Make no mistake. Chernobyl is an incredibly dark series that, despite the few moments of artistic license it does take, is an accurate account of the real life horrors the victims of the nuclear disaster endured and the incredible heroism undertaken by hundreds of individuals in the months long battle it took to contain the radiation while preventing the disaster from getting worse. However, there are a few, arguably well earned, moments of levity that come up a few times throughout the series and give the viewers a good laugh.
- The irony of the title of Episode 2: "Please Remain Calm" (Taken from the real loudspeaker announcement telling the populace of Pripyat that they are being evacuated.)
- As Legasov explains Khomyuk's findings related to the fire extinguishing efforts and why they won't work, there is a moment where Gorbachev looks up and flatly asks, "You made lava?"
- Tellingly, for the rest of the meeting, that is how it is described.
- In Episode 3, when the Minister of Coal relents and tells the miners what they're being "hired" to do, Glukhov and his crew pat the man on the shoulder and face as they walk by him to jump on the trucks and head to Chernobyl. As they were completely covered in coal dust, by the time they all walk past him, the Minister is completely covered in the dust.
Glukhov: What's as big as a house, burns 20 liters of fuel every hour, puts out a shit load of smoke and noise, and cuts an apple in three pieces? A Soviet machine made to cut an apple into four pieces!
- Later, when they're working at Chernobyl, Shcherbina and Legasov arrive to find that they are all naked. It's too hot underground and they can't use fans for ventilation because it will bring in radioactive dust. Glukhov points out that they are still wearing their work hats at least.
- Just before that, the miners of Tula share some vodka and tell each others self-deprecating jokes about the inefficiency of the Soviet Union in a typical Russian Humour fashion:
- Speaking of Glukhov, there's this exchange he has with Legasov, which resembles something from The Thick of It.Glukhov: So what's the job?
Legasov: [pointing to blueprints] We need to install a liquid nitrogen heat exchanger underneath this concrete pad.
Glukhov: And what's above the pad?
Legasov: [trying his best to sound nonchalant] The core of the nuclear reactor...which is...melting down.
Glukhov: [beat] What, like... [gestures in a downward motion]?
- Shcherbina explains how to talk to the KGB: "That went surprisingly well. You came off as a naive idiot. Naive idiots are not a threat."
- During a phone conversation between Legasov, Shcherbina, and Gorbachev the latter asks when the situation will be over. Legasovs response?Legasov: If you mean when will Chernobyl be completely safe, the half life of plutonium-239 is 24,000 years. So perhaps we should just say not within our lifetimes.
- In Episode 4, the containment personnel are visibly giddy to operate the Lunokhod STR-1 moon rover... which, to be fair, is a pretty cool toy to get your hands on.
- As the technicians are firing up the rover, Shcherbina remarks "To think, that's what we put on the moon." Legasov feels the need to remind him "not that one," to Shcherbina's annoyance.
- The conversation about "egg baskets":Bacho: We make these from lead scrap. Put it on under your balls.
Bacho: No, no, you can wait until the radiation gives you a cunt. Yes, now. [Pavel begins pulling his pants down] Over your clothes! Fucking shit!
- Shcherbina, after discovering that the Central Committee gave a deliberately low radiation level to the suppliers of the West German bomb 'bot - which meant not only that its circuits fried within seconds of getting exposed to the graphite debris, but that the Committee knew all along that it's never going to work - smashes a phone to pieces in frustration. He then drags the phone with him back outside to explain to Legasov the "official" story.(to a nearby soldier, after having calmed down just a tad) We need a new phone.
- When the young untrained Liquidator carelessly points his rifle at another liquidator, the guy slaps the barrel away in mild annoyance.
- In an otherwise bleak fifth episode, this bit of Black Comedy as the KGB shuts down Legasov before he can further expose the Soviet government's failures over the accident:Charkov: Why worry about something that isn't going to happen?
Legasov: "Why worry about something that isn't going to happen?" Oh, that's perfect. They should put that on our money.
- Speaking of Black Comedy, there's also this line from Dyatlov in the lead-up to the disastrous reactor test during the flashbacks in Episode 5, aimed at two technicians expressing concerns over the lack of preparation:Dyatlov: Shut the FUCK up and do your job.
- During the trial, Legasov briefly pauses in his testimony while a soldier moves the microphone closer to him.
- Bryukhanov is, on the whole, a disastrous leader who seeks only to cover the accident up and pass the buck, but he does get off one good Deadpan Snarker line when first convening at the emergency meeting with Fomin and Dyatlov."So, I take it the reactor test was a failure?"
- Although it's a serious scene overall, when Boris asks him why he could see graphite on the roof if the reactor hadn't exploded, Brukhanyov, (in a classic sitcom gag) immediately turns to Fomin and asks him 'Why did the deputy secretary see graphite on the roof?
- At the meeting on the 25th of April, Bryukhanov comes in very sullen, causing Fomin to ask if something is wrong. Bryukhanov snaps "Of course something is wrong, can't you read a fucking face?!"
- After the meeting, Fomin, eager for promotion, stays behind and walks around the table to what was Bryukhanov's half... not to sit in the chair but to try how the wall feels when he leans against it.
- When Legasov confronts Charkov over arresting Khomyuk, he points out that he is the First Deputy Chairman of the KGB. Charkov confirms, and says that because of this, he doesn't have to deal with arresting people anymore.
- Two surviving Russian miners react to their depiction in the miniseries for a Sky News report:Miner #1: (laughing) Look, they're drinking vodka! No one ever drank vodka while we were working...Miner #2: Andrey, you can't be so picky about this, it's just a film...
- In the series, the naming of the portions of the roof is sombre. In the podcast, it's revealed that Nina, Katya and Masha were nieces of Tarakanov's - "apparently, Mashanote really was a handful."