Episode 2: “The Strangers Across the Street”
Directed by John Erick Dowdle
Written by John Erick Dowdle & Drew Dowdle
* For a recap & review of the premiere, “Visions and Omens” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Operation Showtime” – click here
Across from the Waco Branch Davidians compound now lives Robert Rodriguez (John Leguizamo). He’s taking pictures, watching the cult. Soon, David Koresh (Taylor Kitsch), David Thibodeau (Rory Culkin), and Steve Schneider (Paul Sparks) come to give a warm welcome with some beer and pizza. Rodriguez claims they’re “ranchers” looking for property. Although the cult leader is already quite suspicious, which is more than obvious. Things are about to get tense.
In Washington, Gary Noesner (Michael Shannon) speaks of the “paradox to power” when he’s trying to tell his buddies to invest more in negotiating tactics, rather than a show of force with guns. We see where it’s all leading, to the horrific events that rocked America in Waco, Texas. Then there’s the fact Noesner might file a complaint concerning the handling of Ruby Ridge.
The Branch Davidians are discussing what to do from here on out. Koresh seems to want to be an open book, while the rest of them, except for Judy Schneider (Andrea Risenborough) think inviting people in will invite danger and misunderstanding. Wayne Martin (Demore Barnes) has concerns about their guns, as well as the polygamy, the “statutory rape” that’s going on even if David and the others see it as all above board, parent-sanctioned. This is where Thibodeau comes in. They need him to marry Michelle Jones (Julia Garner), sister to Rachel Koresh (Melissa Benoist), so her having kids with the almighty saviour doesn’t cause them any legal issues. Big ask, and one fucked up cult family. Wonder how Dave’s family will feel, if and when they find out. Worse, Michelle’s being married off like someone selling cattle. Because Koresh, ultimately, is a misogynist, and all the rest are enablers.
The ATF are already planning their entry into the compound, possible routes and plans of attack. They’ve also got Angela Duke (Sarah Minnich) running publicity. Meanwhile, Rodriguez has to continue playing a dangerous game, treading the line going undercover amongst the Branch Davidians. He takes up Koresh’s earlier offer, heading in to their compound for a closer look around. He’s privy to one of David’s sermons. It’s a rousing talk about the “End Times” and all the Book of Revelation rambling. Koresh speaks about the Seven Seals, telling his congregation about the Lamb of God. “I am that Lamb,” he says with a smile on his face. Good ole apocalyptic preaching.
Until the cult leader takes a whittled branch and explains someone’s broken a rule, meaning punishment. This is the first time we see part of their arsenal, too; many, many guns. Someone ate unauthorised ice cream. It’s actually little Cyrus, the preacher’s boy. He doesn’t give the boy “a licking” with the branch – he gives him a lick of ice cream on a spoon. Afterwards, everybody gets ice cream. HE’S PUTTING ON AN OSCAR-WORTHY SHOW. All for Rodriguez a.k.a Jacob.
The undercover man gets some face time with Koresh later, they talk more personally. David says Jacob was brought to him by God. It’s still evident that the cult leader does not believe the guy fully, he’s too paranoid for that. He can’t keep his mind off it. Not just that, his own wives are starting to worry about what it’ll mean to be judged by real laws and not the Biblical ones.
“Those men live by man‘s law, not God‘s.”
Now, Koresh sees it more as a game, an assertion of his power that he believes he can convert Rodriguez. He’s so narcissistic he’ll put the entire group at risk by letting the guy stick around.