The Days dramatizes the 2011 Fukushima disaster in much the same way as Chernobyl depicted its own nuclear meltdown, but Netflix’s effort isn’t half the drama HBO’s was.
This review of the Netflix series The Days Season 1 does not contain spoilers.
One can scarcely imagine a more similar story that The Days, an eight-part Netflix retelling of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. The circumstances aren’t quite the same – Chernobyl was, after all, largely the fault of Cold War paranoia, secrecy, and cost-cutting – but its broad strokes are mightily similar, from the extraordinary tension on the cusp of calamity to disaster striking, and the brave attempts at keeping that calamity contained.
It’s an important story rich in detail, treated with respect. It just isn’t as good of a TV show as Chernobyl, and it’s very hard to overlook that fact.
The Days Season 1 review and plot summary
On March 11, 2011, an extraordinarily powerful earthquake under the sea off Japan’s east coast cut off the mains electricity supply to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and subsequently flooded the station. With the emergency diesel generators out of action, the plant’s nuclear reactors overheated to the point of total meltdown.
The Days explores these circumstances, the self-sacrificial efforts to prevent the disaster from worsening, and the extreme resourcefulness that human beings will show in the face of danger and death. But the show’s impersonal approach and fascination with details also bogs it down somewhat, taking great pains to include every relevant number, fluctuating dial, and horrifying factoid, but leaving human depth and drama somewhat by the wayside.
Don’t get the wrong idea – The Days is a deeply respectful and sometimes impressively-crafted experience. The tsunami is brought to terrifying life, and the show’s ability to ratchet up tension through its rapidly worsening disasters and complexifying circumstances is often profound. But it’s also too long, and its documentarian’s eye for figures is at odds with dramatic pacing.
Is The Days good or bad?
It also feels, dare I say it, a little reiterative, both of the aforementioned Chernobyl and even, in later episodes, itself. The real-life disaster certainly involved people performing essential functions that were akin to suicide; exposing themselves to deadly levels of radiation, turning valves, wading through debris, and so on, and so forth. And it mustn’t be understated what tremendous selflessness and bravery that entails, not to mention what a horrifying responsibility it is to decide, in essence, who lives and who dies.
But there must be a better way to highlight this than to include a similar scenario in every episode. Eventually, so much misery and heroism in such proximity begins to feel, lamentably, like one thing after another.
Is The Days worth watching?
I can’t in good conscience not recommend The Days, though, especially considering how good Koji Yakusho does as the plant’s manager Yoshida – it’s as fantastic a portrayal of escalating plate-spinning mania as has been committed to the screen in quite some time and is the primary anchor that keeps The Days weighed to a sense of real humanity.
But I must advise caution. The longwinded and detail-oriented approach isn’t going to be for everyone, and those looking for more universal drama or meaty subtext – both of which Chernobyl had in spades – will find The Days somewhat lacking.
This aside, though, the Netflix limited series remains an important story, told well, but perhaps just a little too fearfully for its own good.
What did you think of The Days Season 1? Comment below.
You can watch this series with a subscription to Netflix.