Lawmen: Bass Reeves Episode 6 review: The bounty on Bass gets real

Jasmine Valentine
Still from Lawmen: Bass ReevesParamount+

Driven by his unrelenting desire to enforce the law of the land, Bass Reeves (David Oyelowo) is now starting to see the tables turn against him. In Lawmen: Bass Reeves Episode 6, viewers are presented with a brand-new question – could he actually be a villain?

This fall from grace hasn’t been achieved overnight. During Episodes 4 and 5, Bass has been confronted with various attempts to spook him, introducing the idea that a bounty has been placed on the lawman. Most don’t care if he turns up dead or alive – they just want him out of the way as an unspoken ‘greater good.’ After Lawmen: Bass Reeves Episode 6, public opinion of the supposed Lone Ranger has undoubtedly changed for the worse.

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At its core, the new dilemma that Bass is left to face feels as though it has been plucked straight from the Bible. Reshaping his triumphs into sins, Bass is haunted by the voice of Esau Pierce (Barry Pepper) like the devil on his shoulder, condemning him to a tainted version of heaven. Is Bass any better than the criminals he puts away just because of the shiny gold badge on his lapel?

Though the episode arguably loses momentum from the previously two highly-strung installments, Bass’ quandary is an acute look at an age-old problem. Confronting the essence of the law as well as the structure it has evolved to become, the foundations of Bass’ emancipated persona have now come crashing down around him. True to the hero’s journey, he now needs to build himself back up from scratch, all while outlaws are actively looking to strike him dead. Warning – spoilers ahead!

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Bass Reeves: Man or monster?

Once a revered figure who signaled a beacon of safety, Lawmen: Bass Reeves Episode 6 distorts public perception of both Bass and his legacy. Moving through a saloon just to get a drink, onlookers naturally quiet to a silence, distancing themselves at a time when merriment should reign supreme. Bass is soon challenged by a passing Texas ranger, which later leads to a group ambush that nearly leaves Bass for dead. Drunk and alone, it’s the first time since Episode 1 that we see the odds stacked against him – except this time, it’s all his own doing.

The one positive to Bass’ moral crisis is the exceptionally quick growth of Billy Crow (Forrest Goodluck). In Episode 5, Bass tells Billy that he’s not cut out to be a U.S. Deputy Marshal after making a call that ultimately took someone’s life. It’s not a remark that stopped Billy leaping out of bed with his lover to be at Bass’ aide, reigniting both Billy’s standing and the mutual trust between them. It doesn’t seem as though Billy is inspired by Bass, but he does respect him, wanting to do right by his heart rather than what the law dictates.

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It’s here that Bass may have strayed too far from his former self, prompting this nagging sense of doubt that he’s never exhibited before. More than ever, Bass is intent on gaining approval and being seen to do the right thing. It’s not until he is viscerally confronted with his handiwork – the public hanging of three offenders – that a pivot toward changes strikes Bass as a necessity. For viewers, this is possibly disheartening given his meaningful connection with a transported prisoner in the previous episode. Is Bass leaning into his heart or purely keeping up appearances with whoever needs appeasing?

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Resolutions feel too tidy

The cast of Lawmen: Bass ReevesParamount+

While Bass is clearly on a journey back to inner reconciliation in Lawmen: Bass Reeves Episode 6, his external peacemaking is slightly more trite. Even before the episode begins, there’s a lot of apologizing to do, which mostly boils down to the repeated disappointment of his oldest daughter Sally (Demi Singleton). She’s now said her final farewell to the only thing that gave her joy (the cute boy she liked), leaving the goal wide open for Bass to shoot. He does, delivering a brisk apology in three sentences, and all is forgiven in under 30 seconds.

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Attention then turns to Jennie (Lauren E. Banks), who convinces Bass to go to dinner with the area’s local pastor. There’s a natural conflict between law and religion here as the pastor looks to recruit Bass to join his vision of shaping the Indian Territory under Christianity. Bass doesn’t actually fight his own corner but rather lets Jennie do the talking, feeling duped that the dinner invitation came with an unspoken motive. Perhaps the show has always been one of mental anguish rather than physical brutality, but Bass seems almost sidelined by his own story.

That being said, the biggest allure of Lawmen: Bass Reeves Episode 6 is the successful reframing of Bass as a flawed man. Being hailed as “a monster” by the likes of Esau Pierce, everything we have seen Bass engage in suddenly has an element of doubt to its authenticity. Collectively, we’ve not yet questioned how Bass truly sees himself, only what the world and others have shoehorned him into. Six episodes in and Bass doesn’t have an answer, meaning the phoenix is set to rise from the ashes of insecurity.

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Lawmen: Bass Reeves Episode 6 review score: 3/5

Lawmen: Bass Reeves Episode 6 might lose momentum in places, but the narrative provides plenty of intriguing food for thought.

Bass’ inner turmoil is the juiciest meat on the narrative bone that we’ve had in the entire series, even if things are hastily squared away. The balance of social context and dramatic flair is hitting a steady stride, and just like riding a horse, we’re really picking up steam.

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.