Originally released on the Paramount Network in 2018, ‘Waco‘ is a six-part miniseries that tells the story of the ATF and FBI siege of the Branch Davidian cult and the death of their leader David Koresh.
After witnessing the travesty at Ruby Ridge, David Koresh (Taylor Kitsch), his head wife Rachel (Melissa Benoist), and right-hand man Steve Schneider (Paul Sparks) begin to shore up weaponry for their group of Branch Davidians at their Mount Carmel compound in Waco, Texas in preparation of the ‘Fifth Seal breaking’ and an attack by the feds. David recruits the impressionable David Thibodeau (Rory Culkin) to their ranks as Steve becomes angry that his wife Judy (Andrea Riseborough) becomes pregnant with David’s child.
Six months later, ATF agent Jacob Vazquez (John Leguizamo) clumsily infiltrates their compound at Mount Carmel and starts to befriend them. The ATF wants a win after taking the blame for Ruby Ridge, but when the press prints a newspaper profiling Koresh, the ATF moves in to attack, but the compound is ready thanks to a member accidentally being tipped off by a member of the press. After the ATF opens fire on Koresh, the cult fires back and calls the local sheriff (Ralph Alderman), who gets a ceasefire, but several on both sides are injured or killed. The FBI arrives to take over, with veteran hostage negotiator Gary Noesner (Michael Shannon) trying to get goodwill, but as the siege drags on, his superior Special Agent Prince (Glenn Fleshler) and tactical agent Decker (Shea Whigham) begin to engage in questionable tactics to bring the siege to an end.
This is an incredible miniseries with excellent production values. The plot moves along smoothly but then elongates itself when the siege began. From there, you feel the long, drawn-out process as the people on both sides start to lose their patience as the 51-day attack dragged on. You feel the weight of it and that was impressive. Every detail down to the music is planned carefully and it truly pays off.
As for the acting, everyone does an impressive job. Michael Shannon shines as the frustrated FBI negotiator. You see his anger every time he earns goodwill from the Branch Davidians only to have his colleagues sabotage him. At times, he did not even speak to act, he just made an expression and you knew right away what he was thinking. Also, Rory Culkin as “Tibs” was excellent. You really see him as the human being who is searching only to be duped by Koresh.
Speaking of Koresh, Taylor Kitsch is mesmerizing as the charismatic cult leader. He nails the look, the mannerism, and his growing instability as the siege continues. He is a powerful force on-screen and you can feel the frustration of his followers, many of whom began to doubt him but shored up after the attack.
I need to put my two cents in on the event as a whole. The series faced criticism for its sympathetic portrayal of Koresh and his followers. I do understand their angst at that. Of course, Harvey Weinstein helped produce it, something the creators have tried to hide. Could that have had something to do with how they downplayed his “alleged” crimes? Anyway, Koresh was a fanatical egomaniac, a gunrunner, and an accused pedophile. That cannot be understated and he deserved his humiliating end. His followers did not.
While some were accused of crimes, they should have been arrested and tried. Many of the survivors were, but after what the feds did to them and their families, they should have all been acquitted. The ATF and the FBI should have taken Koresh on his morning jog or when he was rocking out at the local bar as he was known to do every day. With him in jail, executing the search warrant would have been simpler, but they just had to get headlines and they ended up getting what they wanted, just not the way they wanted.
In short, I learned two things from this miniseries. The first: when arresting an accused criminal mastermind, simpler is always better. The second: Ronald Reagan was right when he said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help.”
Check out the trailer below:
If you want to hear more the case, true crime YouTuber Stephanie Harlowe has an excellent documentary series on Waco. You can watch Part 1 here.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below. Tell me if there is a comic book, movie, or novel you would like me to review. While you are at it, check out my reviews of The Code and The Watership Down miniseries. Don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe for more posts like this one.