Red Stewart reviews the fourth episode of Waco…
One of the most interesting parts of the fourth episode of Waco involves a broadcast by a conservative radio host. In it, he talks to a preacher about the definition of a cult and whether or not Koresh and the Branch Davidians classify as such. The preacher points out that people are quick to cast judgments on new religious movements. But to know the line between judgments and legitimate criticisms is to know the line between the rise of cults versus healthy philosophical sects, right?
That is the theme of “Of Milk and Men,” and it’s a question that anyone who has any interest in the Waco Siege will have to answer if they want to come to closure with what happened. But while we have the benefit of hindsight, the agents involved didn’t in the heat of the moment. That’s why a good portion of “Of Milk and Men” is devoted to showing the contrasting views of Gary Noesner and the other FBI heads as they spitball ideas to bring an end to the standoff.
Because Koresh didn’t keep his word to exit the compound at the end of “Operation Showtime,” Gary is in a shakier spot, made all the more troubling by his hotheaded partner Richard Rogers’s attempts at implementing pressure on the Branch Davidians. Though bureaucratic politics continue to play a motivating role in the decision-making of the federal agency, there is an attempt by the Dowdle Brothers to show that the non-Noesner members do care about the well-being of the people in the compound. After all, when you are faced with someone who uses the word of G-D to justify keeping wounded men, women, and children from receiving proper care, it’s hard not to let your emotions get the better of you.
Of course Gary, being a trained negotiator, has the ability to control his emotive state, which makes his attempts at reaching a resolution particularly enticing to watch. I was especially impressed by the variety of tactics he employs throughout the episode, from providing good will to attempting to sow division between Steve and Koresh.
In the previous three entries we have seen a growing conflict between those two, starting with David having a child with Steve’s wife Judy. So it’s completely believable to see Steve’s cognitive dissonance when it comes to doing what is best for the Branch Davidians and believing in David’s cause. The interactions between Gary and Steve are very intriguing because of this fragile dynamic. At the end of each one you get a sense that Steve isn’t staying because he believes David is the prophet, but because he feels that he and his adopted family are being oppressed by the federal government. Paul Sparks makes the most out of these scenes, an opportunity that I don’t think he will have in the future given that Koresh is out of picture for only this episode.
Not much else happens that is worth talking about. There is the continued development of the relationship between Thibodeau and Michelle, culminating in Thibodeau venturing out into no man’s land to bury her father’s body. But considering the real Thibodeau not only survived the Waco Siege, but wrote a book upon which the show is partially based off of (shown in the opening of every episode), it seems pointless to create tension using him.
“Of Milk and Men” continued the build on the strained atmosphere created by the shootout in “Operation Showtime,” all while continuing to develop the characters and their growing disconnect with one another. It will be interesting to see how they play-out the rest of the siege in the final two episodes.
-One of Koresh’s FBI friends tells him how the members in the compound can’t tell the difference between people like him and the more volatile agents. I thought it was an interesting way to show how demonization works both ways.