We review the new Paramount+ series Lawmen Bass Reeves and the article does not contain spoilers.
With Lawmen Bass Reeves, Taylor Sheridan has gone from being one of the most daring voices in film to the ultimate provider of “dad” television across your streaming waves. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The man responsible for Paramount+ franchises such as Yellowstone franchises, The Mayor of Kingstown, Special Ops: Lioness, and Tulsa King has carved a very profitable niche in the past decade.
Lawmen Bass Reeves, like 1883 and 1923, is a homage to the golden age of classic Westerns. Led by a remarkable performance from its star David Oyelowo and Sheridan’s socially conscious writing, this will surely be another hit for Paramount+. Lawmen Bass Reeves is a marriage of modern dad television that people crave.
Paramount+ series Lawmen Bass Reeves Season 1 Review and Plot Summary
Bass Reeves (Oyelowo) was a legendary lawman but a former enslaved black man who lived most of his life in the state of Arkansas. However, before that, he followed his master, Colonel George Reeves (Shea Whigham), into battle, fighting for the Confederacy. (Yes, this is where Bass’s last name came from.) Bass earns the respect of his master and Esau Pierce (Barry Pepper). Even though he’s fighting for the South, Reeves tells his fellow black man that he’d rather get shot in the face than in the back.
After surviving the battle, in a powerful scene, Bass goes on the run after beating his master for cheating him in a card game with his freedom at stake. Leaving the Reeves home was not an easy decision for Bass. That’s because he left his love, Lauren (City on a Hill’s Jennie Reeves), behind for the simple reason he would have been hanged if he had stayed behind. Bass travelers to Florida, known as an indigenous territory, but his past catches up with him.
From there, Reeves tries to find peace in farming, but he needs the money for his family. He is seen as useful because of his knowledge of various indigenous languages. Bass is brought along on a trip with the Marshal Service. Collaborating with Sherill Lynn (Dennis Quaid) makes Reeves question if the men holding a badge or any better than the criminals they are chasing. However, Bass performs so well at the job that a local judge (Donald Sutherland) swears Reeves in as a U.S. Marshal.
David Oyelowo gives a remarkable performance in the Paramount+ series Lawmen Bass Reeves.
Lawmen Bass Reeves is based on the Sidney Thompson books Follow the Angels, Follow the Doves: The Bass Reeves Trilogy, Book One, and Hell on the Border: The Bass Reeves Trilogy, Book Two. This is an inherently thought-provoking story. That’s because most Westerns made in the “Golden Age” of the genre, and even today, refuse to tell the story of one of the first black men in law enforcement at the time.
The first four episodes were made available for critics. Executive produced by Sheridan, written and directed by Chad Feehan (Ray Donovan), the series is entertaining and at its best when David Oyelowo explores the atrocities of how non-white citizens are treated in post-Civil War America.
The slow tears that slowly trickle down Oyelowos’ cheeks are deeply felt at the prospect of being free. So is the empathy he has for others. For example, in a raw scene of a young black teenager, practically a child, who pushed over a white man when stealing some food because he was starving.
While seeing the treatment through the Bass Reeve’s eyes, the series so far hardly explores how much racism and bigotry Reeves suffered after being sworn in as a lawman. Surely, he would have received his share of bigotry from the men he arrested. Not to mention the ones he would now rub shoulders with.
Is the Paramount+ series Lawmen Bass Reeves worth watching?
The sole reason to watch Lawmen Bass Reeves is for the powerful and poignant David Oyelowo performance. The acclaimed British actor, so good in Selma and the little-seen Don’t Let Go, is simply brilliant in the role here. Tender, tough, and remarkably human, Oyelowo transcends the Western trope that comes with the genre by being a fully three-dimensional character.
Along with a stellar cast of guest stars like Sutherland, Quaid, Pepper, Whigham, and Garrett Hedlund, Lawmen Bass Reeves is another fine addition to the Paramount+ “dad” television roster.
The Paramount+ series Lawmen Bass Reeves premieres on November 5th, 2023.