Paramount’s ‘Waco’ Review

Ethan Ingram, Editor

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As the six-part miniseries, “Waco,” came to its end last week on Wednesday, a proper review of the epic may sway people into re-watching it or watching it for the first time. For those who don’t know, “Waco” is an attempt to delve into the mindset of opposing sides, government forces led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation facing the Branch Davidians ( a religious faction of the Seventh Day Adventists), that faced one another in a tense three month standoff, and for the most part it meets these expectations. When the show begins, it attempts to set the mood of America during the early 1990s. The early 1990s were characterized by a fear of homegrown terrorism where groups such as the KKK and neo-Nazis dominated government interest. However, when a white nationalist, Randy Weaver, sold an illegal firearm to an undercover Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms agent, an intense standoff on Ruby Ridge sparked a government crackdown on various groups that wished to live how they wished without the government’s prying eyes.

 

It is here where “Waco” begins, outlining the events described above and introducing us to the Branch Davidians led by David Koresh. From the start Koresh is characterized as a charismatic and unhinged man who uses his religious fervor to gain and hold onto people of all walks of life. For example, after persuading a young drifter named David Thibodeaux to play as drummer in his band, Koresh allows the drifter to stay the night in his compound, which inevitably becomes a full-time commitment for him. The scene then shifts to the J. Edgar Hoover building, where the FBI and the ATF are discussing the previous acts of terror when they get to an ATF tip on Koresh’s people, and how they possibly were in the business of selling and purchasing illegally converted firearms. The directors of “Waco” masterfully set up this portion of the events, not only with the episode-long but accurate representation of Ruby Ridge, but also with the pure confusion that the ATF and FBI dealt with on whether the firearm report was true or not.

 

Following the slow build up to the standoff’s beginning, “Waco” begins the ATF assault with a bang as a  massive convoy of pick-up trucks with tactical agents in large horse trailers, SUVs, a Texas National Guard helicopter, and even a vehicle with the local news channel speed into the compound’s front lawn. As they do so, Koresh walks out on the lawn, facing the officers and screams “ Wait, there are women and children inside!” However, as stated in police procedure, a pet dog began to act aggressively towards the agents, meaning they had the right to shoot it. As they did so, what sounded like a gunshot echoed from an unknown location. In result, the ATF began firing at what they presumed to be a hostile target and a gun battle rips through the area. The directors yet again do a great job setting up the confusion of the battle as the ATF agents had no real idea what to do except fire back, and the Branch Davidians were defending themselves from a perceived threat. What happens next is a three episode epic where FBI agent Gary Noesner attempts to peacefully resolve the scenario with David Koresh, even though Koresh is increasingly difficult and mental due to the actions of Noesner’s bosses. Finally, the standoff becomes so tedious that the FBI Hostage Rescue Team decides to pump tear gas into the building to flush the people out, which ends in a massive inferno, caused by a combination of the gas and a broken lantern, and the deaths of many innocent people.

 

Overall, I would definitely recommend “Waco” to anyone wishing to watch a mini-series of a real-life event that plays out almost like a movie or a police television show. However, I do have some grievances with the show, mainly the fact that the directors of the show attempt to make the Branch Davidians innocent victims of circumstances and all of the government agents uncompassionate people. While the people in the compound were innocent, they didn’t make their own individual decisions and listened to Koresh, who even proclaimed himself to be labelled as “special” early on in the show. As for the government agents, they are portrayed to be dumb trigger-happy men who act completely unprofessional, going so far as to flash children within the compound or put the Davidians’ lives on the line for quick results. Although I disagree with this portrayal of the parties, I understand that the directors were attempting to depict how neither side was all good or all bad, contrary to what the media said of the event. The show was magnificently filmed, acted, and executed though, and is guaranteed to keep anyone invested in each episode right until the saddening end. Senior Kellen Barham stated that “ I would watch this show now that I’ve heard of it. It seems like it may be a roller coaster of excitement.” Therefore, “Waco” is one of the best mini-series I have watched and I would highly recommend it to anyone willing to sit through a six episode epic.

 

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