David Koresh is popping up everywhere, amirght? We started off the year with two warring miniseries about the man and the siege of his compound in 1993. Biography also did a bit on him and his religious beliefs. What was originally presented as a takedown of a crazy gun-stockpiling messianic cult, but has steadily been revealed to have been a Class A clusterfuck has enough intrigue and general what-the-hell-edness to still be intriguing us 25 years later. Hell, what we know of the actual events hold enough horror and humanity gone wrong for a heck of a story, but Jerry Gordon takes it one step further than those dry (or at times sensationalistic to the point of silliness) documentaries by asking one simple question: What if David was right? What if the apocalypse was actually at the door when the ATF came knocking at his compound?
It’s a neat trick, especially when pulled off this slowly and smoothly. The key to making it work lies in the chosen POV of an angry teen non-believer. Cyrus and his friends just want out and, at first, the crackdown seems like the perfect opportunity. As things escalate, his plans began to fall apart. Friends and family are dying around him and David seems to be losing his grip on reality. It seems hopeless enough on its own before the Fallen make their appearance, leaving our intrepid youth to decide if they are willing to take the fate of the world on their shoulders.
Jerry shows a deft hand with characterization here, building people we come know know as intimately as our own family. Most of us will come to them, especially David, with the weight of or preconceptions, and Gordon knows this. One of his finest tricks is to ride these preconceptions before shifting them subtly, slowly, into something else. Even though there is no shying away from the more problematic aspects of the Branch Davidians, especially Koresh’s taking of child brides and fanaticism of some of his followers, it becomes impossible to keep them in such black and white terms.
This is one of the great things about taking a Speculative approach to history. By tweaking some small peace of the reality into something new, it opens up a new way of viewing the actual events. The firm irreality of this tale gives us an opportunity to look into the humanity of those people caught up in the turmoil and terror of a horrific situation from the safety of fiction and it hits like a freight train.
This tale is short and moves like lightning, hitting you in the face right from the outset. Though it starts off pretty grounded in the historical horrors, it shifts to some fine bits of crazy by the midpoint and dives dead into a more speculative form of horror. My only real problem is that the end feels unnecessarily abrupt and fell a bit flat on my palate. That certainly was not enough to keep me from enjoying the ride, though.