‘Waco’ (2018) Miniseries Recap & Ending, Explained: What Happened To David Koresh?

Showtime released a miniseries called “Waco” in 2018 that shows, in rather gruesome detail, the exact events that occurred on the plains of Waco, Texas, in February 1993, when the FBI clashed with a religious group that identified itself as Branch Davidians. At the head of the group was the self-proclaimed prophet David Koresh (Taylor Kitsch), who was a charismatic leader capable of making his congregation follow him into war. However, he was also a very horrible person, not above crimes like child abuse and statutory rape, even though the women of the compound were glad to be Koresh’s partners. When the ATF learned that the Davidians were illegally stockpiling guns and that polygamy was being practiced inside their compound at Mt. Carmel, they began a siege of the area that ended on the 51st day with an all-out war, nay, the slaughter of the Davidians. Ahead of the “Waco: Aftermath” release, here’s a quick recap of the events that happened in the compound during that time.


Spoilers Ahead

A Glimpse Into The End

The series begins with David Koresh (Taylor Kitsch), the self-proclaimed Messiah of the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, claiming, “They’re coming for me,” as helicopters can be heard flying overhead and vehicles begin arriving near the compound. He orders several women and children to be taken to safety, and the entire place is loaded with assault rifles and thousands of rounds of ammunition. With FBI agents beginning to form a perimeter around the compound, Koresh goes outside to reason with the agents, and this sparks off a 51-day siege of the Mt. Carmel compound. But how did it get to this situation? For that, we need to go nine months back into the past.


How It All Started

The Prophet of the Branch Davidians, David Koresh, gave a sermon to his flock about the joy he’d felt suddenly and asked what made his congregation happy. Meanwhile, FBI negotiator Gary Noesner (Michael Shannon) is being called to Idaho, where Hostage Team’s Mitch Decker (Shea Wigham) is tied up in a risky situation with “white separatist” Randy Weaver, and Noesner’s negotiation skills are needed to defuse the situation. When things go south, and a woman is shot in the face by the FBI, the inhumane actions by the organization begin making rounds, and the FBI is stuck in a desperate attempt to save face.

Meanwhile, at Mt. Carmel, Steve Schneider is unhappy that his wife Judy is pregnant with David Koresh’s child, while the prophet himself has brought in a new member to the group, named David Thibodeau (Rory Culkin), after meeting him in a jam session. In order to stay with the Branch Davidians, Koresh gives Thibodeau a choice to choose celibacy because, at Mt. Carmel, Koresh is the one who’s overtaken the burden of physical desire so the others can be devoid of sin. He adds that it’ll be his children who’ll be known as the 24 Elders to make judgments when the apocalypse arrives. As Judy gives birth to Koresh’s daughter, he names her while Schneider watches with burning envy.


The ATF learns that the Davidians are storing several guns and ammunition in their compound, and there’s talk of child abuse and polygamy, so they decide to investigate in the hopes that this will help the FBI save face. Agent Jacob Vasquez (John Leguizamo) and two other agents move into a house in the area and begin spying on the Davidians, but Koresh notices and invites Vasquez to his house for a party. Noesner realizes that things are taking a turn for the worse, and he doesn’t recognize the force that he’s joined because the organization is turning more violent.

The Disturbing Rules Of The Davidians

In the Davidians’ compound, things become complicated because there are looming charges of statutory rape against Koresh, so the group decides to have Thibodeau marry Michelle Jones so that Koresh can have children with her without raising any concerns. Yes, it sounds confusing and disturbing, but that’s what Koresh was doing inside the house amidst all the women. As Vasquez is invited to a sermon by Koresh, the preacher portrays themselves as the holiest of the holies, although we do get to see a first-hand look at the several rifles and other guns they’ve stored. Koresh has already brought in strangers and wants them to stay, despite disagreements with others in the group.


Outside, the ATF is planning the way they’ll be entering the compound and making plans of attack while Thibodeau marries Jones, with the ceremony being presided over by the Messiah himself. Koresh later asks Vasquez to surrender his weapon because it’s illegal, and he doesn’t allow illegal weapons on his compound. The hypocrisy is staggering. The ATF’s raid is about to happen, and Vasquez tries to call it off, but the organization, desperate to save face, soldiers on. This marks the start of the 50+ day raid of the Mt. Carmel compound, replete with gruesome events.

The Firefight Breaks Out

Episode 3 is all about the firefight that happened on the compound and the exchange of gunfire between Davidians and ATF agents. When Koresh wanted to go out and speak to the agents in person, they began shooting, and the preacher took one bullet to his side. An intense shootout began with a few agents being shot, as well as multiple Davidians. With “no communications” on the ATF’s side, the gunfire continues while some agents sneak up to the house and drop smoke grenades but are fired upon by some Davidians, who are gunned down. Children witness flashbangs going off and murders happening before their eyes. It’s an utterly chaotic situation, as no one knows the correct course of action to take. Koresh establishes contact with radio’s Ron Engelman and gives a detailed scenario of the brutal gunning down that’s happening at the compound until the FBI disconnects the line. Noesner has been brought in, and he manages to get Koresh to agree that he’ll come out peacefully in exchange for a chance to appear on national TV, but when Koresh sees himself being ridiculed on several channels because of his opinions about the Book of Revelations, he goes back on his promise.


Flawed Tactics And Hunger

The episode of “Of Milk and Men” is about the lack of food and the hunger of children in the absence of milk while the mothers hide from tanks standing outside their compound. It also shows the exact picture of how a series of bad decisions, coupled with one egomaniac religious nut, could cause so many deaths. Although Gary Noesner was successful in negotiating for several people, women and children included, to leave the compound and go to safety, it was Mitch Decker’s blunderbuss tactics that almost caused the death of an unarmed man in full view of the public. When David Thibodeau stepped out with the body of an elderly man to bury him out in the open, Decker wanted to kill him immediately, and Noesner had to fight against him making such a decision. With the children suffering from hunger, Steve Schneider struck a deal with Noesner to send milk, and the negotiator even agreed in exchange for sending out some children, but Koresh refused to let children be used as the currency of the barter system. This, coupled with several other disagreements, caused Schneider to have a tiff with Koresh, and the tension kept rising inside, although Schneider does tell Noesner that the people inside aren’t hostages; they actually believe in the faith.

A tape that Koresh sends out shows a video of the horrible conditions inside, but nobody is being kept there against their wishes. The FBI sends in a milk crate with a bug installed to listen in to the conversations, and Decker hears Koresh and Schneider sharing a laugh, which makes him want to barge in and open fire, and it’s a miracle that he doesn’t do so immediately.


A Series Of Bad Decisions

By Episode 5, SAC Tony Prince and Mitch Decker are going full-Rambo at the people inside the compound. After disconnecting power, the FBI is then trying psychological warfare, where they blast horrific noises through speakers, robbing the Davidians of sleep and mental peace. Noesner realizes just how messed up this approach is, and he’s the only one who can help either side, but nobody wants to listen to the man who’s talking logic. On one side, there’s the misogynist and crazed David Koresh, who doesn’t want to let go of the women because he considers them his property, and this further complicates the situation inside. On the other, there’s Prince and Decker who are constantly making threats to the religious megalomaniac and undermining the one person who can help: Noesner. Schneider calls his sister and says they won’t commit suicide so that this can be used as proof in case the FBI kills them all and later claims it was suicide. When the power comes back on, Koresh decides to do something crazy and begins playing guitar in the face of the screeching noise the FBI is blasting at them. Prince loses his temper and gives the go-ahead to take severe action.

The Tragedy Of The FBI

On the 40th day, radio’s Ron Engelman arrives at the FBI tent after the Davidians used their satellite radio to inform the world about what’s happening to them, and the lawyers Schneider and Koresh show up as well. While speaking to Noesner on the phone, Koresh says he’s received a sign from God that asked him to come out after seven days; he just needs to transcribe the Seven Seals—his manuscript. When Koresh refuses to send a few pages of the manuscript, going against Noesner’s request, Prince and Decker falsify facts to get Janet Reno to contact President Clinton, who’d greenlight an assault on Mt. Carmel. When Noesner sees cans of CS gas, he’s angry because it’s considered a war crime to use it on terrorists, let alone women and children. However, Prince and Decker don’t care and send in the tanks, which brings us to the midnight of the fated 51st day. With the psychological warfare continuing, Schneider is alerted by a phone call that tear gas will be thrown inside, and Koresh begins panicking, screaming to get women and children to the safety vault, but not all of them make it there before the walls are brought down by the tank. The FBI proceeds to break down the vault, and the people inside are trapped under the debris, only to choke to death. The tear gas catches fire, and the remaining people are cooked alive. Koresh’s attempts to save the women and children are fruitless. Thibodeau manages to escape through a window but is immediately arrested, although several women, including Michelle Jones, are trapped and die a horrible death on the lower floors.


‘Waco’ Ending Explained – What Happened To David Koresh?

Koresh waits to die in the fire while wearing a gas mask when Schneider walks in, and the men reach an agreement. Koresh removes the mask and is shot in the head, after which his friend uses the gun to end his own life instead of waiting to be consumed by the flames. America is horrified upon learning the horrific things their government did to so many people, where women and children were burned alive. Thibodeau’s mother rejoices to see her son alive, while Koresh’s mother grieves the death of her son and that of so many grandchildren, and even though Koresh was a horrible person who ill-treated young women and was a hypocritical misogynist, it still didn’t excuse how the government killed so many people in an attempt to save face. Noesner gives his testimony about the situation, while Thibodeau, one of the few survivors, goes on to co-author a book about the distraught situations he’d faced inside Mt. Carmel and how he’d abandoned his friends to escape. Thus, David Koresh died inside the same compound that he’d locked himself in, along with his friend Schneider, his several wives, and children, and left us a testimony regarding what happens when the government chooses a target and doesn’t quit until the target is annihilated.

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Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh has a master's degree in English literature from Calcutta University and a passion for all things in cinema. He loves writing about the finer aspects of cinema, although he is also an equally big fan of webseries and anime. In his free time, Indrayudh loves playing video games and reading classic novels.

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