Chernobyl Episode 3 Review – Open Wide, O Earth

I just want to say that I fucking called it. Well, I didn’t write it down, but I definitely thought it. As soon as the torches went out at the end of the last episode, I immediately thought “OK, so this obviously isn’t a doomed mission because the massive thermal explosion didn’t happen. So, as soon as the next episode starts, I guarantee that it will begin with the three men slapping their torches and they will instantly begin working”. I wish I’d have written that down last week because now I would like a proper clever clogs.

Anyway, the three guys come out and are praised as heroes which they are but standing to the side, Valery knows that the worst is still to come for them.

The prospect of disaster is now over. Now comes the investigation into what happened with Valery and Ulana at the helm.

Fun fact. Did you know that Ulana Khomyuk is not a real person? I wondered about that, you know. How did she know SO much about Chernobyl despite not even knowing where it was because you’ll remember that in the last episode, she had to ask her associate where the nearest power plants were. I get that she knows about nuclear energy and radiation and stuff like that but how did she know that the tanks were full of water? She had only just arrived on that site.

I should have known really because in the Wikipedia page for the show, the top 15 or so names mostly have both the actor’s names and the character’s names highlighted in blue which means that they both have separate pages about them and in this case means that their characters were real people. There are only two names that don’t have separate pages. They are Ulana Khomyuk and Lyudmilla Ignatenko, the wife of the firefighter, Vasily Ignatenko.

Lyudmilla goes to the hospital in Moscow because that’s where her husband is and bribes a receptionist into letting her in. She finds a nurse who reluctantly agrees to letting her in but this nurse gives her very specific ground rules. 1. Don’t stay for more than half an hour and number 2, don’t touch him. However, as soon as she goes in, she gives him a hug.

Now at this point, Vasily and the other firefighters he’s sharing a room with seem fine. Their faces are red, but they seem to be getting better, right? Wrong.

It’s all explained by Valery to Boris in another hilarious attempt to make it seem like Boris wants to know something but it’s really for the audience. He explains that after the initial exposure to high doses of radiation, they seem to be getting better but then they get exponentially worse. Basically, their skin turns black and drops off and everything inside them begins to melt.

This happens to Vasily and since the other nurses are looking after the dozens of others who were exposed, Lyudmilla ends up staying with Vasily and taking care of him until he gets even worse and he must be placed behind the plastic sheets. She’s allowed to go in as long as she stays outside the plastic sheets. The nurse threatens to have her removed by security if she goes inside the plastic. So, what does she do the very second that she’s in the room? She goes in the plastic and that’s the moment that she reveals that she is pregnant.

I think I can already see where they’re going with this. This was another by-product of the disaster which was the dramatic rise in birth defects in the aftermath. There’s a documentary out there called ‘Children of Chernobyl’ and I haven’t brought myself to watch it. I would be very surprised if they show her giving birth.

Meanwhile, Ulana arrives at the same hospital to talk to the men in the control room to see if she can isolate the cause of the explosion. This is where the show starts to get gory because by now, they’re all in the deepest, darkest realms of radiation poisoning. Dyatlov won’t talk to her, Toptunov says that they hit the AZ-5 button for an emergency shutdown but instead, the reactor exploded and Akimov confirms Toptunov’s account. Ulana is confused. If they’d initiated an emergency shutdown then the reactor should not have exploded.

Ulana comes across Lyudmilla and drags her out of the plastic and chastises the nurse for letting a pregnant woman sit with a highly irradiated man. How did Ulana know that Lyudmilla was pregnant? Have they met before? It doesn’t matter because Ulana is arrested by the KGB who have been following her, Valery and Boris to make sure they don’t tell anyone the truth.

Back at Chernobyl, the disaster has been averted and whilst they’ve put the fire out, the meltdown has started and so they have little time to reinforce the concrete pad with a ‘liquid nitrogen heat exchanger’ which will stop the nuclear material from melting through and contaminated the ground and subsequently, the main water supply for major cities.

For this, they recruit a large number of coal miners headed by Andre Glukov (Alex Ferns) as they will have to come at the pad from underneath since going inside the building is off limits for several obvious reasons. It’s a big job requiring many men and Glukov is made aware of the risks involving significant doses of radiation but this job will save millions and so he agrees. These men are miners and… shall we say… not shy. Well, there’s a bit later on which I’m sure has become a source of entertainment on social media where the miners get so hot that they decide to prove their point about they’re working conditions by working in the nude.

And when I say, ‘in the nude’, I don’t mean shots of naked bottoms in the background, their fronts hidden with strategic camera angles and modesty patches (I believe those things are called ‘cock socks’ in the industry). Nope. I’m not going to lie, that took me by surprise. Especially since I watched this episode with my family and since I’m the youngest (24) and a girl, having a load of male genitalia on screen definitely put my parents on edge.

Of course, I did what any immature person would do when they see a penis on screen, I thought it was funny especially when a visibly uncomfortable Valery tries to maintain rabid eye contact with a fully naked Glukov who says the best line in the whole show, “We’re still wearing the fucking hats”. This guy is priceless.

Everyone knows that wearing clothes isn’t any kind of protection from radiation and wearing the suits in those kinds of conditions just isn’t practical nor is there enough suits to go around but not even underwear? If I were a guy and working a job where I would have to wield shovels and pickaxes, I would want my ‘gentleman’s region’ to be tightly packed away. I did see a few guys in the background who were wearing quite tight underwear so practically, I think that’s for the best. Otherwise, nice one, boys.

So now the worst is over at the plant, but the clean-up is still ahead. Basically, whole towns will have to be evacuated, forests will have to be ripped up and the suggestion of the now infamous ‘containment structure’ is put forward. They need 3 years and 750,000 men and not all of them will survive.

This leads onto the end sequence where the military arrives in nearby towns to begin the evacuation and back in Moscow, the inevitable happens and Vasily along with a number of others die from the radiation poisoning. Their bodies are wrapped in plastic and placed metal (I’m guessing led) coffins and taken to a cemetery but they’re buried off the cemetery in some kind of mass grave where the coffins are lowered in and then encased in concrete.

Judging by the episode synopsises that have already been placed on Wikipedia, the next episode will concentrate on the conundrum of how to dismantle the core and the final episode will show how Valery, Ulana and Boris try and tell the people what really happened. But they don’t know what happened. I think that will be in the next episode as well but the government is trying to stop them from knowing the truth. Why wouldn’t they want to know what happened? There’s no point in trying to cover it up because the whole world knows about it now.

It will be interesting to see what direction the show takes in terms of placing blame because for the longest time, the men in the control room were blamed for the accident but they weren’t to know what would happen and the AZ-5 button didn’t do what it was supposed to do. Time will tell.

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