Netflix dropped its latest docuseries “Waco: American Apocalypse” series on March 22nd, and you need to watch it immediately.
The documentary recalls events over the course of 51 days in 1993 where cult leader David Koresh of the Branch Davidians and a slew of government law enforcement agencies engaged in a bloody, violent stand-off at a compound just outside of Waco, Texas. In the opening 30 minutes of Netflix’s immersive series on the standoff, we learn that the whole thing probably could have been avoided if not for a lone mailman, one crucial leak, and the violent minds of poor leadership.
To give some more backstory (in the simplest way posssible) the ATF, FBI, and a handful of other affiliate law enforcement groups and agencies were hyper-aware of Koresh and his cult. They’d been manufacturing illegal arms for a while and had themselves a mini military at their compound in Waco.
But here’s where things get weird…Koresh built his military because was concerned the FBI and other agencies would destroy him and his followers in a hail of gunfire. He seemed to know what his fate would be long before law enforcement descended on his cult compound.
According to law enforcement officers who were there the day the raid started, the initial plan was just to go in, arrest everyone, seize everything, and be home by dinner time. But — you’ll have to forgive my fogginess this Sunday afternoon — a media photographer (?) who was aware of the raid got lost on the way to the compound. So, he flagged down a mailman to ask him for directions.
The gentleman asked the mailman the way to Koresh’s compound, explaining that the ATF et al., were gearing up for the raid that very day. The mailman was a member of the Branch Davidians, and made a beeline home to warn his family that their rapture had arrived.
Had this one crucial conversation never happened, there’s a good chance that Koresh and his cult never would have geared up to fight the government. He could have been arrested, charged with whatever, and we’d never really talk about him again. ATF et al., learned that Koresh was aware of the raid, so asked their leadership to call it off.
They’d lost the element of surprise, and they knew things could now go very wrong. Which they did. Immediately. (RELATED: Reading ‘Lord Of The Rings’ And ‘1984’ Could Lead To Right-Wing Extremism, Gov’t Report Warns)
Almost as soon as law enforcement showed up at the compound, all hell broke loose. Four officers were killed. Branch Davidians had to kill each other to put themselves out of their agony from untreated gunshot wounds. The first day alone is like something out of the most horrific war movie, and Netflix shows us the whole thing in a series of never-before-seen clips from the ground.
The storytelling around the events of that day are fascinating, with both sides evoking a profound sense of emotion in the retelling. One moment you can’t breath for the terror of what law enforcement had to experience from the cult members. The next you’re silently crying for the violence witnessed by the children inside the compound. I honestly don’t think I blinked or inhaled for the first episode, it was that intense.
But neither Koresh nor whoever was calling the shots for the government come off well. In fact, had Koresh never preached violence, and the ATF et al., let these people be, no one would have ever died at Waco.
If anything, “Waco: American Apocalypse” proves that only horrific things happen when good people are stuck under terrible leadership. It makes me wonder why we move so willingly at the direction of others, and ignore our free will with such ease.
Watch the trailer here, then go check out the whole thing: