In the course of compiling my monthly roundup of true crime doc releases, I plan out what I will be watching for the month. I don’t watch every documentary on my lists, but I usually watch at least one a week. When I put the March list together, the documentary series that most caught my eye was Waco: American Apocalypse, which came out on Netflix today.
I literally was looking for a good Waco doc to watch a few months ago, but didn’t find anything, so I was thrilled to see this on the list. So, as soon as I had the chance today, I watched the show.
The Netflix docuseries directed by Tiller Russell is about the intense events of the 1993 Waco, Texas, siege, which if you don’t know much about, I would give the Wikipedia article about the crazy 51-day siege a read. The series gives viewers a detailed look at the standoff by showing different viewpoints from both police and Branch Davidian members.
And what did I think? It’s not good, y’all. I don’t know that I learned anything new or gained any insight into the 51-day standoff in Texas. But before I rip this thing apart, let me tell you what I liked about it.
Interesting Subject Matter
First of all, the topic of the series is riveting. It focuses on the dramatic events of the 1993 Waco siege, offering viewers a deep dive into a significant historical incident.
The series shares stories from both police officers and Branch Davidian members, helping viewers get a fuller picture of what happened during the standoff. By including these different perspectives, the show allows us to better understand the situation and the reasons behind the actions of both sides. But on the other hand, I did get a bit of whiplash from the jumps between the many interviewees.
Another standout is its its inclusion of previously unreleased footage, which greatly contributes to the authenticity and intrigue of the series. This new material offers a fresh perspective on the events of the Waco siege, providing viewers with an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the historical incident. The unseen footage also allows for a more immersive experience, as audiences can witness the events unfolding as they happened.
Now that I’ve gotten the pros out of the way, let’s move onto the cons. And there a few deal breakers.
Waco occasionally falls into the trap of relying on sensational filmmaking techniques in order to captivate its audience. The series sometimes uses too much drama in its filmmaking, with over-the-top editing, sound effects, and music. This can make some parts feel exaggerated or not true to the real events.
The loud sounds and intense music can take away from the actual story being told. Instead of helping the story, these choices can make the series seem more like a flashy show rather than a careful look at the historical events.
The series’ focus on making things more exciting can take away from the complicated and detailed story it’s trying to tell. By using very dramatic editing, sounds, and music, the series might seem like it’s mainly trying to entertain viewers, instead of teaching them about what happened during the Waco siege.
No In-Depth Analysis
The series has trouble looking closely at the reasons behind the Waco tragedy. One reason is the mindset of militia groups, which affected how both the Branch Davidians and the police acted during the standoff. The documentary doesn’t really explain how this way of thinking played a part in the events, leaving viewers without a full understanding of the bigger picture.
Another important thing the series doesn’t cover well is how David Koresh got all his weapons. Knowing how Koresh collected so many guns is important to understand the size of the conflict and why both the Branch Davidians and the police acted the way they did.
Too Many Cops
The show focuses more on the police and other law enforcement officers than on the Branch Davidians. This can make the story feel unbalanced because it seems like the police are the main characters, while the experiences of the Branch Davidian members are not given the same attention.
The series spends a lot of time showing the feelings and challenges faced by the law enforcement officers. While it’s important to understand their side of the story, the documentary doesn’t give the same insight into the lives and thoughts of the Branch Davidians. By not digging deeper into their backgrounds and reasons for joining the cult, the series misses a chance to show the whole picture of what happened.
A more balanced story could have shown that both sides had problems and made mistakes. Instead, the focus on law enforcement might make viewers think the standoff was a simple fight between good and bad, rather than a complicated event with many different people involved, each with their own reasons and experiences.
Look, if you don’t have anything better to watch, Waco is fine. It’s entertaining. But as an analysis of the Branch Davidians and Waco tragedy, it’s meh. I honestly learned more from Bailey Sarian’s Dark History episode about it. I would recommend watching that instead.