8 Reasons Lawmen: Bass Reeves Is Better Not Being A Yellowstone Spinoff

Lawmen: Bass Reeves was originally announced as a Yellowstone prequel spinoff series but fortunately it became a standalone anthology series instead.

  • Lawmen: Bass Reeves is a standalone series that is better off separate from the Yellowstone universe, especially given Kevin Costner’s abrupt departure.
  •  The series is a passion project for David Oyelowo, who has been trying to bring the true story of Bass Reeves to the big screen for 8 years.
  •  Lawmen: Bass Reeves prioritizes historical accuracy and focuses on honoring the remarkable life and legacy of the legendary lawman rather than fictionalizing his story to fit under the Yellowstone umbrella.

Lawmen: Bass Reeves, the latest Paramount+ series from Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan, is better off not being a part of the celebrated Yellowstone universe. With brand new episodes of Yellowstone season 5 set to premiere in 2024, the acclaimed modern Western original series will finally come to an end after six additional episodes. There have been multiple creative developments and changes to the future of the Yellowstone franchise after star actor Kevin Costner surprisingly announced that he would not be returning to the series after season 5, resulting in Sheridan’s decision to end the series.

Following another shocking development that Kevin Costner won’t appear in Yellowstone season 5, part 2, the fate of the Yellowstone franchise has never been more uncertain. Throughout its first five seasons, the celebrated series has been praised for Costner’s irreplaceable depiction of John Dutton as the head of the Dutton family but now will not be given the chance to send Dutton off with a proper farewell. Fortunately, this news will not affect the trajectory of Lawmen: Bass Reeves, which just released its two-part series premiere on Paramount+ and will air both episodes on Sunday, November 12, 2023, at 9 p.m. EST on CBS.

8, Lawmen: Bass Reeves Is A David Oyelowo Passion Project

Oyelowo Has Tried To Tell The Bass Reeves Story For 8 Years

As much weight as Taylor Sheridan’s name carries in terms of modern Western television series, David Oyelowo was arguably more passionate about bringing the true story of the legendary lawman Bass Reeves to light. Oyelowo, who has also appeared in the popular Apple sci-fi series Silo and portrayed Dr. Martin Luther King in the 2014 Oscar-nominated Selma, had reportedly been trying to portray Reeves’ character onscreen for eight years before Paramount finally helped make his passion project a reality. Sheridan reportedly was inspired by Oyelowo’s determination to tell Bass Reeves’ story, making him the best choice to spearhead the creative direction of the series (via Vanity Fair).

7, Lawmen: Bass Reeves Is Rooted In Historical Accuracy

Yellowstone Is Not Based On Any Real-Life People Or Stories

A crucial part in bringing the true story of Bass Reeves to light is honoring the historical accounts of the celebrated lawman, who was famous for making more than 3,000 arrests during his 30+ year career without getting wounded once. This included intense standoffs and hostile situations with dangerous outlaws that the real-life Bass Reeves was able to walk away from scot-free. It’s the rare type of legend that seems nearly too good to be true or something that was a product of fiction. In this light, the historical accuracy of Lawmen: Bass Reeves is an essential part of making a modern series that is equally entertaining as it is respectful.

6, Bass Reeves Deserves To Be The Only Star Of The Series

The Real-Life Lawman Was A Remarkable & Accomplished Person

In this same vein, the real-life Bass Reeves was remarkable enough of a lawman and a person that he should be the one and only star of the series that is named after him. Including the lore of the entire Dutton family within Lawmen: Bass Reeves would wrongfully pull the focus away from the iconic figure and essentially do a disservice to his legacy. Lawmen: Bass Reeves episode 1 depicts the true story of how Bass was forced to fight in the Civil War with the Confederate Army and escaped slavery by beating his owner Colonel Geroge R. Reeves and living in Indigenous Territory. This is only one aspect of Bass Reeves’ fascinating story, which is why he deserves to be the central figure at all times.

5, Bass Reeves’ Legend Doesn’t Need To Be Fictionalized

Bass Reeves’ True Life Is Already Very Interesting


The entire legend of Bass Reeves has so many interesting angles and anecdotes that it would be senseless to fictionalize his true story by forcing it under the Dutton family umbrella. Bass Reeves lawfully pursued his son Bennie who was wanted for killing his wife. Despite the natural elements of drama in the unbelievable scenario, Lawmen: Bass Reeves is set to chronicle just a fragment of Reeves’ life from 1862 to 1877. Bennie’s arrest and sentencing didn’t occur until 1903, so this particular tale will likely not be depicted in the new series. However, it acts as another example of how much there is to pull from Bass Reeves’ life and why Lawmen doesn’t need to rely on fictional storytelling.

4, McConaughey’s Yellowstone Spinoff Is More Than Enough

Another Prequel Spinoff Won’t Add Much To Yellowstone Universe

Matthew McConaughey is still expected to pick up the reins of the Yellowstone franchise following Costner’s abrupt exit, meaning that fans of Yellowstone will still have something exciting to look forward to with the future of the beloved series. The two Yellowstone prequel series 1883 and 1923 were also successful in portraying the origins of the Dutton family dynasty, giving the perspective of the Old West origins of the fictional family. McConaughey’s eventual spinoff series will likely follow a similar path of being entirely fictionalized like the other Yellowstone installments. There were no loose ends in 1883 or 1923 that Bass Reeves’ legend could have satisfied under the Yellowstone umbrella.

3, Lawmen Is Expected To Be A Standalone Anthology Series

Lawmen’s Chronology Could Jump Around To Various Eras

After the association to 1883 was later unconfirmed, Lawmen: Bass Reeves is expected to continue as a standalone anthology series that will portray several real-life American lawmen throughout history. If Lawmen: Bass Reeves had been created as a part of the Yellowstone universe, it would have made it complicated and potentially impossible for the series to continue in this way. Some other historical figures that could be chronicled in future Lawmen seasons include Pat Garrett, Wyatt Earp, and Wild Bill Hicock.

2, The Original “1883” Title Would Have Limited Bass Reeves Story

Reeves’ Law Enforcement Career Spanned Over 30 Years

The original title of Lawmen: Bass Reeves when it was announced was 1883: A Bass Reeves Story, which would have cemented it within the Yellowstone universe. It’s possible that the creators of Lawmen: Bass Reeves were thinking of using the allure of the 1883 and Yellowstone name to attract viewers to a show about Bass Reeves that might have still had nothing to do with the Dutton family. Alternatively, a fictionalized caricature of Bass Reeves would have had to somehow fit into the original story of 1883 which had already been told. Regardless, an eight-episode series about one year of Bass Reeves’ decade-spanning career sounds limiting from the premise alone.

1, A Bass Reeves-Dutton Family Crossover Would Retcon 1883’s Timeline

Bass & The 1883 Cast Would Not Have Feasibly Met

In order for an 1883-Bass Reeves prequel spinoff series to actually work, either the historical accuracy of Bass Reeves’ legend would have had to have been manipulated or the original story told in 1883 would have to be retconned entirely. Bass Reeves lived and worked mostly in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and eventually Texas but did not arrive in Texas until 1893. The Dutton family in 1883 traversed many areas of the United States in the series starting in Fort Worth Texas and eventually traveling to Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana, none of which Bass ever visited.

There is a slight window of potential authentic overlap for a fictionalized version of Bass Reeves to encounter the Duttons as they travel through Doan’s Crossing, Indigenous Territory, in 1883 episode 6 “Boring the Devil”. Still, it would have been a creative stretch and not substantial enough of a foundation to build an entire series like the original 1883: A Bass Reeves Story upon. This is the primary reason why Lawmen: Bass Reeves is much better off being entirely separate from the ever-changing Yellowstone universe altogether.

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