Bass Reeves, the historical Western icon and inspiration for characters like The Lone Ranger, finally gets his own standalone series, Lawmen: Bass Reeves. It is a wise decision to separate Reeves' story from the fictional world of Yellowstone, as his real-life achievements should not be overshadowed. Lawmen: Bass Reeves is the first installment of an anthology series that explores the lives of other famous lawmen from history, offering a fresh and exciting perspective on their contributions to law enforcement.
Taylor Sheridan's Yellowstone cinematic universe has become a remarkable success. Since its inception in 2018, Paramount and Sheridan have built an unstoppable television empire, featuring Hollywood stars like Kevin Costner, Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren, and soon Matthew McConaughey. Despite his commitment to expanding the Yellowstone universe, Sheridan is involved in other projects such as Tulsa King and Special Ops: Lioness.
In September 2021, MTV and ViacomCBS announced that Sheridan would be developing a limited series about the historical Western icon, Bass Reeves, with David Oyelowo in the lead role. However, in May 2022, MTV Entertainment announced that the series would be reworked as a spinoff/continuation of Yellowstone's 1883 prequel, which seemed unnecessary. Fortunately, Paramount and Sheridan have now made the wise decision to detach Bass Reeves' story from the Yellowstone universe. Lawmen: Bass Reeves is now being planned as the first installment of an anthology series, with future seasons focusing on other famous lawmen from history.
This is a much better approach, as influential historical figures like Bass Reeves should not have their stories undermined by the fictional escapades of the Dutton family. So, who is Bass Reeves and why is it important to separate his story from the fictional universe of Yellowstone? Bass Reeves was born in 1838 as a slave and became one of the many forced to serve the Confederacy during the Civil War. Escaping into Native American territory in Oklahoma, Reeves spent years learning their ways before the war ended and the 13th Amendment was passed. With the Wild West expanding after the Civil War, Reeves' familiarity with the area and combat experience led to his deputization by Marshall James Fagan, making Reeves the first Black U.S. Marshal west of the Mississippi. Over his 30-plus year career, Reeves arrested more than 3,000 people, the highest record for any U.S. Marshal in history.
Despite facing institutionalized racism, which ended his career as a U.S. Marshal due to the color of his skin, Reeves' story continues to be told and celebrated. As the inspiration for The Lone Ranger and other iconic Western characters, Reeves' tale of escaping slavery, learning from Native Americans, and becoming the most prolific law enforcement Marshall is a story that deserves to be properly told. Bass Reeves' story is already compelling enough without the need for a connection to Yellowstone. It would be ironic to tie a prominent Black historical figure to a fictional white family. It is not ideal to use Reeves' legacy and influence to tell a fictional story of fictional characters.
While historical figures can be included in fictional stories, as demonstrated in HBO's Watchmen series, where Reeves is appropriately used as an early progenitor to the superhero archetype, Lawmen: Bass Reeves can stand on its own. There is plenty of engaging material in Reeves' life that makes for a captivating adaptation. Although some fictional elements may be added and certain elements changed for storytelling purposes, the focus should remain on Reeves' extraordinary life. Lawmen: Bass Reeves has the potential to be something truly special. Lawmen: Bass Reeves will be available to stream on Paramount+ in the U.S.