The show is wasting no time getting Bass Reeves on the road toward his incredible record of 3,000 outlaws captured.
With that kind of history, wasting time won’t get us very far in the life of this duty-bound lawman.
Lawmen: Bass Reeves Season 1 Episode 3 saw Bass sworn in by Judge Parker as a Deputy U.S. Marshal, and his first mission came quickly.
We do have to face the reality that the series is only eight episodes in length, and from the pace so far, it’s likely to be a mere preamble to the greatness the real-life man achieved.
Still, it’s a story worth telling, and watching a man of his caliber struggle with and work within a system that doesn’t always get it right is fascinating.
Just like Bass Reeves, Judge Isaac Parker is a histories fellow. He was a member of the US House of Representatives appointe4d by Ulysses S. Grant. That sounds like a story in itself.
During his tenure, he tried 13,490 cases ending with over 8,500 convictions (either by a guilty plea or jury trial). Nicknamed the” Hanging Judge,” Parker sentenced 160 people to death, and 79 of those were executed.
Given the times and that shootouts were still the norm, being called the Hanging Judge for 79 executions out that incredible number of convictions, but I can’t imagine a judge today would retain their seat if they had the same record.
Judge Parker: I was encouraged to hire you because of the color of your skin. Because the Indians would listen to someone like you. May be true, but that’s not why I called you in. I need a man with a good gun and a straight spine. You up for the task?
Bass: I wouldn’t be sitting here in my Sunday best if I wasn’t.
Judge Parker: It’s hard work. It exacts a toll. Few men survive long enough to be good at it. And those that do end up like Sherrill Lynn.
Bass: I ain’t never goin’ to be Sherrill Lynn.
Judge Parker: Well, let’s make it official. May I? [asks for Bass’s bible] Oh. Your good book’s got stories of its own.
Bass: That it does.
Judge Parker: Well, you’ll have to enlighten me one of these days.
It says a lot about him that he had the wherewithal to appoint the first Black man to the U.S. Marshal service, even if it was race that gave him the notion.
Our character on Lawmen: Bass Reeves Season 1 admitted as much, but he saw beyond skin color with the appointment. Bass’s marksmanship sets him above the competition, and his attitude and demeanor put him miles away from his contemporaries.
Judge Parker saw that, and you have to wonder if he was a little worried about the weight of the badge on Bass’s heart.
Judge Parker: Repeat after me. I, Bass Reeves, do solemnly swear.
Bass: I, Bass Reeves, do solemnly swear
Judge Parker: that I will faithfully execute
Bass: That I will faithfully execute
Judge Parker: all lawful precepts directed to the Marshal of the United States
Bass: all lawful precepts directed to the Marshal of the United States
Judge Parker: for the Western District of Arkansas
Bass: for the Western District of Arkansas
Judge Parker: without malice or partiality
Bass: without malice or partiality
Judge Parker: perform the duties of Deputy Marshal
Bass: perform the duties of Deputy Marshal
Judge Parker: and take only my lawful fees
Bass: and take only my lawful fees
Judge Parker: so help me, God.
Bass: so help me, God.
Judge Parker: You have miles to ride. Godspeed the horses.
We witnessed Bass in action already. He’s got skills that other men would envy. Sure, he can shoot like nobody’s business, but more importantly, he thinks before he reacts — if he can.
There was no formal training for Bass’s new role for the Federal Government outside of his one time in the field with Sherrill Lynn. He showed Sherrill a thing or two, but it hardly prepared him for leaping from Judge Parker’s office and onto the saddle in search of his first outlaw.
Bass didn’t need the training. He could train others with the limited knowledge he has.
He quickly took up with a man named Garrett offering services as Bass’s posse man, but it was really the posse man that needed the help.
You have to wonder what was going through the man’s head when Bass ran roughshod over the gamblers to get information. His excellent strategy payed off, and Garrett should have realized right then it made sense to hitch his wagon to the fresh lawman.
As we know in Taylor Sheridan productions, cast members are used to great ends, Garrett was played by Tulsa King’s Garrett Hedund. Mahybe it’s mandatory that everybody involved with a Sheridan production gets into the saddle at least once.
The man does own a large ranch, after all. It seems like he enjoys introducing others to the joy that side of life offers.
Unfortunately, some men don’t know how to call quits on their unsavory ways, so before the day was done, Garrett had been killed, ridiculously siding with the bad guys, even if only in spirit, with the hope he might score big from the bounty Bass hoped to recover.
A more important character may step into Garrett’s boots. Did we just meet the show’s version of Tonto from The Lone Ranger?
Billy Crow is a petty criminal with delusions of grandeur. He fancies himself a looker, and he relies on his looks for upward mobility.
Bass and Garrett found him working with the Underhill Gang, who had just knocked off a stage coach. Kudos to another casting coup, as Mabel Underwood is portrayed by the super talented Paula Malcomson, who often finds herself in stellar dramas.
It seems his conceit is what drove Billy to a life of crime. What better way for a handsome young Native American man to be seen?
But as he watched Bass at work, you could see the wheels turning in his head. Bass is someone who, like him, doesn’t wholly fit into the burgeoning society as it finds a new path out of the past, but who has found a place of respect in the community.
That’s admirable no matter how you look at it, and I can’t help but wonder if Billy Crow will soon be working side by side with Bass. The real Bass Reeves did partner with a Native American, but finding his name has been a challenge.
Billy’s boots fit the scenario, and he’s impressionable. When someone is eager to change their lot in life, that nature can ring the bell of change. I’ll be surprised if he’s not soon stepping in where Garrett failed.
Keep your current path; this your fate, Billy Crow. Empty boots strung up on a lawman’s saddle.
It was an exiting first assignment for Bass, and he was rewarded greatly with the arrival of his child.
Jennie has begun teaching Sally the ways of womanhood, asking her to help more with the family while she attends to the baby. It was an easy disucssion that was playful and confident.
It’s so refreshing to see a child who is willing to step in without a fuss — not that there might not be a fuss soon. Sally has a suitor in young Arthur. The two have connected quickly, and her parents already approve.
Sally Reeves is lucky. Her parents love and respect her as much as they do each other, and they’ll guide her well into her future.
You’re blessed with a lot of love in your life. Keep a hold of it.
Arthur [to Sally]
And can we give a round of applause to Jennie? Her confidence in giving birth was also a welcome reprieve from so many times when a woman panicks and looks to those around her to take command of the situation.
The Reeves family knows themselves well. They lean on each other for support rather than seeing outside help, but they don’t brush away a hand when it’s offered, either.
There is so much to enjoy here and much to admire. It makes you want to seek out everyting you can about Bass Reeves and his history. Have you taken that step yet?
I’d love to know what you’re enjoying about the show so far.
If you dropped by just for the Lawmen: Bass Reeves Season 1 Episode 3 recap, you can click right there for the down and dirty story.
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Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on X and email her here at TV Fanatic.