The ‘Waco’ premiere takes a look back at the months before the tragedy at Mount Carmel. Here’s our recap of the intense and eye-opening first episode.
Before the final siege on April 19, 1993, that ended in the deaths of 76 Branch Davidians at Mount Carmel in Waco, Texas, there was the initial raid on Feb. 28. That’s where the miniseries starts, with trucks and helicopters filled with ATF agents circling Mount Carmel. David Koresh, the leader of the Branch Davidians, knows that trouble is near. He tells his followers that he’s going to try and work things out with the ATF. He goes outside and is met by guns. He pleads with the agents to listen. He doesn’t want anyone getting hurt. There are women and children inside.
Flashback to 9 months earlier, David Koresh and his followers are living a peaceful life on their property. People have come from all walks of life to follow David, who is charming and passionate as he gives his sermons. He meets David Thibodeau, a young drummer, before setting up for his band’s gig. He asks Thibodeau to play drums during their performance. David is quickly impressed by Thibodeau’s talents. Afterwards, David opens up to Thibodeau. You can tell he senses something vulnerable in the pensive Thibodeau. The young drummer is aimless in his life right now. He needs direction, and David is ready to provide that for him. David offers Thibodeau a place to stay instead of driving back to Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, Steve Schneider, David’s right-hand man, learns that his wife, Judy, is pregnant by David. He packs his things and gets ready to leave. Steve and Judy tried to have a baby for 10 years but couldn’t conceive. Now she’s having David’s child. Judy is quick to remind Steve that he was the one who wanted to stay at Mount Carmel. “I begged you to leave when David had his revelation,” Steve says. “I didn’t want to be one of his wives. I wanted to be your wife. But you wouldn’t go.” Steve decides to stay once again. He later explains to Thibodeau how he met David. Steve fully admits he didn’t believe David’s message at first, but once he did, he was enthralled.
Months later, FBI negotiator Gary Noesner is dealing with the aftermath of Ruby Ridge, an 11-day siege in 1992. The FBI is in an unfortunate position after an FBI sniper accidentally killed Randy Weaver’s wife during the siege. Gary wants justice for what happened to Randy’s wife, even if it means punishing the FBI. The FBI doesn’t agree with Gary. Gary feels the balance of power shifting towards militarization. The FBI is changing into something he didn’t sign up for. Meanwhile, the ATF is in danger of being defunded. They need something big to rally support. News about David Koresh possibly participating in illegal gun dealings surfaces, and the ATF is ready to roll with this narrative.
Judy eventually gives birth to David’s child. The birth is bittersweet for Steve. Is David oblivious to how Steve is feeling about everything, or is he ignoring Steve’s feelings? After 6 months at Mount Carmel, David asks Thibodeau about his plans. He can’t stay at Mount Carmel forever if he’s not all in. David asks Thibodeau if he could remain celibate. Thibodeau is shocked by the idea and says no. David explains his no-sex rule. He claims he had a revelation a few years back. He feels that if you cast out your sexual desires, your mind will be more clear. The first episode ends with new “neighbors” moving in. They’re not neighbors. They’re actually undercover agents sent to look into David and his followers at Mount Carmel.
Waco is the first scripted series for Paramount Network, formally Spike TV. Taylor Kitsch totally transforms into the role of the religious leader. He easily takes that charm he so effortlessly exuded in Friday Night Lights’ Tim Riggins and channels it into David’s manic energy. The series is taking a look at the events of Waco with two perspectives, based off Gary’s book, Stalling for Time: My Life as an FBI HostageNegotiator, and Thibodeau’s book, Waco: A Survivor’s Story. The idea is a smart one. What happened at Mount Carmel during those 51 days was complicated, and the story is not black and white. The first episode of Waco is a solid start in telling a complex story. With the 25th anniversary of the Waco tragedy in just a few months, this gripping and thought-provoking miniseries is not to be missed this TV season.
HollywoodLifers, what did you think of the premiere of Waco? Let us know!