Lawmen: Bass Reeves Episode 4 review: Bass’ best outing yet

Jasmine Valentine
David Oyelowo in Lawmen: Bass Reeves, 1883 Season 2Paramount+

Halfway through its series, Lawmen: Bass Reeves has mostly been struggling with the dilemma of how to tell a truly important story. Should it veer toward seriously educational or downright entertaining? Finally, Episode 4 has proved it can have both.

In Episodes 1-3, Bass (David Oyelowo) has had difficulty finding his footing on screen. What starts off as a risk in order to save his life simmers down into what translates into forgettable fictional drama. By the end of the third outing, things were falling by the wayside. As if by magic, the creators themselves have picked up on this, transporting Bass’ journey two years into the future.

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Like previously, no explanation is given as to why we’ve jumped ahead in time, or what happened while Bass was building his legacy offscreen. However, viewers have all the details they really need in the form of The Lone Ranger commandeering the law and the drama that comes with it. The stakes have been raised, and it’s about time.

With two years of experience as a U.S. Deputy Marshal under his sleeve, the law of the land has become bigger than just Bass. Assembling a small team of devout followers – including one Billy Crow (Forrest Goodluck) – Bass is able to dig deeper into what made the Wild West so unruly, alongside why the gun-toting lawman was partial to a misstep or two. Though the result doesn’t make for groundbreaking television, it’s a significant and much-needed improvement.

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New environments, new perspectives

Lawmen: Bass Reeves Episode 4 has jumped forward in time by 2 years, meaning that there are plenty of new places and perspectives to be explored. Now that a bulk of the historical groundwork has been set, Bass’ story is allowed to loosen up around the edges, bringing in fictional elements that appease the need for entertainment while staying true to what made the real-life Bass Reeves a revered figure.

The beating heart of Bass’ story is contextually fleshed out with trips to brothels, churches, and strangers’ houses that make a vital change from endless scenes on horses or conversations about what’s to come. It’s possibly the first time in the series that Bass is grounded in his present, neither shackled to his past nor pondering his future. Episode 4 is all the better for this, not only making Bass more likable as a fictional character but also broadening the spotlight so that supporting characters can fully bask in the badge of a Marshal.

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Episode 3 saw the introduction of Billy Crow, but it wasn’t until Lawmen: Bass Reeves Episode 4 that he became someone a viewer could invest in. Brought to Bass’ attention for armed robbery, Billy undergoes an offscreen transformation to become his unofficial sidekick, learning the hard way that the law doesn’t always have a pretty face. Alongside stirring up feelings with a potential love interest, Billy faces trials and tribulations while toeing the line, injecting an extra dose of heart into what can often stray into straight-laced seriousness.

The stakes are finally raised

Lawmen: Bass Reeves Episode 4Paramount+

Though the stakes in Bass’ life will probably never be as high as they were in Episode 1, there’s an awful lot more to play with when it comes to Lawmen: Bass Reeves Episode 4. Bass’ day-to-day life becomes more nuanced in a way that viewers will be able to recognize, peppered with the type of dangerous shootouts and sexual trysts that have become synonymous with the period.

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It almost means that Bass’ legacy – the fictional one rather than what we know of real life – is no longer untouchable. Bass could be someone who converses lazily on the street on a Sunday morning, attends church with his family, and helps his neighbors in their minor hour of need. None of these are things we actually see him do, but Bass now exists outside of the confines of the law. Now that he is more stable in who he is, as well as being able to exist without fear, he can truly live for the first time – which is what the TV series sorely needs.

Viewers also learn by the end of Episode 4 that Bass now has a bounty against him. For all his hard work, men with guns are closing in on his whereabouts to hold him to ransom over his handiwork. Bass’ legend tells us how this is likely to shake out, but it means that life or death is now back on the table in terms of the narrative. However, this time the framework is different, with Bass having the upper hand. Instead of setting Bass up to fail, future episodes are likely to be no-holds-barred vengeance – and that’s exciting enough to stick around for.

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Lawmen: Bass Reeves Episode 4 review score: 4/5

Is Lawmen: Bass Reeves Episode 4 going to enter the canon of unforgettable TV moments in 2023? No. But what it does do is prove that Bass is indeed being set up for a hero’s journey.

Just as all hope disappeared, there’s not only valuable reason for Bass to come out on top, there’s reason to stay invested.

Lawmen: Bass Reeves is streaming on Paramount Plus now. Check out our other coverage below:

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About The Author

Jasmine Valentine is a TV and Movies Writer at Dexerto. She's written for the likes of Total Film, The Daily Beast, and Radio Times. Jasmine loves anime, dystopian thrillers, and anything starring Tilda Swinton. You can email her here: jasmine.waters@dexerto.com.