Lawmen: Bass Reeves Episode 7 review: Stylistically too little too late

Jasmine Valentine
Lawmen: Bass Reeves Episode 4

In a hero’s journey, the penultimate step is usually a crisis of conscience – which Lawmen: Bass Reeves Episode 7 thoughtfully delivers to great effect. However, in the broader picture of the series as a whole, its daring and unique stylings might be too little too late.

For the first three episodes of Lawmen: Bass Reeves, the true story behind the legend of Bass Reeves was left to lead the way. While the educational authenticity was second to none, the level of entertainment value a fictional adaptation needed lagged behind. As a result, the first third of the show lost its footing in presenting something that could have style as well as its obvious substance.

Four episodes later, the tune has changed for the positive. Episodes 4, 5, and 6 packed the drama in to flesh out what started as the truth into a tale that was both meaty and better suited to an 8-part drama. Episode 6 – and now 7 – took that one step further by incorporating shrewd explorations of internal thought, morality crisis, and impending fear in a way not yet seen in Lawmen: Bass Reeves.

However, this is both a help and a hindrance. While Lawmen: Bass Reeves Episode 7 works hard to make Bass’ (David Oyelowo) crisis of conscience more palatable, this new curious and often personality-led style of visualizing it is jarring compared to what viewers have seen before. In essence – this is exactly the sort of creative license we should have seen a lot earlier on. Warning – spoilers ahead!

The law turns on Bass

Effortlessly picking up from the end of Episode 6, Lawmen: Bass Reeves Episode 7 further throws Bass into internal conflict. Starting the episode entrenched in his own mind, Bass becomes the defendant rather than the keeper of peace. Standing trial for murder, the episode explores what happens when the collection of a prisoner backfires, leading Bass to take a man’s life in the process. Though it feels as though Episode 7 is setting viewers up to be left with the cliffhanger of Bass’ fate, we find out he’s found not guilty after a long talk with Judge Parker (Donald Sutherland).

What the penultimate episode of Lawmen: Bass Reeves does incredibly well is offer up a challenge. Not only are we now being challenged on how we view forgotten Black history, but we’re also presented with moral confusion concerning pride, justice, and the foundations of the law itself. From this moment on there is no clearly defined wrong or right, merely decisions that are left to face the consequences of their immediacy. Bass is no longer a hero, falling somewhere in the gray area of existence – finally making him human.

It’s this fall from grace that actually makes Bass more likable. Viewers aren’t exactly rooting for him, more intrigued as to how he will emerge from the confines that this mindset has placed on him. Bass’ outside influences have taken over his sense of being – all except his actual family, with Jennie (Lauren E. Banks) remarking that their children hardly take notice of Bass anymore. His sole bearing on life, on which Bass has based his freedom, has now turned against him. The result? Depth, curiosity, and delicious complexity.

Bass’ family hold the drama

The cast of Lawmen Bass Reeves (Season 2?)

There is a splinter in the side of Lawmen: Bass Reeves Episode 7 – The Reeves family as a whole is experiencing a much more interesting plight than Bass on his own. While Bass is trapped in the confines of his duty as a lawman, Sally (Demi Singleton) begins to feel the effects of challenging the town’s White families. Not only is the Reeves’ residence questioned over who is at home, but the family finds a straw scarecrow burning by their garden – suggesting that a similar fate is heading their way as “penance.”

Sally, who has undoubtedly been the most headstrong and morally sound Reeves of the bunch, is mostly left unflinching. Jennie isn’t too far behind her, though more mindful of the safety of her children. The subplot in Lawmen: Bass Reeves Episode 7 proves that the emphasis of the show’s final outings is falling in the wrong place. While Bass is wrapped up in the doings of his own actions, his family is left facing the heinous real-life threats of being Black in a White man’s world – with Bass nowhere to be seen. Jennie and Sally spearhead the gut-wrenching emotion, the heartache, and the pain of what might be to come, and their experiences are nowhere near focused on enough.

That’s not to say that no good is coming from Bass being the starring role in his own show. Once again, the episode’s main narrative highlights a different facet of his character, slowly peeled away to be revealed and explored in complete truth. However, now that viewers know he has been found not guilty, the immediate stakes have been removed, shrouding the final installment of the series in questionable doubt. Now that Bass has moved on from rock bottom, where does he go from here – and will it be just as impactful?

Lawmen: Bass Reeves Episode 7 review score: 3/5

While the visual explorations of Bass’ inner turmoil are intriguing in Lawmen: Bass Reeves Episode 7, they are a sign of what should have been seen in earlier installments.

There’s certainly a question of whether Bass is the most integral part of his own story, although his independent journey is certainly leading viewers into new and enriching territory.

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

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