Lawmen: Bass Reeves – Season 1 Episode 1 Recap & Review

Part I

Lawmen: Bass Reeves Episode 1 starts in Pea Ridge, Arkansas in March 1862, with the 11th Texas Cavalry regiment of the Confederate Army riding through the woods. Bass Reeves is riding with slave owner, Major George Reeves, when they are attacked by Union soldiers. Major Reeves hands Bass a rifle and orders him to fire at Union soldiers while following him. 

They charge across an open field towards the union soldiers, firing at them. A group of Native Americans riding with Confederate soldiers arrives. All hell breaks loose, and Bass watches on as a Confederate soldier scalps a Union soldier. 

Bass is told by a Union prisoner that he’s fighting for the wrong side, but Bass tells him he’d rather be shot in the face than in the back. Bass waits as the officer discusses the battle, revealing the results weren’t favourable for the Confederacy. General Earl Van Dorn still remains confident, even when Major Reeves confronts him and points out a supply train hasn’t arrived and lays fault at Van Dorn for this. 

Van Dorn dismisses Major Reeves and orders Bass to pack their things up and head home. On the way back, Major Reeves reminds Bass of his status as a slave, and even tells him black people don’t go to heaven. 

They arrive at Reeves’ estate, and Bass reunites with his love, Jennie. Major Reeves interrupts the union and demands Bass return to the big house. Major Reeves offers Bass a chance at freedom if he beats him at cards. However, Major Reeves cheats at cards, which starts a fight between them, with Major Reeves ending up unconscious. Bass takes his gun and finds Jennie, and she tells him to take a horse and leave to avoid certain death by hanging. He escapes the estate.

The story picks up in the Indian Territory, and Bass is in a bad way. He’s sick, starving and awakened by a gunshot. A woman asks him if he’s a Seminole, and he responds that he’s a runaway before passing out. 

He wakes up in a home, and finds the strength to get up and find the woman. Her name is Sara Jumper, and she doesn’t want him there but says he can stay for now if he helps on the farm. During dinner, she explains that the Seminole fought in Florida for freedom and refused to surrender, leading to them living in the area. Her husband died in the war so their boy, Curtis, would never end up in chains. Bass bonds with the boy as he helps around the farm.

It’s now 1865, and Bass is part of Sara and Curtis’ family. Bass and Curtis are at the Turkey Creek trading post picking up supplies when Union soldiers arrive and ask Bass to explain to the trading post owner what he needs. Bass helps to load the wagon, and discovers that it holds Confederate prisoners, including Major Easu Pierce, who was the one who scalped the man in the battle of Pea Ridge. He also learns that the Union army won the war, and when he tells Pierce the name of the trading post, things take a turn for the worse. He orders Bass to take Curtis and leave. Before they can escape, Confederate soldiers turn up and begin shooting. Curtis grabs a rifle, points it at Pierce and tells him to make the shooting stop. Pierce shoots the boy and flees the scene. 

Bass is devastated, taking Curtis’ dead body back home and burying him with Sara. She tells him to take the horse and return to Jennie. Bass does this, and in July 1865, he is back in Grayson County, Texas, at the Reeves estate. The slave quarters are empty, and he encounters Mrs. Rachel Reeves, who informs him that George isn’t there, as he’s trying to reclaim what he lost in the war. 

Bass heads to Fort Smith, Arkansas, in search of Jennie. He finds her hanging up laundry with a little girl called Sally. Later on, Jenny and Sally see Bass outside a store, where he tells her he hopes her man is treating her right, assuming she has a man. Jennie tells Bass that he is her man, and tells him Sally is his daughter. They go back to Jennie’s house, and Bass gets to know his child. 

The Episode Review

Taylor Sheridan is back with yet another show at Paramount +, and this one sees David Oyelowo take the lead role of Bass Reeves, a slave turned lawman in the west of Mississippi. The show is the first of an anthology set to feature other lawmen and outlaws through history.

Episode One begins Bass Reeves’ story as he navigates life as a slave in the 1860s. There’s a couple of time jumps in the first episode, but they feel necessary to give the background to his story and set up what’s to come. Overall, this is a really strong episode in what could be another hit for Sheridan and Paramount.


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