told them to leave quietly.
  • The bird that drops dead at the end of Episode 1 is the same bird that Yuvchenko saw in the exploded pump room. Its feathers are potentially as contaminated as the firemen's uniforms.
  • At the trial, it's stated that around 200 control rods were removed from the reactor, leaving only about 16 still in place. When the AZ-5 button is pressed, all of the control rods are reinserted. It's very important to understand what this means: when they say "removed", they simply mean that the rod was pulled back all the way out of the reactor, they were still in their housings; by "not removed", it means the rod was left in the reactor pile. When the AZ-5 button was pressed, it wasn't 16 graphite-tipped control rods being reinserted into the reactor(and then getting stuck because steam damaged their housing), it was OVER 200 RODS being reinserted all at the same time.

Meta

  • Chernobyl will not be safe for twenty thousand years. To put this in perspective: if you were to be born in the time of the Egyptian Pharaohs, and still were alive today, you'd still have to wait three times your current lifetime to make it to 20,000 years.
  • That firefighter gear is still in the Pripyat Hospital basement today. If you were to grab a jacket and put it on right now — over thirty years later — you would get a fatal dose of radiation in under a minute.
  • Remember the sarcophagus that was placed over the reactor? It’s currently being dismantled due to a “very high” probability of collapse because of water leaking into it and causing damage.
    • Somewhat subverted in that the radiation won’t leak into the air this time and Ukraine is intending an operation to decontaminate remaining radioactivity in the area as they construct a new structure. Only problem is it’s estimated to last until 2065 if it goes forward.
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