Lawmen: Bass Reeves finale review: The Bass done good

Jasmine Valentine
David Oyelowo and Dennis Quaid in Lawmen: Bass Reeves.

And so, a hero meets his maker – with Bass Reeves (David Oyelowo) facing off against Esau Pierce (Barry Pepper) in the season finale. Lawmen: Bass Reeves Episode 8 ticks all the boxes it needs to, bringing Bass full circle ready to start anew.

It’s been a rocky old ride for both participants and viewers of Lawmen: Bass Reeves. Over the course of its eight episodes, Bass’ story has been dragged from peak to pit, struggling to find a fictional identity within the boundaries of an epic true story. More often than not it’s missed the mark, though some truly standout moments have made the payoff worthwhile.

The finale of Lawmen: Bass Reeves largely falls in the latter. Though not the strongest episode of the series, Episode 8 effortlessly ties up most of its loose strings left over from previous ‘what-ifs,’ while fuelling Bass forward with new ways to reinvent his identity. After many drawn-out struggles, Bass can finally separate himself from the law, and the badge that has rightly been held over him.

For the majority of the episode, this takes place through an all-out showdown between Bass and his on-off again nemesis, Esau Pierce. Trekking hundreds of miles in order to receive full payment for a previous job, Bass learns more about how Esau interprets his own Marshal status, leading him to understand more about himself in turn. Warning – spoilers ahead!

Bass rights his wrongs

As any final episode of a TV series should, Lawmen: Bass Reeves Episode 8 is all about rebirth. Simmering into the flames by the end of Episode 7, Bass now has to go on a journey of resurrection in order to come back from the brink of a fatal identity crisis. The only way of effectively achieving this is to seek out the man who has been internally tormenting Bass for some time, Esau Pierce. By doing so, Bass can see that Esau is actually playing God himself, using prisoners as personal slaves in his meat farming business.

Once again, we don’t see too much of Bass’ renowned gunslinging, with the episode rather placing the emphasis on the unwavering support he had around him. Sherrill Lynn (Dennis Quaid) and Billy Crow (Forrest Goodluck) make up a huge part of the reason why Bass overcomes his evil, laying down everything they have in order to protect him. In the presence of Esau, Bass appears to be naïve and relenting, highlighting the brutal impact Bass’ internalized fear has had on him.

All does end well in the Lawmen: Bass Reeves finale, with Bass able to set the group of slaves free and return home to his family for what he says will be “forever.” This is the only effective resolution left on the cards for Bass, heavily dancing with “the devil” – as Sherrill puts it – and morality for the bulk of the latest few episodes. Is it the most inspired ending choice? No. But it is what serves Bass’ story the best, alongside a limited series format.

The Reeves family has the final word

The cast of Lawmen Bass Reeves (Season 2?)

Just like Bass, the rest of the Reeves family isn’t going down without a fight – all except for Sally (Demi Singleton), who is disappointingly side-lined in the finale with a mysterious illness. However, Jennie (Lauren E. Banks) more than picks up the slack, reconciling her relationship with friends as well as her religion. She also arguably delivers the show’s pièce de résistance, slapping down her former enslaver when she comes to visit offering “refuge.”

It’s a stark reminder of what is contextually happening in America at the time – something that the Reeves family only begin to grapple with as the series closes out. The bridge between personal peace, hope, and the real-life knowledge of what is to come serves as a bittersweet conclusion that challenges viewers while simultaneously satisfying them. If anything, this in itself shows just how far the series has come, having had a hero’s journey all its own.

However, that doesn’t mean that the Lawmen: Bass Reeves finale hits all the notes it needs to. Billy’s blossoming romance gets swept aside, instead dealing with the typically unnecessary abuse that Sherrill bestows upon him. Sally also falls prey to silence, which makes for a stark contrast to her headstrong journey in previous episodes. It’s unsurprising that the action reverts back to Bass, but that doesn’t always mean it’s the most enriching decision.

Lawmen: Bass Reeves finale review score: 4/5

All in all, the Bass done good, and the Lawmen: Bass Reeves finale proves that. It might have been an uphill struggle to arrive – and certainly was one to discover its own identity – but Bass’ fictional outing is worth its weight in truth and entertainment.

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

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