Lawmen: Bass Reeves Episode 5 review: At last, we’ve struck gold

Jasmine Valentine
The cast of Lawmen: Bass Reeves

Both in fiction and in real life, it hasn’t been an easy ride for our favorite law enforcer. Lawmen: Bass Reeves Episode 5 tips the scales in favor of what viewers always knew was possible – Bass’ story as entertaining education.

If you’ve followed along in our weekly episodic reviews, you’ll know the journey for the first half of Season 1 has been unsteady at best. Episode 1 carefully laid out historical groundwork with an empathetic hand, before Episodes 2 and 3 ultimately did the real Bass Reeves a great disservice. By Episode 4, the future looked brighter, rewarding viewers for staying the course.

Where the previous installment has suggested the notion that Bass’ tale can be all the things it desires, Lawmen: Bass Reeves Episode 5 puts that ideal firmly into action. Effortlessly aided by the ensemble cast, Bass (David Oyelowo) taps into facets of humanity he’s previously been within arm’s reach of. This is also the first time he can deeply empathize with the other side of the law, having been tasked with transporting a Black prisoner across the territory.

Bass isn’t only leading with his brain and brawn anymore, he’s leading with his heart. While the legend of Lawman Reeves still rings through the county – as shown by a heinous opening scene intended to threaten him – Bass is balancing that with his humanity. At last, it feels as though we as viewers have struck gold. Warning – spoilers ahead!

Bass Reeves is fully fleshed out

It might have been a lengthy wait, but Lawmen: Bass Reeves Episode 5 shows our titular character as fully fleshed-out. Instead of getting wrapped up in duty and doing the right thing, he is openly hankering for his time at home, particularly as his kids show little desire to get to know him. His empathetic ear grows from strength to strength, not just using his connections with others to further the duties of a Deputy Marshal, but letting them sink into his heart, holding the space for stories to flourish. The world is ever-changing around Bass, and now he seems firmly ready for that.

Where Bass misses the presence of his family life, his kin are noticeably uncomfortable with his distance. Sally (Demi Singleton) starts to retaliate by showing little interest in her dad’s work commitments, chasing after both her wanton spirit and the boy she’s sweet on. She’s a Reeves through and through, holding her own – with an excellent punch – when a group of White boys comes looking for trouble.

Jennie (Lauren E. Banks) is also at a turning point, prying her head out of the sand and taking a good look at the world around her. Bass’ unique position has granted the Reeves family a physical sanctuary, taking refuge from the horrors Black people experienced in the 1800s. Thanks to her friend Esme (Joaquina Kalukango), Jennie is forced to confront what’s actually happening, shifting her worldview on what her children might be up against.

Relatable morale balances serious subjects

Still from Lawmen: Bass Reeves

As Bass treks along his prisoner journey in Lawmen: Bass Reeves Episode 5, he arguably emerges on the other side as a changed man. From singing with the prisoner to having a heart-to-heart while taking refuge at a stranger’s house from a raging storm, Bass’ mental line between right and wrong begins to blur. For viewers, it acts as a deep breath to sit in the truth of the show’s historical accuracy, as the prisoner recalls abhorrent moments from his time as a captured slave.

What Episode 5 does particularly well is balance these serious subjects with a sense of human relatability. All Sally wants to do is enjoy the carnival that has arrived in town, finally getting Jennie to agree to her spending legitimate time with the boy she likes. Then there’s Billy Crow (Forrest Goodluck), continuing to find his feet as a Deputy Marshal, creating some friction with Bass’ vision for the law of the land.

Don’t be fooled, though – Lawmen: Bass Reeves Episode 5 is still full of quality action sequences. Bass and Billy engage in a shop shootout that almost gets Billy killed, facing moral dilemmas around death and responsibility. The episode is also left on a cliffhanger, with Bass transporting his prisoner to none other than Esau Pierce (Barry Pepper), his former master’s rival last seen in Episode 1. The episode doesn’t drop the stakes, even if it doesn’t seem like Bass is in immediate danger.

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

Lawmen: Bass Reeves has done some damage with the struggle through its earlier installments, but Episode 5 is in a league all its own.

Though the timeline is somewhat delayed, fictional Bass is starting to realize his full potential, hopefully gearing up for a finale worthy of a hoedown.

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