Westerns, if done right, are great to watch. There have been some great Western shows over the years that work fantastically well in the long format. In fact, the template of the Westerns has also been seen in shows like Breaking Bad and Westworld, where the story doesn’t seem to lend itself naturally to the genre. It is the landscape of the ‘Wild West’ that lends itself organically to long-form television, and there have been shows like Deadwood and Lonesome Dove to prove that point. With great writing, such a series can be more than a satisfying watch. Sometimes, they become some of the greatest shows ever. Lawmen: Bass Reeves, the latest Paramount+ original, stars David Oyelowo, Dennis Quaid, and Barry Pepper, among other stars, and it chronicles the life of the legendary officer Bass Reeves, who became the first African American Deputy U.S. Marshall. The Wild West’s lawlessness and sheer potential for chaos become the background of the show, and the first episode sets high expectations as to how great the show will be and how Bass Reeves, a former slave, will turn things around, ultimately holding a position of power.
Was Bass A Coward?
The episode is a slow burn, with the intention of taking us back to a time where the only exciting thing for men was to kill or get killed in battle. Bass Reeves, a slave of Major George Reeves, was to die by his side in his battle against the Union. George was a suicidal officer in the Eleventh Texas Cavalry, and he would have led everyone to a premature demise. Bass was not a deserter, but a courageous man. He was hesitant in the battle, only because George wasn’t retreating, even though imminent death awaited the troop. But Bass carried on and followed his master, eventually getting help from the 1st Cherokee Mounted Rifles. George had his problems with his superiors but was pleased with Bass. Back at Reeves’ residence, Bass saw his wife Jennie, someone he loved with all his heart and might have thought he would never get to see again after the battle. But he had survived, and he got another chance to be with his wife. The stay wasn’t going to last, as Bass attacked George after he saw George cheating him in a card game. Bass was a firm believer in the Bible, and cheating was intolerable to him. Rage took over him, and he beat George to a pulp. The punishment for this was to be hanged in public, and Bass was fully aware of that. Yet he had to be persuaded by Jennie to run away and find his way back to her when things had cooled down.
How Did Bass Escape?
Death was looming over Bass again. Nobody knew that he had left George for dead, yet. But he had taken his gun, and when he left the Reeves estate, he was essentially a fugitive. Leaving Jennie behind, he rode George’s horse barefoot and was intercepted by three men. They looked like they were lawmen, but Bass had to shoot them once they started to suspect that he was absconding. He crossed the Red River, getting over to the Indian Territory, where there was a chance that he might not get caught. The Native Americans had their own laws, and they didn’t keep slaves. So, Bass, toiling hard to get to a sanctuary, found himself in a barren land where food was scarce and he would die of dehydration if not from a white man’s bullet.
How Did Bass Survive?
Luck favors the brave, and Bass, on the verge of dying from starvation, received help when Sara, a local of the Seminole Nation, discovered him whispering for water. If it hadn’t been for Sara’s hospitality, he would never have survived. It isn’t clear for how long he stayed with Sara and her son, but it was ample time for him to fully recover. Bass became like a Seminole himself and even caught on with their language. Goofing around with Sara’s son, he helped with the house chores, and it seemed that he had forgotten about Jennie. A new life had taken over, but soon Bass’ past caught up with him.
Why Did Bass Return?
At Turney Creek Trading Post, Bass was out with Sara’s son to bring home the ration for the month. The Union officers made a pit stop there to fill their grain stores. They were carrying prisoners, and perhaps it was the last stop before they would find food again for miles. Bass didn’t get perturbed seeing the Union guys, as they were against slavery, but white men were trouble in general. When he helped them put the grain sacks in one of the carriages, he saw Esau Pierce, the leader of the Cherokee Mounted Rifles, in handcuffs. Esau remembered him from the days when he was with George. Bass grew nervous, as perhaps he might know about how he beat up George and had escaped. But he was in handcuffs; what could have gone wrong? In actuality, Esau knew his men were coming in to attack the Union outfit, and soon there were bullets flying around, and it was utter chaos all around. Bass tried saving Sara’s son, but Esau shot him after the kid tried to point a gun at him. Esau escaped and Sara’s son died on the spot. Bass, distraught, had to inform Sara about this tragedy.
The Seminoles had saved Bass’ life, and he had brought them bad luck. He knew at that point that it was time to return. He returned to Arkansas and visited George’s estate; risking being caught. He wanted to know where Jennie was, but she was nowhere to be found. George’s wife, Rachel, saw Bass and told him that George had survived and left the battleground for a career in politics. He feared Rachel would inform the lawmen about Bass’ return, but she understood why Bass had done what he had done. She understood that he had left his wife behind and was now looking for her; hence, she gave him Jennie’s address. Bass looked for her and saw her with a little girl. Thinking that she might have married, he confronted her and asked about her husband. As it turns out, Jennie was pregnant when Bass escaped, and the little girl was Bass’ daughter. He had reunited with his family, but his future was uncertain. What he would do next in the land of lawlessness would define his character, but at least he had Jennie with him, for now. George was alive and he would surely get to know about Bass’ return. Death would trail Bass again, soon.