Waco: The Aftermath (2023) Episode 2 Recap & Ending Explained: What’s The Sinister Plan of Timothy McVeigh?

Waco The Aftermath (2023) Episode 2

Waco: The Aftermath (2023) Episode 2 Recap & Ending Explained: Showtime’s Waco: The Aftermath (2023) is a five-part limited sequel series to Waco (2018). Developed by John Erick Dowdle and Drew Dowdle, Waco chronicled the 1993 deadly and bungled 51-day Waco siege at the Mount Carmel Center. Subsequently, the much-publicized deaths (mass suicide or an accident?) of the members of the religious extremist group ignited far-reaching repercussions that the American government and federal agencies didn’t anticipate. FBI’s show of excessive force at Waco became a wake-up call for the right-wing militias.

Waco: The Aftermath (2023) chronicles the fallout of the Waco siege. The first episode ‘Truth and Consequences’ showcased three narrative strands: FBI chief negotiator Gary Noesner (Michael Shannon) following the domestic terrorism threat in the aftermath of Waco; Vernon Howell, aka David Koresh’s quick rise through the ranks of Branch Davidian command at Mount Carmel Center in the early 1980s; and the trial of surviving Branch Davidians for conspiring against the government.

The second episode of Waco: The Aftermath, titled ‘A Common Enemy,’ introduces one more narrative thread to the existing three. We follow a tall and serious-looking guy named Timothy McVeigh, who is involved in some sinister plan to take revenge on the American government for Waco. What’s he planning?

Waco: The Aftermath (2023) Episode 2 Synopsis:

An Agent’s Agony-Filled Testimony

Episode 2, ‘A Common Enemy,’ opens at San Antonio Federal Courthouse in Texas. The prosecution side puts on the stand an ATF Special Agent named Ballesteros, who is present during the ATF raid on the fateful day of 28 February 1993. Ballesteros’ testimony is juxtaposed with the clips from the 2018 mini-series, hinting at the contradictions in the agent’s version of events. The prosecution’s witness mentions that David Koresh (Taylor Kitsch) opened a single door of the compound’s double door and stood at the doorway.

Ballesteros testified that their agents yelled about a search warrant for the premise. But David simply smirked at them and went back inside. Immediately after that, Ballesteros says that the Branch Davidians fired at ATF agents through the door and from other vantage points around the compound. Ballesteros recalls that, while taking in fire from all directions, he jumped into the dog pit and stayed there. Later, he was joined by Agent Willis, who was shot all over and died. Ballesteros’s testimony emphasizes that the Branch Davidians fired first. He further stresses that ATF agents were pinned down for nearly two and a half hours by the Branch Davidians’ firing of automatic weapons. Obviously, the Agent’s testimony has a visible emotional impact on the jury.

Vernon’s Gift of Prophecy

While hearing the painful chronicle of Ballesteros’ survival, Ruth Riddle (Kali Rocha) – one of the Branch Davidians on trial – recalls an incident from 1983. It is right after Vernon Howell (Keean Johnson) and Lois Roden’s (J Smith-Cameron) return from the Israel trip. An exhilarated Lois Roden declares that Vernon had visions when they were in Jerusalem. “He has become a vessel of our Lord,” she claims. Upon hearing this, Ruth and Clive Doyle (John Hoogenakker) are also thrilled. When Vernon and Lois leave the room to rest themselves, Clive muses how hard it must be to bear the gift of prophecy since one might think that they are simply going crazy.

Ruth not only sees a change within Vernon after the Israel trip and finds that something has changed in the relationship dynamics between Lois and Vernon. Soon, Ruth takes up Lois’ suitcase to her room. There she sees Lois and Vernon embracing like lovers and Vernon smooching her. He also creepily looks at Ruth. Vernon, aka David Koresh’s deceitful and manipulative behavior, first began by controlling the then-leader of Branch Davidians, Lois Roden. The Israel trip is perhaps his first step in realizing his sinister, self-centered plans.

Gary’s Restlessness about the Rise of Far-Right Militia

At Arkansas, Gary Noesner raids the place of bank robber Wild Bill (also a supporter of right-wing militia groups). Apart from the many graffiti of KKK and Nazi Swastika symbols adorning the walls, Gary and his team find many fax machines and multiple copies of the 1978 novel Turner Diaries, written by white supremacist and far-right political activist William Luther Pierce. Gary prints from the fax machine to see a copy of the ” Taking Aim ” newsletter. It is a right-wing militia newsletter from Montana, which is more than 1,500 miles from Arkansas.

Gary Noesner fears that all the little pockets of right-wing militia groups around America are somehow organizing themselves for a purpose. It could be related to the ‘Payback’ Wild Bill, and his neo-Nazi girlfriend Carol Howe (Abbey Lee) talked about in the first episode. Gary’s team also finds out that this Arkansas outfit has subscribed to ‘Taking Aim’ from May 1993, i.e., a month after the Waco siege.

The Tall Guy from Elohim City

The action then shifts to Elohim City, Oklahoma. The head of security of the white supremacist community of Elohim City, Andy the German, has a cryptic conversation with a man named Timothy McVeigh (Alex Breaux). Andy makes it clear that no one in Elohim City can help Timothy in his ‘mission.’ At the same time, Andy stresses the need to find ‘friends’ to execute the mission. Timothy leaves the place and goes on a road journey to find a like-minded individual to wage war against the government. Many turn him down until Timothy thinks of Terry Nichols in Michigan.

Meanwhile, Gary digs into the Montana right-wing group from his Arkansas office. He calls Taking Aim, identifying himself as a small-time arms manufacturer in Oklahoma, and that he wants to advertise in their newsletter. Gary draws the conversation with the bragging man on the other end of the phone call to comprehend the newsletter’s reach. Soon, without much difficulty, Gary learns that Taking Aim is distributed to 43 plus states, and they have 50,000 readers per issue. Moreover, the man states that every six months, the subscribers to the newsletter double. Even if the man’s claims are slightly exaggerated, the numbers convey that far-right radical groups are ideologically binding themselves together.

The Riveting Cross-Examination

Dan Cogdell (Giovanni Ribisi), the defense attorney for the Branch Davidians, is seen at a diner, discussing their strategy with his fellow defense attorneys after Agent Ballesteros’ moving testimony. While the other trial lawyers suggest digging through Ballesteros’ personal history and discrediting him, Dan scoffs at the idea. He rightly mentions that their strategy shouldn’t be about proving that Ballesteros is a bad guy. But instead, the defense should emphasize the failure of ATF leadership on February 28, 1993. Therefore, during the next day of the trial, Dan cross-examines Agent Ballesteros to point out the multiple communication failures within ATF and between ATF and Branch Davidians.

Dan contests Ballesteros’ statement about jumping into the dog pit. He questions why the dogs in the pit weren’t alive. When the agent hesitates to answer, Dan points out the agent’s statement a few months earlier (to Texas Rangers), where he mentioned how the ATF agents first killed the dogs so they wouldn’t attack anyone during the raid. Through this information, Dan hints at how ATF might have fired first (at the dogs), causing the pandemonium.

Furthermore, Dan ripped apart the ATF leadership’s decision to allow a media van to capture their heroics but not a single ambulance as a backup if something went wrong. Dan brings the jury’s attention to the fact that ATF bought 100 Happy Meals from MacDonald so that it would look ‘cool’ on camera after the raid. Dan also asks Ballesteros what happened to the video footage. Without putting it into words, Dan hints at how ATF might have destroyed the video evidence since things didn’t go according to their plan.

A Common Enemy
Dan Cogdell cross-examining prosecution witness Agent Ballesteros

After a successful day at the trial, Dan is visited by a strange private investigator named Gordon Novel (Gary Cole). The man mentions that the Feds are hiding the bullet holes riddled main doors of the Branch Davidian compound. Dan counters that by telling how the wooden doors burned during the fire. Gordon says they were not made of wood but metal. Hearing that, Dan gets aggressive and dismisses Gordon as a ‘conspiracy theorist.’ Nevertheless, Dan takes Gordon’s card. On the next day of trial, to Dan’s surprise, Clive confirms that the double doors at the Branch Davidian compound are metal, not wooden.

Vernon Dodges a Bullet

In another flashback of the 1980s Mount Carmel Center, Lois Roden asks Vernon Howell to preach during Bible Study. Vernon takes up the opportunity to dazzle his listeners, which irks George – the son and alleged heir of Lois. Later, Vernon declares to fellow Branch Davidians, including Clive and Ruth, that he has another vision. In this vision, God apparently asked Vernon to take a wife. The Lord even mentioned a name, he claims. It is the teenage girl Rachel.

Lois is shocked by this and somehow reveals her secret affair with Vernon in the ensuing conversation. George is enraged by this information, and he starts firing at Vernon. Vernon isn’t harmed. But he takes some people with him and escapes on a bus, promising Ruth that God has destined him to return to Mount Carmel very soon. Though in real life, all these developments didn’t happen over a day and a single conversation, for the sake of dramatization, the creators have condensed the series of events into a single scene.

Waco: The Aftermath (2023) Episode 2 Ending Explained:

What Is the Sinister Plan of Timothy McVeigh? 

In Washington, D.C., Gary Noesner learns that the FBI has decided to focus more on foreign terrorism. A visibly frustrated Gary meets his superior and submits before him the newsletter and the possibility of payback for Waco. When Gary’s request to investigate the far-right groups is rebuffed, he mildly threatens that he won’t stay calm as he did after Waco if the Bureau lets another disaster happen despite warning them about it. Fortunately, Gary is given two weeks’ time to follow his lead and come up with solid evidence related to domestic terrorism activities. Gary then meets with Carol Howe – Wild Bill’s girl, who was also the reason for his arrest. He hopes that she can become an FBI informant and enter Elohim City. But a petrified Carol dismisses the dangerous idea.

The episode ends with Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols watching the Waco siege tape at Terry’s home. Timothy grimly states that what happened to the people at Waco might happen to themselves and their families. He inculcates a ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ narrative and emphasizes the need to make the government fear people like him so that another Waco doesn’t happen. Terry Nichols looks convinced and says, “Whatever it is you’re doing, I’m in.”

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Waco: The Aftermath (2023) Episode 2 Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes
Waco: The Aftermath (2023) Episode 2 Cast: Michael Shannon, Keean Johnson, Abbey Lee, Giovanni Ribisi, Alex Breaux, and Kali Rocha