Waco: The Aftermath (2023) Episode 3 Recap & Ending Explained: Waco: The Aftermath – developed by John Erick Dowdle and Drew Dowdle – is a five-part limited series and a sequel to the 2018 limited series Waco. While Waco detailed the 51-day stand-off between members of the religious movement Branch Davidians and the Federal Agents, the sequel, as the title suggests, looks at the dangerous repercussions provoked by the deadly siege. With the third episode, ‘The Gospel According to Livingstone Fagan,’ we are more than halfway into the miniseries. If there’s one primary criticism that can be directed at Waco: The Aftermath, it’s the fact that it doesn’t have a solid source material.
The six-part Waco (2018), though heavily dramatized the 1993 siege at Mount Carmel Center, was based on two source materials, which covered the vital perspectives of both Branch Davidians and the FBI agents. Despite knowing the tragic outcome of the 51-day siege, we received some interesting insights about the people from both sides. However, Waco: The Aftermath seems to be stretching the thin plot line to fill in the five episodes. In fact, the sequel series has multiple viewpoints, unlike the dual perspective in Waco (2018). Yet, so far, it doesn’t seem to offer a distinct or thrilling take on any of the plot lines: from David Koresh’s past to the trial of surviving Branch Davidians and Gary’s mission to unveil the right-wing militia’s sinister plans.
As the episode title indicates, we follow the past and present of the Branch Davidian defendant, Livingstone Fagan (Michael Luwoye), who is on trial for conspiracy charges. In the parallel storyline involving FBI chief hostage negotiator Gary Noesner (Michael Shannon), very little progress is made in discovering Elohim City members’ intentions. Now let’s get into the spoiler-filled explanation of what unfolded in episode 3 of Waco: The Aftermath.
Waco: The Aftermath (2023) Episode 3 Recap:
The Obstinacy of a Biblical Scholar
Episode 3, ‘The Gospel According to Livingstone Fagan’ opens at the San Antonio Federal Prison as Livingstone reminisces about the first time he encountered Vernon Howell, aka David Koresh (Keean Johnson), in 1986 at New Bold College, Nottingham, UK. He comes across David preaching to a few people in a large hall about the meaning of the word ‘Messiah.’ They both briefly engage in a debate on what the word ‘Messiah’ means. While Vernon mentions that dozens of ‘Messiahs’ exist in the Old Testament, Fagan counters by saying there’s only mention of two ‘Messiahs’ in the scriptures in the truest sense.
According to this theory, two Messiahs are expected to rise before the beginning of God’s reign. While one Messiah is associated with the marginalized and the poor, the other is likely to hail from the lineage of King David. It’s the theory Vernon believed and interpreted to his convenience and proposed to his followers that he himself is the ‘Messiah’ who will open up the seven seals. Vernon instantly likes Livingstone. He appreciates the scholar’s knowledge and his obstinate nature.
Livingstone also feels like having met a kindred script; a man more invested in the scriptures than him. Naturally, Vernon invites Livingstone to visit him and his followers in Texas. Though initially skeptical but charmed by Vernon’s words, Livingstone visits the makeshift campus of the Branch Davidians in Texas – the ones who ran away from Mount Carmel Center. Vernon calls it ‘New Palestine. Soon, the two are joined by Clive Doyle (John Hoogenakker) with the news that Lois Roden (J Smith-Cameron) has accepted their invitation for ‘Passover Dinner.’
Livingstone Fagan’s thoughts about the past are disrupted in the present by a guard calling him for a strip search before going for exercise in the yard. Livingstone remains stubborn and refuses to be strip searched and exercise in the yard. The prisoner’s glare indicates that his obstinacy will also present a problem in his upcoming trial.
How to Tackle an ATF Agent’s Witness Statement?
The Branch Davidians’ defense lawyers, including Dan Cogdell (Giovanni Ribisi) and Rocket Rosen (Matthew Manelo), as usual, meet at the bar to discuss their strategies for cross-examining an ATF agent named, Jamie Helliver’s (Bourke Floyd) witness testimony. Rocket is obviously distressed since Helliver is going to identify his client, Livingstone as the guy who shot him on the day ATF agents went to serve the search warrant. While Helliver has said that three guys – two white and one black – took a shot at him, it was Livingstone who injured him.
Livingstone’s lawyer Rocket wonders if he should call out the Agent’s racial bias since he couldn’t identify the two whites who aimed their guns at him, but he recognized the only surviving black member of the Branch Davidians. Dan warns Rocket that they won’t win the case by portraying the ATF as racist, especially in a Texan court. Dan feels they need something that will plant some doubt on the jury’s mind regarding Helliver’s testimony. First, Rocket and Dan visit Livingstone at the prison, who believes he will be imprisoned irrespective of putting up a strong defense.
The obstinate Livingstone equates his hopeless situation to the beheading of St. Paul by the Romans – the apostle who spread the word of Christ. Dan, however, tries to beat Livingstone by challenging his perception. He asks Livingstone, ‘Didn’t St. Paul appeal his case to Caesar?’ Dan says St.Paul spread the word of Chris despite his two-year imprisonment before attaining martyrdom, i.e., the Apostles also played the legal game. Convinced by Dan’s line of argument, Livingstone reveals that he wasn’t even in the part of the building where Agent Helliver says he was shot. He says he was with the other defendant Clive Doyle at that time.
Unfortunately, Judge Walter Smith (David Costabile) denies the motion to allow a co-defendant to give an alibi. When Rocket says there’s precedent for such things, the Jusge emphasizes that it’s not going to happen in this case, in his courtroom.
Vernon Declares His Intentions
As arranged, Lois Roden and Ruth Riddle (Kali Rocha) come to the Passover dinner at Vernon’s place. Vernon heartily embraces Lois, although Lois is taken aback by seeing Vernon’s pregnant wife, Rachel (she was only 14 years old at the time of their marriage). At the dining table, Vernon preaches about Moses and the Promised Land. He equates their life to the wandering Jews searching for the Promised Land. This prompts Lois to happily declare that Vernon and his followers are invited back to Mount Carmel Center to live under her guidance.
While Vernon says he wants to return to Mount Carmel, he doesn’t want to live ‘under the rule of Pharaoh.’ Then, he starts condemning the way Lois runs the center at Mount Carmel and says that God has left the place. Vernon says he will surely return to the center, but only when God asks him to. In his rant, Vernon also hints at his status as a ‘messiah,’ which is only understood by Livingstone. An enraged Lois immediately leaves the place, and Ruth’s decision to stay with Vernon’s group embitters Lois more.
Is Gordon Novel a Reliable Man?
Since the Judge denies their motion to take Clive’s alibi statement, Dan and Rocket look for other options to break Agent Helliver’s upcoming witness testimony. Dan considers relying on the private investigator and ex-CIA, Gordon Novel (Gary Cole). Though the man comes across as wacky, Gordon was actually right about the metal doors at the Branch Davidian compound (in the last episode). Hence, they consider approaching Gordon to find something about Helliver. However, the meeting doesn’t go well as planned since the lawyers discover that Gordon holds a grudge against ATF. Gordon was arrested four times for fire-bombing the Federation of Churches building.
Nevertheless, on the day of Helliver’s appearance in the courtroom, Gordon provides a document from the Texas Ranger office regarding Helliver’s ID lineup to identify his shooters. In the document’s margins, the investigator mentions that the Agent is unsure if he recognized Livingstone from the shootout or TV. Rocket also emphasizes the fact that the ID line-up happened five months after the shootout. Unfortunately, Rocket can’t stop himself from going against the agent and ATF, calling out the man and the organization he belongs to as ‘racist.’
Gary Digs Further into Elohim City
At the FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., Gary Noesner investigates Elohim City’s possible involvement in the plans of a ‘Payback’ that was hinted at by the bank robber Wild Bill. While reviewing the files on Elohim CIty’s founder, Robert ‘Pappy’ Grant Millar (Paul Dillon), Gary comes across the name Richard Snell, a White Supremacist on death row for killing a pawnshop owner he believed to be Jewish, and a black Arkansas State Trooper. Pappy Millar often visits Snell at the prison.
Gary goes to Arkansas to visit the 64-year-old Snell (Chip Carriere). Snell says that he is sentenced to die on April 19, 1995 – on the second anniversary of the tragic day at the Waco siege. Snell also rants that Gary and the FBI will understand the significance of April 19 as they realize ‘how they [Elohim City] punch back.’ Figuring out that there’s no use in listening to Snell, Gary leaves him, only to ponder over Snell’s words ‘last meal’ and ‘punch back.’ The guard says that Richard Snell hasn’t asked for a last meal but only a TV to watch the news on April 19th.
The Livingstone storyline in the 3rd episode ends with the imprisoned man recalling the day George Roden attacked Vernon after the death of his mother, Lois Roden. It was the day Livingstone thought of leaving the place, unsettled by Vernon’s claim that he is the ‘Messiah.’ Yet Vernon convinces Livingstone to stay and follow him. In the darkness of his cell, Livingstone Fagan rants like a madman, repeating: ‘David is the Messiah.’
Waco: The Aftermath (2023) Episode 3 Ending Explained:
Can Carol Provide the Crucial Intel on Elohim City?
Since the meeting with Richard Snell only elevated the sense of foreboding rather than providing a clear-cut answer, Gary approaches Carol Howe (Abbey Lee) again despite her rejecting his offer to become an FBI informant. Meanwhile, we see Timothy McVeigh (Alex Breaux) and Terry Nichols surveying the FBI building in Oklahoma City.
Gary asks Carol to infiltrate Elohim City to at least learn about what they are trying to do on April 19th. Carol remembers that Pappy Millar has mentioned the date of the last time she was with Wild Bill in Elohim City. But she strongly rejects his idea of establishing contact with the Elohim City residents. Nevertheless, Carol’s mind changes when Gary makes her an offer she can’t refuse: money.
Carol wears a wire and Gary briefs about the plan. Under the pretense of buying drugs at a party, she must carefully connect with the few Elohim City residents partying there. Her identity as Wild Bill’s girl can be helpful, but Gary repeatedly warns her about the dangers of this plan. The idea is just to get drugs and get an invite to Elohim City at a later date. Before going to the party, Carol gives Gary a letter to give it to her parents in case she doesn’t make it.
At the party, Carol improvises on the spot after coming across Becca (Giorgia Whigham). Though Becca initially doesn’t recognize Carol, she later recalls her as the ‘crazy girl.’ She gets the drugs from Becca. Furthermore, Carol casually says that she needs to get her belongings from Wild Bill’s place in Elohim City. Since the security is tight at the place, she asks Becca’s help to get inside. Subsequently, an altercation between two drunk men leads to gun firing. The partying people immediately vacate the premises, and Carol runs away with Becca and gets in her car.
Becca likes the easygoing personality of Carol, and they are en route to Elohim City. During the drive, Carol wonders if she can crash at Becca’s trailer for a couple of days. Soon, they reach Elohim City and come across two security checkpoints. At the second checkpoint, Becca says they will be searched. Upon hearing this, Carol coolly picks a cigarette from the pack and furtively puts inside the empty pack the device she is wearing. When the car stops at the second checkpoint, Carol gets out of the car and throws away the cigarette pack in a matter-of-fact manner.
After getting searched, Carol greets Pappy Millar and his two Dobermanns and gets inside Elohim City. We have to wait for the next episode and see the kind of information Carol unearths from there, although it’s already too late to avert the impending disaster.