Lawmen: Bass Reeves Review 2023 Tv Show Series Cast Crew Online
There is a challenge, amounting virtually to a moral responsibility, when making a drama set in the time of the American enslavement of Black people. That is: to find a way of bringing home its fundamental horror to an audience now long accustomed to depictions of it.
Lawmen: Bass Reeves, which begins in Arkansas in 1862, amid the American civil war, finds it in a scene set round a card table. Bass (David Oyelowo, who co-produces as well as stars) and his enslaver, George Reeves (Shea Whigham), are playing for his freedom. This chance, this flip of a card, is Bass’s reward for acquitting himself heroically in the Confederate army, to which he was effectively conscripted when George enlisted.
The scene combines terrible tension – Bass is shaking and almost weeping – and an even more terrible evocation of what it means for another person to have dominion over you. It captures how appallingly unjust and inhumane that is and makes vivid the reality – it’s based on a true story – of living in a country built on that extraordinary foundation.
The outcome of that game means that Bass must flee the state in fear of his life, leaving his wife, Jennie (Lauren E Banks, who has such presence that she is almost hard to watch), and seeking refuge in Native American territory. He is taken in by Sara (Margot Bingham), a Seminole woman whose husband was killed in the war, and her son, Curtis (Riley Looc). The Seminole nation “never surrendered, never made a worthless treaty”, and so is still – technically, at least – free.
But Lawmen is a drama designed to interrogate at every turn what liberty means for colonised or enslaved people. Bass lives there peacefully for a few years, picking up the language and working occasionally as a translator between storekeepers and visitors to the local trading post. There he meets a former soldier, now a prisoner, from his Confederate days and learns that the Union won – that emancipation has formally arrived. Hard on the heels come events that prove how worthless formal triumphs can be. Bass must move on again.
A decade or so later, as a father of many and a farmer beset by bad harvests, he shows us how poverty makes a man unfree, regardless of the heavily caveated gains of Reconstruction. When a US marshal, Sherrill Lynn (Dennis Quaid), offers him a job helping to track down Native American outlaws, he must take it for his family’s sake.