Everything to Know About HBO's Dark New Hit Series, 'Chernobyl'

The new HBO miniseries explores the events of the biggest nuclear power plant explosion in human history

Trying to fill the void of Game of Thrones now that HBO’s epic series has come to an end? GoT fans don’t even need to switch the channel.

Chernobyl explores the aftermath and problem-solving of the world’s biggest nuclear disaster, which killed an estimated 4,000 to 90,000 victims, according to reports obtained by TIME, and left areas of Eastern Europe heavily effected by radiation to this day.

The show, which has currently aired three of the five episodes in the miniseries, has become an instant success among viewers. Here is everything to know about the riveting historical drama.

What’s the title?

The title of the mini-series, Chernobyl, is named after the nuclear power plant in the Soviet state of Ukraine that exploded during system testing on April 26, 1986.

Jared Harris Chernobyl
Liam Daniel/HBO

What’s the plot?

The series follows nuclear physicist Valery Legasov, played by Jared Harris (Mad Men, The Crown), as he works with the Soviet Union government — who did their best to try and hide the truth about the disaster at the time — to manage the nuclear crisis and save the country from extreme repercussions.

The Chernobyl explosion emitted 400 times the radioactivity as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima during World War II.


Directly following the explosion, it was estimated that about 30 plant staff members and emergency workers died just four months after the accident; several of these deaths are documented in the series. But the nuclear fallout for the ensuing years after the explosion was also responsible for hundreds of thousands deaths, due to the extreme levels of radiation admitted into the atmosphere.

Since the 1986 incident, a 19-mile exclusion zone has remained in place for decades, with experts claiming the area won’t be fit for human habitation for another 20,000 years.


When does the show take place?

The series begins in the early hours of April 26, when the explosion is heard across the Soviet state of Ukraine but goes almost unnoticed by those not near the actual plant.

It also shows the weeks following the explosion and what the affected citizens must endure to survive.

Liam Daniel/HBO

Who stars in it?

The series stars notable actors, such as Harris, Stellan Skarsgård (who plays the Boris Shcherbina, a character that represents the Soviet state’s views of the accident and monitors Legasov’s every move), Emily Watson (who plays Ulana Khomyuk, another fellow scientist working with Legasov to problem solve the incident) and Jessie Buckley, who plays Lyudmilla Ignatenko (the desperate wife of a fire fighter who was sent to the plant the night of the explosion).

Paul Ritter also stars in the series as Anatoly Dyatlov, the deputy chief engineer whose recklessness may have triggered the explosion.

The realistic, gruesome results of the extreme radiation exposure that effects many unfortunate victims are recreated by the show’s talented prosthetics designer, Daniel Parker.

What are people saying about it?

Chernobyl has an impressive 9.6 out of 10 average rating on IMDb so far. To put that into perspective, fan favorites like Breaking Bad scores a 9.5 and Game of Thrones boasts a 9.4.

Where can I watch it?

The five-part miniseries airs on HBO on Mondays at 9 p.m. ET, with the fourth episode airing May 27.

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