Precariously close to Armageddon: Don’t miss Netflix’s compelling ‘The Bomb and the Cold War’ documentary series

If you are a lover of good documentaries, you must dedicate some time to Turning Point: The Bomb and the Cold War. The series—with nine episodes, each of them at least an hour long—starts at Hiroshima and takes things right up to the war in Ukraine. It’s as thorough and enthralling as a documentary on nuclear war, and the Cold War that followed it, could be.

The series starts around Hiroshima and meticulously examines seemingly every major political event contributing to the Cold War after it. It goes over all of the big historic events—most notably the fall of the Soviet Union that supposedly ended the Cold War, but actually didn’t. There’s a new cold war very much in motion, and as this series shows, we are as precariously close to nuclear armageddon as we were at the height of U.S.-Soviet Union hysteria in the 1980s.

This show covers it all, including the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the close calls and nuclear accidents that took humanity to the brink of extinction.

At the center of the show is Vladimir Putin, portrayed as the world’s biggest villain of the last quarter century and a major threat to touch off a nuclear confrontation. The show is mostly chronological, but many of the episodes begin with nods to the current Ukraine situation before picking up where the prior episode left off.

I’ve lived through more than a half-century of what’s in this show, and thanks to this series, I know a lot more about the situations and stories behind images like the wall being torn down, Boris Yeltsin hopping on tanks (and dancing around like the complete mess that he was), and the rise of Putin. This is as solid of a history lesson as TV can provide.

This is actually the second installment of this series after the also-excellent Turning Point: 9/11 and the War on Terror (2021). Netflix has thrown its share of schlocky docs out there over the years, but this one is top quality.

Turning Point: The Bomb and the Cold War is now streaming on Netflix.

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