On January 24th, Paramount network recently launched a six part miniseries on Waco, the tragic event that occured between the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives versus the Branch Davidians religious group led by David Koresh. The show relives the 51 day standoff between these groups in Mount Carmel, Texas, where the cult lived in isolation, but also gives a detailed history of the Branch Davidians and what their message was. Paramount has given the series a lot of promotion and have definitely hyped up the event through various trailers and sneak peaks. Expectations for viewers are very high because of the action packed season promised in the previews.
The television event begins with the standoff in Ruby Ridge in 1992 which was similar because it also involved the ATF branch and the FBI. This opening was necessary because it helped the viewer understand the history of the conflict between the FBI and ATF, and it also foreshadowed the standoff the later occured in Waco. The show itself crafts an interesting portrayal of the chaos that ensued and how it all fell apart so fast. When watching, it is difficult to remember that the story is real and not a fictious tv show.
Due to the fact that the events on this program actually occured, it seemed very important to potray the people involved in an accurate, authentic manner. One of the key parts of this show in my opinion is the potrayal of cult leader David Koresh, by actor Taylor Kitsch. Taylor Kitsch is best known for his work as Tim Riggins on Friday Night Lights, but this role could not be more different from that. In real life, the Branch Davidians truly believe Koresh was the chosen one, although he was a self proclaimed sinner, which the show depicts very well. The most striking thing about him in this particular show is that he dropped a ton of weight and grew his hair into a mullet, resembling Koresh in an eerie way. His performance stands out and he nails every aspect of Koresh’s mannerisms, making it nearly impossible to hate him at all. One who had read about the story may dislike Koresh and disagree with his beliefs. But it would be wrong to not give him credit - he led a group of people into sharing the same beliefs as him and brought them to a remote area where they would follow him eagerly, without any questions. People liked him for his outspoken tone and his commitment to preaching. At a certain point in the show, regardless of your religious beliefs, you may begin to sympathize with Koresh and his people. I credit this to the acting on behalf of Kitsch, because he made an unlikeable person into a relatable one. In the Waco Tribune Herlad, in 1993, an investigative series of articles was written on David Koresh. In one article published, Koresh was categorized as a sexual predator and con artist, which is a drastic departure of how he is potrayed in this series. Kitsch himself excels at this role because of the obvious dedication to being David Koresh. His transformation is almost unrecognizable and slightly scary. His southern accent and gestures make it seem as though he has been a preacher before, because he says every line with such conviction. I believe he was meant to play this role and that no other actor could do it justice in the way that he did.
The show is able to make it clear to see that the people in this cult are trying to live life according to their beliefs in a country where they were told they could. It was alleged that the Davidians were illegally stockpiling weapons and purchasing them in bulk. However, women and children were brought into the issue and were ruthlessly shot at for not leaving the compound. The viewer comes to realize their resistance is not based on any motive besides religion. They were not solely criminals or immoral people, which is channeled through the show. In their minds, this is the “5th seal” or the test from God they have been waiting for. They will not leave the compound because in their minds God is testing their abilities to follow him.The Branch Davidians are depicted as polygamists who all worhsip and follow Koresh. In the mainstream media when this event actually did occur, they were potrayed as a weird, rare group of people because of their beliefs and the illgeal misconduct they allegedly seemed to be doing. However, on the television event, they are potrayed as a terrified group of people who are being attacked at and killed. As a viewer, you cannot help but feel sorry for them because of the women and children who lived in that house that was violently raided. One of the wives who stands out to the audience in particular, is Martha, played by actress Melissa Benoist, who previously starred on Glee. She seems completely infatuated by Koresh even when he was shot and could barely continue fighting. I believe it is an important part of the story to show a real connection and complete obsession between David Koresh and his wives because it further shows the way his people looked up to him.
After indulging in this 6 episode miniseries, I have admiration and respect for Koresh because of his strength and convinction towards his beliefs. He never once doubted his religious values and knew that people were going to die in order for their faith and values to withstand the authorities in this situation. At the same time, I do not believe everything he did can be justified after watching it either. The show emphasizes that this man was not perfect or always right, which helps the viewer understand this real life character on a much deeper level than what was potrayed in the media about him years ago. I believe that in creating programs like this one, major television productions are giving people a chance to understand their own country’s history, while also crafting a dramatic story that evokes emotions such as an other one would do.