The Paramount Networks brand new mini-series, WACO, based on the 1993 stand off between religious sect the Branch Davidians and the ATF, FBI and other United States Government agency has just launched – and despite no Australian network or streaming service currently picking up the series the team here at Horror Australia believe – considering the large amount of interest – that it will be just a matter of time, and therefore we have written a review based on the premier episode.
With the timeline of events for the 1993 tragedy it is believed that Australian Peter Gent (24) was the first person to die in the standoff between the religious sect and government agencies when agents from the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms bungled a raid on the compound known as Mount Carmel on the outskirts of Waco, Texas.
Nicole Elizabeth Little (nee Gent), 24, Aisha Gyarfas Summers, 17, and Dayland Gent, 3, were other Australians confirmed dead amongst the bodies of 76 Branch Davidian members – when fire engulfed the Mt Carmel compound on April 19 1993 bringing to an end the 51-day siege.
While questions still remain over who fired the first shots as leader David Koresh (unarmed) met the arriving ATF agents at the front door as they arrived on the back of cattle trucks on the compound located 13 miles from Waco. Koresh and his followers had been tipped off that the raid was coming, something Koresh and his right hand men had expected after knowing they had been under surveillance from undercover agents who had moved in across the street.
Despite this the writers of the Paramount Network’s WACO Mini-series, Drew Dowdle and John Eric Dowdle, have used their creative freedom to piece together a six part mini series attempting to share a story covering both sides of the story throughout the entire 51-day siege including former religious sect member David Thibodeau (played by Rory Culkin) assisting with the writing team and completely writing a future episode himself.
The show premiered in the United States on the Paramount Network, which was formerly known as Spike TV, to an audience of 1.11 Million viewers, the same viewer numbers as the networks hit show “Lip Sync Battle,” which aired a live Michael Jackson tribute special on Jan. 18
WACO – the mini series, staring Taylor Kitsch as cult leader David Koresh, Andrea Riseborough as Koresh’ leading wife Judy Schnider, Paul Sparks as Judy’s husband and David Koreshs’ right hand man Steve Schnider, Rory Culkin as David Thibodeau, and Melissa Benoist as David Koresh’ first wife Rachel Koresh.
The story is an important one to be told, however, at the same time a controversial one considering it is still a contentious issue as to who fired the first shot which started the shootout, and the biggest question being who started the fire.
While the official line is that the fire was set by those inside the compound, there is more than enough evidence to suggest that the kerosene lanterns that were required to be used by those inside the Mount Carmel building after the FBI engaged in psychological torture against the residents including cutting off electricity and water supplies, could have easily been knocked over and therefore starting the blaze by tanks used by the government to punch ‘escape holes’ in the building prior to flames engulfing the building.
The show starts with Kitsch, as Koresh, exiting the front door to the Mount Carmel compound and meeting the arriving ATF agents begging them to settle down as there are women and children inside. Before a shot is fired and the screen goes black before the opening credits start.
During the opening episode you are introduced to the bulk of the main characters, you get a feel for the animosity growing between Steve Schnider and his wife Judy as she finds out that she is pregnant – with Koresh being the father.
David Koresh, who was an aspiring singer had a gig at a local pub in WACO where his bands drummer fails to turn up. Koresh notices a young David Thibodeau packing his drum equipment into the back of a van and invites him to join the band that evening.
Following the gig Koresh discovers that Thibodeau does not have a stable place to live and therefore invites the young drummer to move into the compound with the other religious sect members.
Going for a mixture of new actors, such as Duncan Joiner who takes on the role of Cyrus Koresh – the oldest son of David Koresh, and skilled actors such as Kitsch and Benoist have given the show a fresh edge. The fact that they have not filled the roles with regular house hold names brings a vibrant and energetic feel to the show as these new stars try to make a name for themselves, rather than taking part in the production primarily to cash in on yet another pay cheque.
Where will the story go? The writers have promised that the story will be a mix of that from the governments point of view, with input from survivors of the blaze including David Thibodeau and Clive Doyle (the unofficial spokesperson for survivors) ensuring that both sides of the argument are given reasonable air time all int he form of creating an enjoyable and entertaining series.
It is hard to judge what the overall series will be like, and Horror Australia will post an update to this review upon completion of the series, however the props and creation of the compound – all of which were filmed in New Mexico – look identical to that to pictures you see of the compound and other related locations when you think of the Branch Davidians.
During the upcoming episodes Braden Anderson will appear as Australian Peter Gent.
There is no air date for WACO on Australian Television networks, however, we will update you when and if this changes in the future. This show is by far worth tracking down, keeping an eye out on Amazon in the near future for a DVD release or to try and convince an Australian network or streaming service to get.
And there are still five additional episodes to come.