The Paramount Network just released a six part mini-series on WACO. The new miniseries focuses on the 51-day standoff between law enforcement and the Branch Davidians in the spring of 1993.
Law enforcement officials believed that the Branch Davidian cult, led by self-proclaimed second Messiah David Koresh, had been stockpiling weapons for malicious reasons, and a February raid left six of his followers and four ATF agents dead. The ensuing 51-day standoff had a fiery end after the FBI pumped military-grade tear gas into the building.
David Thibodeau and Sheila Martin were two of the nine Branch Davidians who survived the fire. Thibodeau, played in the series by Rory Culkin, wrote one of two biographies on which the series is based. (The other was written by Gary Noesner, an FBI negotiator portrayed by Michael Shannon.) Koresh, played by “Friday Night Lights” alum Taylor Kitsch, spends much of the first episode persuading Thibodeau, who met Koresh in Los Angeles, to join the community. Branch Davidians saw Koresh as a “very intellectual, biblical savant,” if manipulative, Drew said.
“David Koresh was definitely an imperfect person — there [were] really many dark sides to him,” John added. “But what makes him tick? He was an abused child — his mom was 14 when she had him — yet he created this bizarre world around himself so he could never be abandoned again. Layers and layers of people, all attached to him.”
There are two versions of how the fire started on April 19, 1993. Branch Davidians held that an FBI tank had tipped over a lantern, which set the gas-filled compound ablaze. Arson investigators concluded that members of the cult intentionally set fire to the compound; the investigation found it was ignited in at least two locations.
Law enforcement theorized that the allegedly abusive Koresh led a doomsday cult and had been stockpiling weapons to prepare for the end of the world, but the TV series doesn’t depict the Branch Davidians that way. Autopsy reports presented in court in 2000 found that several children whose bodies were found in the compound had been shot, but coroners and FBI sources told “Frontline” that the deaths may have been mercy killings instead of a mass suicide.
Noesner, the FBI negotiator, found himself in an especially tricky position at Mount Carmel, caught between the impatient FBI tactical division’s demands and the Branch Davidians’ overall distrust of the government.
I thought the six-part series was a little drawn out and could have been told in three parts. Taylor Kitsch who plays Koresh looks strikingly like him, but not having heard Koresh speak I don’t know what he sounded like. He is very convincing as a manipulative cult leader who is the only one allowed to a have sex with the women there.
Michael Shannon as FBI negotiator Gary Noesner is very good and shows him to be a conflicted person who is trying to do his job as chief negotiator speaking with Koresh over the phone and willing to give him time. He is pressured by the head of the government ATF team sent here to put an end to the standoff who is convinced Koresh is just stalling and doesn’t want to give Koresh any more time.
John Leguizamo is great in the first three episodes as an FBI undercover agent sent o get Koresh’s confidence and get inside the cult. When his cover is exposed he is kicked out.
The series seems very anti-government and military accusing them of rushing in as a radio talk show host reads off a list of standoffs between the government and various cults that all ended with “tear gas, fire and death.”
I remember a lot of chatter at the time aimed at then-Attorney General Janet Reno who authorized that attack and here they touch on it lightly with agents meeting with Reno (a woman who looks like her) but they never mention her by name just Madam Attorney General.
The final attack is intense and sad at the same time. I always thought that Koresh died in the fire. Here they have his right-hand man kill him with a gun and then shoots himself. The recreation of the compound is exact as you can see in the exciting trailer below.
Of course, as with anything that takes on this kind of magnitude, there are always legends and questionable conspiracy theories. Here is a small sample of what the internet has put out as “truth”:
Linda Thompson is an attorney in Indianapolis, Indiana. She is Chairwoman of the American Justice Federation, a group dedicated to stopping the New World Order and getting the truth out to the American public. Linda Thompson and the American Justice Federation have produced a videotape, “Waco, the Big Lie,” which shows that a flame-throwing tank was used to set the fire at Mt. Carmel in Waco, Texas,(which is shown in the climax of the series) proving that the government murdered the Branch Davidians and intentionally destroyed the evidence. Here is her report:
In investigating events surrounding the massacre at Waco, I have made some rather startling discoveries. For instance, I discovered that three of the four ATF agents killed during the initial siege at Waco had been Bill Clinton’s bodyguards during his presidential campaign. Film footage from the initial siege (which can be seen in the videotape,”Waco, the Big Lie”), shows an ATF agent throwing a grenade and shooting a machine gun into the room where three other ATF agents have just entered a window. In other words, this footage appears to show that these agents were assassinated. In the March 3, 1993, Dallas Morning News, all three of the agents who went into the window on the roof of the BranchDavidian house at Mt. Carmel were reported by the ATF to have been killed inside. This certainly seemed curious, as did the connections to Waco of numerous highly placed government officials – curiouser and curiouser. A former CIA agent and a former FBI agent both told me to begin checking into the body count around Hillary and Bill Clinton, during Clinton’s rise to governor of Arkansas and since he has become President. With just a little preliminary research of the period just prior to the election through the present, I found 21 people who Clinton knew personally, many of whom he knew intimately, and several who had been his escorts or bodyguards, all of whom had died under mysterious circumstances or been killed in “accidental” airplane or helicopter crashes.
As with all colorful figures that die mysteriously, there are many legends surrounding David Koresh. One cult member swears David fled the burning compound and cheated death
That’s the stunning revelation of a Branch Davidian cult member — who claimed both he and Koresh escaped through the same secret tunnel beneath the building in Waco, Texas. Koresh ordered the compound torched during an FBI raid on April 19, 1993 —
But the cultist swore the leader faked his death by trading places with a lieutenant who had shot himself before the raid.
“Everything was swapped — clothing, jewelry, you name it,” survivor James Marshall said. “Koresh even put his dental bridge work in the guy’s mouth. Incredibly, it fit!”
“That’s why any reports that they’d found teeth to match his dental records would be a joke,” he noted.
Marshall said when the first FBI tank pounded the walls, Koresh fled for a concrete bunker, where he planned to direct the defense.
“I ran toward the bunker, saw the door ajar and made a dive for it,” Marshall said.
Then I heard moaning coming from behind a big grenade locker, and spotted a foot sticking out from under a trapdoor.”
Marshall pried the door open — only to find Koresh.
“He’d cut his hair, had a tooth missing and was wearing different clothes. Still, there wasn’t a shred of doubt it was David,” claimed Marshall.
The cult leader disappeared into a tunnel. Marshall followed, and crawled through it until he reached the outside.
“I saw car tracks in the sand. I figure David had someone waiting,” he said.
Later, at Koresh’s funeral, his mother, Bonnie Haldeman, hinted her son had escaped the inferno.
“I didn’t get to see the body, and I’m not even positive that is David there,” she said.
Certainly titillating, definitely unverified, but hey – it’s the internet.
Here is the exciting trailer for the WACO series: WACO Trailer (TV Show) | VisualFX Hub
Check out the six WACO characters with their real life counterparts: Waco Cast Members With Their Real-Life Counterparts – Waco TV Show