LAWMEN: BASS REEVES -- Another Solid Western by Taylor Sheridan with a Great Turn From David Oyelowo as the Protagonist
Review by Dan Skip Allen
Taylor Sheridan is a writer and director who has carved out a nice place for himself in Hollywood. He has his neo-Western trilogy — Hell or High Water, Sicario, and Wind River — with which fans and critics have been enamored. Because of the popularity of those three films, Sheridan was able to ink a deal with Paramount+ the streaming service for the big movie studio. His shows Yellowstone, 1883, and 1923, have brought the Western genre back. Lawmen: Bass Reeves is the latest show for Paramount+ under his banner. It's another show that does the Western genre justice.
Bass Reeves (David Oyelowo) was a member of the Confederate Army during the Civil War. He was also owned as property by George Reeves (Shea Wigham), his commanding officer. When things started to break down in Ply Ridge, Arkansas in 1862, these two defected and tried to save themselves. Once Bass realizes he might be in true danger at the hands of his master, he decides to put his own life in his hands. He makes a run for it, and his destiny is forever changed.
Oyelowo has played some terrific characters in his career thus far, with Martin Luther King Jr. among them. He has done a little bit of everything in his career, but he hasn't been in a Western yet… until now. He seems like he's at home on a horse and firing a pistol. This is a character with a lot of nuance. He is trying to navigate a world of racism that hates Black men and women. If he said the wrong thing or moved in the wrong way in the presence of certain men or women, he could be shot dead. He also has a family he has to think about, which is very important to him.
As far as Westerns go, Sheridan and company know their way around this genre. Lawmen: Bass Reeves is a very well-done series thus far, from the four of the eight episodes critics were provided. The show is very much as good as any Western series I've seen. It's on par with the other series from Sheridan — even though it's not connected to the Sheridan shared universe of the Dutton Family.
As mentioned, the supporting cast is fantastic in this show. Each episode has a few cast members that specifically add to the story in each episode. Dennis Quaid plays Sherill Lynn, another lawman who reluctantly teams with Reeves. They form an uneasy bond as friends and colleagues, which gets Reeves to go to apply to be a Sheriff himself. Garrett Hedlund plays Garrett Montgomery, another man labeled a posse man who helps lawmen get bounties of wanted criminals. He has an interesting personality and reluctantly teams with Reeves to chase a big bounty they learned about from a prisoner of theirs, Billy Crowe (Forrest Goodluck). He also meets Widow Dolliver (Dale Dickey), the mother of two wanted felons in episode four.
Along with these men I mentioned, the show features a few women who feature prominently in the series. Lauren E. Banks plays Jenny, Reeves's wife, who is like his conscience in a way. He leans on her for advice and comfort. Their daughter Sally is played by Demi Singleton from King Richard fame. She has her own arc in the series. As her father is out catching bad guys, she has been smitten by a young man who comes around and goes to their church. That's what is one of the good things about this series: it develops its supporting characters nicely.
Lawmen: Bass Reeves is based on a real man — the first Black Deputy Sheriff East of the Mississippi River. His territory was mainly Arkansas and Texas, but he lived much further North away from his work. His work occasionally would come to his home. Not knowing about this man was very interesting to me. I'm a man who loves history and learning about new things and people from the past. I have enjoyed getting to learn about this man and this time in American history. He's a fascinating character, which is inspiring for other Black men and women to follow in his footsteps in the future.
I love the look of this series. The cinematography shows a lot of scenes of mountains and plains and everything in between. Forest, river, and desert all look amazing, as shown by the cameras weirded by all the cinematographers in the show and directed by each man or woman impeccably. This series has multiple directors, but they all have the same vision creator and writer Sheridan is looking for as part of his vision for the show.
Lawmen: Bass Reeves is the latest series from Taylor Sheridan to the streaming service Paramount+ after such hits as Lioness, Tulsa King, and Mayor of Kingstown. Sheridan knows how to write a leading man, and Oyelowo is more than capable of being just that. He has a great career going right now, and this character and series adds to that. This is a Western series based on a real man, and as such it is a very good show. This genre has come back in recent years thanks to people like Sheridan and Kevin Costner. Hopefully, people give this different twist on the Western genre a chance, like I did. It was worth it in every way possible. I loved this show thus far.
Lawmen: Bass Reeves streams on Paramount+ beginning November 3 with two episodes, with new episodes streaming subsequent Sundays. Four out of eight episodes reviewed.