Paramount+’s period series ‘Lawmen: Bass Reeves’ sheds light on the significant occurrences that happened in the frontiers more than a century ago. Through the depiction of Bass Reeves’ remarkable life, the Western show follows the rise of the marshals against the potent thugs who ruled the lands. He overcomes various challenges to become a deputy marshal in a period and place that hasn’t seen a lot of black lawmen. Bass’ life journey is nothing short of a historical account of the growth of the country. In that way, the series succeeds in retelling a saga about the black community which shouldn’t end up in oblivion, which makes its setting significant! SPOILERS AHEAD.
The Rebirth of America
‘Lawmen: Bass Reeves’ is set during the early years of Bass Reeves, following his freedom from slavery to his “reign” as a powerful deputy marshal. The series begins with a few glimpses into the Civil War in 1862, depicting Bass’ fight for the Confederates under his master Major George Reeves. The Civil War inspires Bass to gain freedom from enslavement, which leads him to turn against his master. He beats up the major and runs away, only to eventually return as a free man to accompany his family to freedom as well.
By placing the narrative in this particular period, creator Chad Feehan succeeds in showcasing the fight for independence that laid the foundation for the Civil War and the rebirth of the country. “His [Bass’] very existence questions the nature of justice. If we can now say that the enslavement of people was unjust, then freeing yourself from that unjust circumstance, can that truly be deemed unlawful?” David Oyelowo, who plays Bass, told Vanity Fair. “I think that’s one of the biggest themes of the show. This is all playing out at a time that in many ways defines who and what America is. We watch the birth of America, in a sense, through the personal eyes of one Black man and his family,” he added.
In reality, the Civil War was a highly conflicting occurrence, as far as the black community was concerned. As per sources, thousands of black people fought for the Confederates against their community, which was the foundation of the Union. The conflict of fighting against one’s own potential freedom and brothers was prevalent at the time and the show commendably captures the same. “He [Bass] found himself fighting on the Confederate side, so he’s already starting from an incredibly schizophrenic place, from an identity point of view,” Oyelowo added in the same interview.
A significant storyline, which revolves around Bass’ life with his family as free people, of the show starts in 1875. The year holds immense importance in his life since he became a deputy marshal in the same. Judge Isaac Parker’s decision to hire two hundred deputy marshals paved the way for Bass’ selection as one. The rest of the series is set during the period which begins in 1875, portraying Bass’ rise as one of the most feared lawmen of the time.
The Guardian of Arkansas
The series is prominently set in the state of Arkansas, where Bass settles with his family. He ends up owning a small farm in the city of Van Buren. Once he becomes a deputy marshal, his work takes him to various parts of the Southern States. In reality, he mainly served in the Indian Territories in Arkansas and Oklahoma. In the first episode, after running away from his master George, Bass seeks refuge in the Seminole Nation, a Native American tribe based in Oklahoma. George’s mansion, however, is located in the state of Texas. The Civil War scenes which feature at the beginning of the show are set in Arizona as well.
In the upcoming episodes, we can expect scenes mainly set in the Indian Territory in Fort Smith, Arkansas. The real Bass had the responsibility of safeguarding the Native Reservation Territory in the place as the deputy marshal for the Western District of Arkansas. If the series dives into Bass’ later years, we may see his journey to Muskogee, Oklahoma, since the real-life lawman served in the Native Territory in the region in the late 1890s.
Read More: Where is Bass Reeves’ Family Now?