HBO's latest hit miniseries, Chernobyl, tells a story that many viewers think they know going in and that's the story of the explosion in the No. 4 reactor in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant on April 26, 1986. The reality, however, is that there's much more to the real-life horror story than most are aware of -- including the chilling reality of how "liquidators" came in to deal with the contamination. On Monday's episode, one scene involving dogs left behind in the radioactive exclusion zone may have been grimmer and bleaker than most viewers expected and according to one of the series' creators, the Chernobyl scene was a toned down version of what happened in real life.
In the episode, entitled "The Happiness of All Mankind", the men brought in to deal with the irradiated exclusion zone and, in part, help prevent the contamination from spreading, were ordered to execute animals left behind -- including dogs, the pets of those who had been forced to leave them behind in the evacuation. We won't detail the scene here because of how unsettling it is, but for those who thought that perhaps the show had amplified the tragedy of the scene Craig Mazin took to Twitter to assure viewers that was not the case. The dog deaths happened in real life -- and the show actually toned down the horror of it all for the series.
"I know that was hard," Mazin wrote. "Just so there's no confusion -- the story of the liquidators is real. It happened. And we actually toned it down from the full story. War leaves all kinds of scars. These were the things men were ordered to do."
Mazin also followed that message up with a slightly more hopeful one, promising fans that the difficult part of the series was over, and, in the next episode, all of the pieces will come together in an explanation of how the disaster came to be.
"For everyone watching #ChernobylHBO, the hard part's over. No more guns. No more death. Next week, you'll see what happened on that fateful night. You will see how an RBMK reactor explodes. And a kind of justice will be done. Thank you for taking this journey with us."
Mazin's tweet about the accuracy of the events depicted in the traumatizing dog scene were ultimately backed up by SPCA International. The animal welfare organization posted on their website that the pets that were left behind -- and not by the choice of those evacuating -- were in fact exterminated by liquidators. However, even with all of the real-life horror, there is also a real-life happy ending: 15 puppies who had previously been living in the still-existing Nuclear Exclusion Zone were cleared to leave the area and were adopted into homes in the U.S. last year.
Chernobyl airs Monday nights on HBO.