Disney’s Star Wars has just concluded its first season of The Bad Batch, a spin-off and sequel of the ever-popular show, Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Despite my initial misgivings of the show (I was still riding the high from The Clone Wars and what a fantastic show that was, coupled with the fear that Disney can – and does – ruin perfectly good stories with unnecessary sequels – for example, the sequel trilogy – Episode VI, Episode VII, and Episode IX), I found myself enjoying The Bad Batch and rooting for, well, the Bad Batch.
The show is centered on a group of elite clones with genetic mutations, enhancing particular abilities in each clone. The leader of the group, Hunter, has enhanced senses; Crosshair has an uncanny ability as a marksman, Tech is very good with technology, and Wrecker is inhumanely strong, and their fifth member, Echo, is a clone that was part of the 501st Legion before he was taken by the Separatist forces who turned him into a cyborg in an attempt to get valuable information about the Republic’s forces. Eventually, he is rescued by clone force 99, Captain Rex and Anakin Skywalker, and joins the Bad Batch upon his return.
The show features this motley group and Omega, a young girl clone who joins the Bad Batch to conduct missions. Like the others, Omega is an enhanced clone, but what surprised me was that she was, well, a girl. All the clones are men – the source DNA used is Jango Fett’s, so seeing a female clone was surprising. It’s never explained in the show, but one popular theory is that Omega is Star Wars’ first trans representation; if so, the show handled it well, treating Omega as a character unto herself, instead of just as a diversity prop. Of course, it is a case of too little, too late (one of Disney’s trademark ploys when it comes to diversity representation of any kind); similar to the lesbian kiss in Episode IX: Rise of Skywalker.
The show also opens with the Bad Batch splintering from the rest of the clone forces after Order 66 is executed. Thanks to their genetic mutations, they’re immune to the order and escape the clutches of the Empire, essentially going rogue. Crosshair, however, isn’t so immune to the chip, and joins the Empire, hunting the bad batch, and trying to retrieve Omega, at all costs.
Unlike The Clone Wars, The Bad Batch focuses on two primary stories – on the bad batch’s developments, their growth as a team, and the found family relationship with Omega, and on Kamino, the planet where clones are manufactured. Vice Admiral Rampart of the Galactic Empire is overseeing the clone operations and proposes recruiting people instead of manufacturing clones, which is slow, and expensive. This is essentially the birth of the Stormtrooper program, and we see the Kaminoans struggle with convincing the Empire that clones are better because they’re made to be soldiers, and are less likely to disobey or fail at their objectives.
The two-part finale cements the Stormtrooper program and destroys the clone forces in one fell swoop when Rampart orders the destruction of the factory at Kamino. Honestly, it did hurt to see Kamino fall – it wasn’t just a planet that manufactured clones, but the hearth and home for many beloved characters, in both iconic shows.
Even though the show starts off with a slow start – the first few episodes are of Omega and the bad batch working together, with single-episode stories – it picks up momentum towards the second half of the season. It was a little boring to see formulaic episodes, particularly because it’s released every week, but the action does pick up after the 6th episode or so.
We see Rampart working with Crosshair and other Stormtroopers, plotting with Admiral Tarkin, undermine the Prime Minister of Kamino, and eventually bring the whole facility down. We also see the Bad Batch deal with the repercussions of the Empire, of the Empire’s promise of unity and strength being twisted into control and domination.
Even though the narrative style differs from The Clone Wars, I liked it. The Clone Wars focuses on multiple characters (even though it is about Anakin Skywalker’s turn to the Dark Side), and multiple story arcs, be it the Jedi, the Separatists, or the clones themselves. The Bad Batch dives into the repercussions of Order 66 with one perspective, which means we get a much deeper understanding of the consequences of that order. It also means that we get to know the bad batch intimately in just one season, and there are greater chances of fleshing out the conflict between stormtroopers and clones, and between Crosshair and the rest of the team.
The one thing I didn’t particularly enjoy, especially in the beginning? The fact that Omega is just a kid (please put your pitchforks down). The idea of the found father/child relationship is already there in The Mandalorian, and it feels too repetitive to see it here.
Of course, I can see why they did introduce Omega – it’s a good way to introduce new areas and provide much-needed context, and Omega serves as the audience’s way into the world, for the first few episodes at least. Still, I couldn’t help but draw parallels between Hunter and Omega, and Din Djarin and Grogu.
Regardless, The Bad Batch is a show that goes from being fun and, honestly, a little cute to hitting home in some very real places, a style that I thoroughly enjoyed in The Clone Wars. It’s great to see the sequel do justice to the original show and flesh out the horrors that happened during the rise of the Galactic Empire.
The show tackles very real questions of home, loyalty, and trust, and as always, introduces a new droid to love – this time, it’s AZI. From sweet moments between Omega and the team to harsher realities of the clone project being shut down, The Bad Batch does justice to its predecessor and Star Wars, and I cannot wait for season 2.
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