Let me go ahead and just say if you love great acting and a show set during real world events, you are going to really enjoy WACO. I did.
I had thought about writing a review after each episode of this 6 part television event but ultimately decided I wanted to wait until it’s conclusion to dive into the series as a whole. If you just want to know if the show is good or not and don’t want to dive into spoiler-y type territory then yes, I thought this was a very good show that I really enjoyed. It was anchored by a career best performance from Taylor Kitsch as David Koresh and another fantastic performance from Michael Shannon as FBI negotiator Gary Noesner. I don’t want to discount the other performances here either that we will get into during the bulk of this review but all of them were wonderful.
I’ve already touched on the strength of this series being the ensemble because it is. Taylor Kitsch really shocked me with how damn good he was in this role. I’m not saying Kitsch isn’t a strong actor but he really hasn’t had a chance to show his range in some of the projects he is known for. Even his work in True Detective Season 2 is dismissed it seems because of the overall hatred for that season. Kitsch really transforms himself here and is absolutely brilliant. His line delivery, his pitch in his voice, his weight loss, and that mullet! Not only does he look the part but he is the part. He really does great work here and shows incredible range.
Michael Shannon, once again, is amazing as well. With each episode that goes by there was a different layer to the performance that I think an actor of lesser talent than Shannon maybe couldn’t of pulled off. The character could of been in danger of being one note, considering most of his time is spent on the phone trying to negotiate with different members of the Branch Davidians or pleading with his bosses about the way they are doing things, but it never got to that point because of Shannon’s extreme depth that he gave the character with nuances and backstory. There is one scene I really loved where he is eating a cheeseburger form WHAT-A-BURGER with his negotiating partner and goes into a story about how he wishes he would of got bacon on his burger which leads us into a hilarious story about using bacon in a hostage negotiation.
It’s moments like this when WACO really shines. Character moments. These are the things we didn’t get to see on the news or in the headlines and to see behind those doors and the different politics and situations that were in place made for effective television. The cast was so solid here. Paul Sparks as Steve really shines here as well as David’s right hand man and decision maker. Rory Culkin gives a solid performance here as David Thibbodaeu. But a performance I really enjoyed and an actress I am excited to see what she does after this is Julia Garner as Michelle. She is super effective here and brings a lot of depth and emotion to her character. Even John Leguizamo shows up for a few episodes and does really great work. Truly the entire ensemble, even ones I didn’t mention by name, was the highlight of this series.
I enjoyed the show’s patience. Which I think was a deliberate move on the show’s part. I think the show wanted you to feel like you were in this situation which at times frankly seemed boring and was a ton of waiting. Now, I get that boring in real life and boring in television is two different things but I appreciated the fact that the show took it’s time with how the events unfolded and focused on the characters and the psychology of these characters and what they were going through. On all sides. When the metaphorical shit finally hits the fan (which happens a few different times during the series’ run) it is effective.
I am sure there will be a debate on whether the Branch Davidians and mainly, David Koresh were presented in an accurate light here which I will leave to the people who have a way better understanding of what went down but just from a series perspective, I think they could of shown a little more of some of the questionable and more messed up aspects of some of the things that have been reported to have gone down within the walls of The Branch Davidians. I think it would of been interesting to navigate that throughout the show. Constantly asking yourself on both sides why certain decisions were made and forcing the audience to constantly make judgement calls on each interaction. Again, I will leave this to the people with way more knowledge on the subject matter and stick to talking about the series as art.
In closing, I think Paramount Network has started off very strong with their original content. This is a very strong and good effort and a series I really enjoyed. I also think Taylor Kitsch may be in line for some awards recognition by years end. I would recommend this show because of the strong ensemble work and confident direction. Just be patient going into it and then maybe after the series is over, do what I am going to do, and watch some different documentaries and read some more articles and learn a little bit more about the events that happened in Waco, Texas in 1993.
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