HBO's Chernobyl: The Real Meanings Of Each Episode Title

Chernobyl Jared Harris as Valery Legasov and Vasily Ignatenko

HBO's Chernobyl miniseries is a dramatization of the true story of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and the miniseries' episode titles uniquely represent various parts of the story - but what do they mean, exactly? Beginning with the explosion of reactor 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in April 1986, HBO's Chernobyl takes viewers through the events leading up to the disaster, the accident itself, and then the crisis management that followed.

Various parts of the story have been altered to better serve the story at hand, but what Chernobyl does best in its entirety is accurately present the events as they happened with little fanfare. Because what happened was so disturbing and haunting, there was no need to spruce things up. Audiences were captivated from the get-go, and so, Chernobyl spends more time depicting the real-life events, with important details spread throughout. What's interesting is that these details extend to the episode titles as well.

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HBO's Chernobyl miniseries consists of five episodes, each of which contains a title that is either taken from something in the episode or uniquely represents what is happening in the story at that time. And here's what each episode title of HBO's Chernobyl means:

  • Chernobyl episode 1, "1:23:45" - This was the time on the clock when reactor 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded. It was at 1:23:45 in the morning of April 26, 1986.
  • Chernobyl episode 2, "Please Remain Calm" - The phrase "please remain calm" is quite common, but with regards to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, it was used at the end of the evacuation announcement which was playing from loudspeakers on top of military vehicles in Pripyat. However, whether the evacuation broadcast said "please remain calm" or "please keep calm" is unclear.
  • Chernobyl episode 3, "Open Wide, O Earth" - Christian burials in the Eastern Orthodox Church contains a hymn that begins with, "Open wide, O earth," as the body of the deceased is lowered into the ground. Since episode 3 ends with Vasily Ignatenko's burial, it makes sense that this phrase was used for the title.
  • Chernobyl episode 4, "The Happiness of All Mankind" - It's no secret that the Soviet Union was obsessed with propaganda and keeping secrets, which is why there actually were banners in local villages that had the phrase, "For the happiness of all mankind," written on it. This detail came from a first-hand account of one of the Chernobyl liquidators.
  • Chernobyl episode 5, "Vichnaya Pamyat" - Similar to episode 3, the episode title for the series finale of HBO's Chernobyl is taken from the burial ritual of the Eastern Orthodox Church. At the end of the ceremony in the church, the choir chants "vyechnaya pamyat" three times, which translates to "memory eternal."

Episode 1 of HBO's Chernobyl makes the most sense for the series, as it directly relates to the accident itself, while the rest of the episode titles are more spiritual in nature - specifically with regards to the events of the series. While the titles for episodes 3 and 5 were taken from various parts of the Eastern Orthodox Church's burial rituals and ceremonies, episode 2's title is taken directly from the evacuation broadcast while episode 4's title is meant to represent the "cost of lies" that HBO's miniseries hammers home in the finale.

The Chernobyl miniseries beams of passion, as it's perhaps the definitive take on the nuclear disaster that rocked the world over 30 years ago, which still manages to find its way into the news to this day. Quite a lot of information was withheld from the public, especially while the Soviet Union was still around, but thanks to HBO's new show, general audiences will walk away knowing what really happened before, during, and after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.

Next: HBO's Chernobyl: What Really Happened To Dyatlov, Fomin, & Bryukhanov

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