Having watched the first four episodes before for my review of The Last of Us, I can tell you that this HBO Max series is fantastic (at least so far).
I can also say that it will be exciting both for fans of the game (who may know too much about the beginning) and for newcomers, because I saw the first episode shown in a theater filled with influencers and some who knew the source . material. And this theater was at times a noisy room.
But just as important, I need to tell you about a series that I ended watching right after my The Last of Us screenings. I chose it because it’s another series co-written and co-written by The Last of Us – Writer Craig Mazin did before this series and this show convinced me he was perfect for the job.
This is the 2019 Chernobyl show (also on HBO Max). (will open in a new tab)), and it’s one of the best shows you’ve probably never seen. And having both of these shows is a reminder of why HBO Max is the best streaming service.
Why you should watch Chernobyl before The Last of Us
Chernobyl, like The Last of Us, is not an “easy” series to watch. But unlike The Last of Us, Chernobyl is hard to watch because it’s based on depressingly real events. It tells a little-known story about the April 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
Dark from the start, with Jared Harris’ Valery Legasov making a tough decision early in the opening scene, Chernobyl is about the people who lived and died during the event. And it demonstrates the often impossible choices they had to make. Its two main characters, Legasov and Boris Shcherbina (Stellan Skarsgard), are real people. The first tried to help with the cleanup, the second was a politician who doubted him at first.
(Image credit: HBO via YouTube)
You will meet many more people whose lives have changed forever. A firefighter (Adam Nagaitis) and first responder to the Chernobyl accident, and his wife (Jesse Buckley), who tries to visit him in the hospital.
Later in the five-episode miniseries, rising star Barry Keoghan (Banshees of Inisherina, The Eternals) is cast as a civilian conscript to help limit immediate and long-term damage.
(Image credit: HBO via YouTube)
All of these roles and facts are connected in Chernobyl to tell a story and convey a serious set of emotions and facts. And it made creator, writer and executive producer Craig Mazin a two-time Primetime Emmy winner for Outstanding Limited Series and Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special.
Chernobyl reviews: what the critics said
Let’s review the critical consensus to make sure you understand that this is not just one person’s opinion of Chernobyl. First, it earned 95% Rotten Tomatoes. (will open in a new tab) score based on 104 critic reviews.
Emily St. James at Vox (will open in a new tab) called Chernobyl “always compelling and often terrifying.” Sonia Saraya at Vanity Fair (will open in a new tab) stated that it was “not just superb television” but “a paradigm-shifting historical narrative, a story that very subtly reshapes the structure of the real world.”
And Melanie McFarland for Salon.com (will open in a new tab) wrote: “The performances have become [Stellan] Skarsgård, Emily Watson and Jared Harris are passionate and insightful enough to make demanding viewers gut their squeamish moments.”
Prospects: Chernobyl proved that The Last of Us will be great
Like Chernobyl, The Last of Us is a portrait of loss during a massive disaster. And Chernobyl is such an emotionally powerful show, fantastically telling personal stories, that it gave me confidence that The Last of Us would not be a sterile, formulaic remake of the video game it’s based on. So far, based on the first four episodes, I can say that everything is with confidence.
(Image credit: HBO)
Each character feels more alive and human than in the game, and it’s not just because you watch Pedro Pascal (as Joel), Bella Ramsey (as Ellie), and Anna Torv (as Tess) play them on screen. . The Last of Us reminds me of Chernobyl because it draws on the humanity of these characters in times of crisis. Nowhere does it feel more strongly than in Episode 3, which I dare not spoil.
Worth watching on its own, Chernobyl will give you an idea of just how powerful the Craig Mazin show can be, and so you should watch it before The Last of Us.
Today’s Best HBO Max Deals