Star Wars: The Bad Batch Season 1 Wrap-up and Omega Theories

It's been a crazy summer of hot days and career changes for me, but Star Wars: The Bad Batch has been a consistent part of each weekend. Since my article kicking off the season, I've looked forward to this time to reflect on the series so far. Now that Season 1 has come to a close, and knowing we have a Season 2 ahead, let's take that plunge into the spoiler-rich Kaminoan depths!

First thing's first: this show is an epic visual and audio experience in every episode. The colors and lighting are stunning, reproducing masterfully crafted live-action cinematography in an animated format. The action itself is worthy of the Star Wars brand and on par with an action-packed Marvel film. Also, the sound design is a perfect match to the visual experience, including the use of the ear ringing effect after an explosion and simulating even the most subtle position changes of characters in the frame.

Completing the show is Kevin Kiner's engaging score, bringing the power and emotion we've come to expect in a Star Wars production. As he did in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels, Kiner finds just the right melodies and impact for each moment in The Bad Batch. One musical moment that stands out for me is his blending the unique sound of Fennec Shand's theme into the action score during her confrontation with fellow bounty hunter Cad Bane.

Omega and Hunter

The basis for this amazing experience is in its writing: the stories and characters were engaging, and I was invested in each of them from the start. Our main characters, the Bad Batch itself, evolve into more than the stereotypes I introduced in my previous article. Season 1 forced them to adapt to a new world where the Republic and the humanitarian values the clones fought for have been absorbed by a cold, oppressive Empire. Former enemies are now allies in the fight to remain free from tyranny, and former allies are now showing them the business ends of their blasters. Crosshair, Hunter, and Omega each evolved a great deal by the season finale.

That writing comes to life thanks to some great performances. I trusted that Dee Bradley Baker would be up to the enormous task he had in the recording booth, and my trust was rewarded. Dee has taken his work from The Clone Wars to the next level. Every character he voices has a wholly unique sound, personality, and emotional profile: the entire Batch, Captain Rex, Gregor, and every other clone trooper, plus a few additional characters. As I watched, I was constantly amazed at Dee's performances, and I'd love to see him get some awards for his work on Season 1. Check out this Entertainment Tonight interview with Dee talking about his work in The Bad Batch:

As a quick note for those going into the voice acting career field, make sure you put Dee's website on your personal list of resources to read and reference: iwanttobeavoiceactor.com

Michelle Ang (photo by Sam Nixon)

Complementing Dee was Michelle Ang's performance as Omega, which highlights the character's wide range of experiences throughout the season. Every emotional state is distinct with lots of great nuance in Michelle's delivery. The writing for Season 1 doesn't leave Omega in the passenger seat as a perspective character; she's an active part of driving the story forward. And thanks to Michelle's performance, I feel like I'm fighting with the Batch right alongside Omega!

There's another dimension to my love for this show that I call the "Filoniverse factor." Dave Filoni created both The Clone Wars and Rebels, and he's been side-by-side with Jon Favreau on The Mandalorian, too. The Filoniverse refers to Filoni's original characters and storylines that gained popularity on their own and have cross-connected the shows he's been involved with. The Bad Batch, created by Jennifer Corbett and Brad Rau, is solidly anchored in the Filoniverse with cameos from characters like Cut and Suu from The Clone Wars, Hera Syndulla and Chopper from Rebels, and Captain Rex and Cham Syndulla who were in both of those series. As a big fan of the Filoniverse, I was excited to see every familiar character.

Kanan Jarrus, formerly Caleb Dume (left), and Hera Syndulla (right) appeared as adolescents in Season 1 of Star Wars: The Bad Batch, a great tie-in with a fan-favorite Star Wars couple from Star Wars: Rebels (center).

Early in the season, though, I was afraid that we would revisit so many other Filoniverse characters that it would take away from the Batch. I had a similar reaction when Ahsoka Tano became part of Rebels: for a few episodes, it felt like her presence put a dampener on the show's standalone story. But the writers eventually balanced Ahsoka's presence in the show without compromising the show's own characters and story. By the end, it felt like I was watching one larger story of the Star Wars universe, not a standalone series.

That's the same impression I have now with The Bad Batch. Rex, the Martez sisters, Hera, and more crossed over, but in a way that looks like we were just seeing some missing chapters in their lives. Everything is still tied to the story of the Batch, which is intrinsically linked to everything going on in the galaxy during this transitional time. I hope that balance remains moving forward to Season 2.

The Bad Batch helps Cid retrieve a spice shipment in an action-adventure sequence from S1:E13, "Infested."

I'll have to do another article soon reflecting on how this show and others are developing and cross-connecting the broader Star Wars universe. There's a lot ahead with the Obi-Wan Kenobi and Ahsoka Tano series, the continuation of The Mandalorian, and the new Boba Fett story. I am loving seeing all these brilliant creators working together to tell a single epic and engaging story. (And maybe us Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order fans will eventually get the Cal Kestis cameo we had hoped to see when the Bad Batch was on Bracca.)

Now, though, I want to go back to Omega and talk a bit about this ongoing mystery and popular theory about what makes her unique as a clone. 

Omega tells the Batch about a hidden access to enter the cloning facility on Kamino.

What we know: We've learned that Omega is an "unaltered" clone, so she doesn't have the rapid aging and soldier-related enhancements of her brothers. She's also female and doesn't display Jango Fett's physical features. It certainly makes sense that using Jango's X chromosome and not his Y chromosome would have affected gene expression. That said, The Clone Wars and Rebels aren't known for a lot of subtlety when it comes to hinting about character origins and abilities, so I suspect The Bad Batch is following that model. That leaves me asking:

Is Omega really a Jango Fett clone, or is her genetic donor someone else entirely?

The Force-sensitive clone theory: My question ties in with a popular theory that Omega is a Force-sensitive clone. But I have my doubts about Omega's Force sensitivity after watching through the season twice. Omega does have heightened perception, and she's got a sharper-than-average head for tactics. However, she hasn't displayed the more obvious Force traits like telekinesis. Even in the life-or-death situations, she was in during the season finale, she didn't unlock that ability. So if she is Force-sensitive, it manifests differently than the Jedi and Sith we know, or she's going to have to unlock it in a different way.

Obi-Wan Kenobi introduces Sheev Palpatine (left) to a young Anakin Skywalker (right) for the first time.

Looking at the clues: As I speculate the answer to my question and follow clues from Season 1, the most obvious "who else" answer would be that she's a clone of either Anakin Skywalker or Sheev Palpatine. In the broader Star Wars narrative, Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker told us that Palpatine had been experimenting with cloning technology since before the Clone Wars in an attempt to sustain himself in his rise to rule the galaxy. Also, when we look at the timeline, Omega's "adolescence" would put her around age 13, aligning her creation to two significant events:

Putting the clues together: If we combine those clues with a creative consideration of Omega's character design, we could guess that she's a clone of then-Senator Palpatine as part of his long-term plan. But Omega's curiosity, optimism, and skills in mechanics (when fixing Gonky and Todo 360) may be some less-than-subtle references to young Anakin from Phantom Menace. I would certainly see the logic in her being a clone of either Palpatine or Anakin, or some combination of both, maybe with Jango's DNA mixed in.

Is Omega (center) truly a first-generation clone of Jango Fett like Kix (left), or does she have genetic material from a Force-sensitive like Palpatine (top-right) or Anakin (bottom-right)?

In any case, Omega being a clone of a Force-sensitive person would be one explanation for why the Kaminoans hired bounty hunters to bring her back to Kamino. As to whether she'll manifest more noticeable Force powers, though, I'm happy to remain unspoiled and speculation-free as we anticipate Season 2. For now, it's enough for me that she's a clever and fun character to follow.

Crosshair finds his true purpose in serving in the Empire and encourages his Bad Batch brothers to do the same.

Wrapping up my overall impressions, I can relate to the perspective I've read from some viewers that Season 1 felt unfinished. As I reflect, I think it's just because I hoped that Crosshair would return to the Batch by the end of the season. But I think the writers were smart to acknowledge that even without an inhibitor chip, the clones are individuals who can choose different paths and be compelled by different values and purposes. That's a much stronger message overall. Plus, given its place in the Star Wars timeline, this isn't the kind of story they could wrap up with a nice neat bow. 

Once they announced a Season 2, I knew we would see an ending that was more like being in the eye of the storm rather than in its aftermath. Fortunately, they're set up to tackle some new adventures in Season 2. 

How are you feeling about The Bad Batch as we reflect on Season 1? And where do you stand on the theories about Omega's origins? Let's discuss in the comments!

Our Journey As Female Gamers Part II - Featuring Charlotte Merritt & Stephanie Watson

What would it be like to have an extensive gaming experience that spanned forty years? What kind of evolution would be experienced over the course of an entire generation? 

I had the honor of talking with two of our Replayers who have been gaming in one fashion or another for around forty years. I started gaming from a very early age, but I was very curious about what these ladies’ experiences were, considering they had more background knowledge of the earlier systems and have played significantly more video games than I have. 

They have seen and experienced the evolution of the online collective community of video game players. What kind of environment did those first communities foster, and how have they since changed? 

Let’s start with a little history from them to see how things have changed from the early days:

How did you become a gamer and was there a specific influence that led you down this path?

The Commodore 64 was introduced in August 1982.

Charlotte: My father bought a floppy drive for our Commodore 64. Dad liked some games, but he really didn’t lead me to them. It’s more that he introduced them.

Stephanie: I was about 7 or 8 when Pac-Man, Galaga, and other early arcade games started appearing in local restaurants. My parents bought us portable Pac-Man and Donkey Kong games to play at home. It started as something to do at restaurants while my family was waiting for a table or socializing after eating. Later, I started asking if I could ride my bike to the arcade and play. Friends and cousins had PCs with games and Atari 2600 consoles, and I'd try to visit them so I could play there too. Back home, though, my parents didn't buy anything until I was around 15, and it was a Nintendo NES for my brother. I played it a lot, but it always meant having to hang out in my brother's room. 

What are some of your favorite games you grew up with and why? What kind of gamer are you? Do you like challenges, is it more for the social aspect, do you prefer games that are puzzles or have a relaxing element to it? Has that preference evolved over time? 

Charlotte: Some of the games I grew up playing were Police Quest, Doom (1993) specifically, and Twisted Metal. At-home gaming was just coming in when I was a kid. I would say I am an eclectic gamer. I love the social aspect of video games. RPG’s are grand (Ultima Online & SWTOR). Puzzles are my favorite. Uncharted, the entire series is my absolute favorite. I think my preference has evolved as games have advanced.

Stephanie: Pac-Man and Donkey Kong were always favorites, and I got a lot of Super Mario Brothers playtime. I fell in love with The Legend of Zelda on my brother's NES. He got the Nintendo Power magazine for a while, so I would dive into the guides for specific games so I could get past the sticking points that made me rage quit.

I like a combination of puzzles and story-driven missions, and I usually play on story or normal modes. A story will keep me playing if I was really compelled by it or if there are different options for playing the story on repeated runs. Thus, RPGs are often a big draw. I also love achievement hunting and team challenges when I can play with other people. I love going back to play games like Destiny and Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Throughout the years have you noticed a shift in women gamers? What’s been your personal experience with this?

Charlotte:  For sure. Growing up, my generation's games were marketed to boys. Girls who played them were weird. Thanks go to the younger generation of gamers and streamers who have really helped try to normalize us. I remember so many times in UO (Ultima Online) other players not believing that I was a woman. “Women don’t play games” or “Women don’t know how to do RPG’s.” I was judged a lot by other girls as a teen because I would go home and throw on Doom, instead of reading Cosmo and learning the new makeup tips. Now it’s so nice that thanks to Retro Replay, I have this fantastic group of female gamers around me.

Stephanie: When video games first came out in the late 70s and early 80s, toy stores had no idea where they should put them. At the time, stores segregated toys by target gender (boy and girl). They chose to put them in the boy section and market them to boys. Many girls like me have felt the results of that marketing decision for three decades. Even today, people assume I'm a "he" in online games, even if I'm playing a female character. Fortunately, girls are really starting to come into their own now in ALL KINDS of games, and gaming communities are starting to outright reject people who discriminate against female gamers. I'm all for that, and it's great to see more females proudly calling themselves a gamer without feeling like they have to qualify or distinguish their gender.

Have there been any specific female leads in games over the years that have inspired or motivated you? How did they do so? 

Chloe & Nadie don’t look like they need rescuing.

Charlotte:  Lara Croft was a big one. Tough, strong female character. This has now grown to include Elena, Chloe, and Nadine. They don’t need to be “rescued”. They hold their own.

Stephanie: I admit I've mostly played games in which the lead was male just because I found the story intriguing. That said, I love how Star Wars: The Old Republic wrote the female versions of each character class to be equal to their male counterparts in the main plots of the story.

Do you feel that women have been underrepresented as leads in games throughout the years? Have you noticed a shift in recent years? Expand on this. 

Charlotte: For Sure. They’ve been insanely underrepresented AND over-sexualized when they are in a game. Yes.

Stephanie: We've absolutely been underrepresented as leads. There has been an effort in recent years to have a female alternative lead in games, but most of the marketing and labels use the male lead. I suppose that's because of their demographic, with males still being the majority of gamers in certain game categories. I appreciate the move that RPG games have made to ensure that the female characters had just as compelling of a story as their male counterparts. And the game stories are also bringing in a lot of diversity.

Some of us are streamers: 

 

What’s been your experience with becoming a streamer? 

Charlotte: It’s been fun. I recently became a Twitch affiliate. I have my first subscriber (Thanks Adam!) People have been very welcoming and supportive.

Stef's new setup

Stephanie: It's a fun hobby, and it's given me an excuse to improve my gaming setup at home. It also helps me accept that I'm not perfect (I can't just edit out the rough spots) and that's okay. My streaming schedule has been incredibly limited since 2021 started, though, as I now spend most of my hobby hours editing articles for a website or producing a podcast.

 

What are some of your favorite things about streaming versus your least favorite things? 

Charlotte: I love seeing my friends interacting in my chat. I hate seeing a new name and hitting that second of panic of….are you here to troll or are you here cause I’m playing a game you like? Luckily, I’ve only had to deal with a couple of bots. So I’ll claim a win, so far.

Stephanie: My favorite part of streaming is seeing people who come in regularly, people who have been supporting me and the channel from the start. I love that I can talk to them while I'm playing or cooking or whatever I'm streaming that day. That social part is even better when I can stream with friends, too. 

Back to gaming:

 

What is one of your favorite achievements in your personal gaming history you’ve accomplished? A game you’ve beaten, an achievement reached or a charity stream goal achieved? 

Charlotte’s family resulted from her playing an online game and meeting her Prince Charming. Now she is living her “Happily Ever After.”

Charlotte: My 15-year-old son, Troy. I met my husband on a video game (Ultima Online) back in 2002. We married in 2003.

Stephanie: My favorite "old school" achievement is finishing The Legend of Zelda on NES. I've even replayed the game multiple times in the years since when I could find it. My favorite current achievement is hosting an Extra Life team and charity stream. We raised almost $1500 for children's hospitals and the whole team brought so much energy, enthusiasm, and support for each other. It was a joy to be able to host, and I hope we can do it again in 2021!

https://www.extra-life.org/

Charity Streams are a great way to pursue your hobby and give back to a great cause! 

Video games have evolved significantly in the last few years in regards to diversity and strong female leads. What more would you like to see from the industry in the future?

Charlotte: Would love to see even more diversity, gender, and race. I would also like to see schools promote the E arts to female students. It’s sad how much more the boys are pushed to them. I feel like if girls had new opportunities in jobs available they would go for more of those classes.

Stephanie: We've already come a long way with female leads and gay representation. I'd like to see more story writers and game producers take that to the next level by having characters who are bisexual, polyamorous, transgender, transvestite, and non-binary. I'd especially like stories to not assume every romance is going to be hetero or monogamous.

 I had a lot of fun discussing these questions in further detail in a Zoom chat with six of us female Replayers.

I learned a lot from Charlotte and Stephanie. From the early days of gaming to our current era it seems we have come a long way already in a short period of time. There have already been great strides in diversifying stories and gameplay. In recent years we have seen a significant influx of strong female leads giving us women gamers someone to finally relate to. You can look at a past interview of female replayers here.

Thank you again Charlotte and Stephanie for chatting with me and sharing your experience with the rest of us.

Check out their socials!

Charlotte - Twitter: @snapefantasy Twitch: twitch.tv/snapefantasy Instagram: snapefantasy

Stephanie - Twitter: @StephanieDoesVO Twitch: twitch.tv/Jicori Instagram: stephaniedoesvo

What other kinds of diversified roles would you like to see in video games? 

Getting Gritty with The Bad Batch

What do you get when cloning on Kamino goes bad in a good way? Answer: The Bad Batch. Fans of Star Wars: The Clone Wars love this maverick group of clone troopers so much they earned their own series on Disney+. I'm one of those fans, so I'm excited to share my love with you all, introduce you to the group, and give you my review of the debut episode of Star Wars: The Bad Batch

Star Wars: The Bad Batch logo

You don't have to have seen the other animated Star Wars shows to appreciate this new series. If you have, though, you'll find yourself picking out references to both Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels. Full disclosure: I was skeptical about The Clone Wars through its original six seasons (2008-2014), and it wasn't until I fell in love with Rebels in 2015 that I finally decided to watch through The Clone Wars. To my surprise, I actually loved it! So my anticipation was high for The Bad Batch spin-off.

For a little background if you're not familiar with The Clone Wars, it's an animated series that tells the story between two Star Wars prequel films, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Disney decided to give series fans a much-desired Season 7 of The Clone Wars (Season 7) to wrap up the series. That was released in February 2020 exclusively on Disney+, and the story partially overlaps with Revenge of the Sith.

But who are The Bad Batch? The Clone Wars introduced a number of clone troopers with unique personalities brought to life by phenomenal voice performances from Dee Bradley Baker. Dee started with a basis of Temura Morrison's voice as Jango Fett and Commander Cody in the prequel films. He then extended that voice into something distinct for each clone. In the show's final season, we meet a group of four such clones that were genetic experiments by the cloners on Kamino. Cody called them "defective clones with desirable mutations," making them powerful assets if you're putting together a special operations team for a tough mission. And the Republic did just that, establishing Clone Force 99, a.k.a. "The Bad Batch," as a highly trained, highly successful team known for their unconventional methods.

The Bad Batch together in battle
The Bad Batch team up to face an army of battle droids back in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

In spite of some social media backlash I've seen about them being blatant character tropes, The Bad Batch was well-received in their 4-episode story arc kicking off The Clone Wars Season 7. We wanted to see more, and Disney and Lucasfilm obliged! Star Wars: The Bad Batch debuted on "Star Wars Day" (May 4) in 2021. Dee Bradley Baker might have his work cut out for him voicing all those unique characters, but what a great way to showcase his performances!

WARNING: Spoilers ahead!

The rest of this article includes details about the final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars and the debut episode of Star Wars: The Bad Batch

Let me introduce you to the squad...

Hunter from Star Wars: The Bad Batch

Hunter leads the force. He may look like Rambo with the shaggy dark hair and head band, but his heightened senses make him more like Billy, the tracker character from Predator. Hunter is a master of martial skills and moves incredibly fast in his signature knife fighting style. As a leader, Hunter brings his tactical genius, knowing what each of his team members can do, how to keep them focused, and how to best coordinate their approach in any situation.

Wrecker from Star Wars: The Bad Batch

Wrecker is the stereotypical big strong guy with a heart of gold and a bundle of enthusiasm. Nothing fazes him as he faces ship crashes and enemy reinforcements as exciting challenges. He also doesn't think much before acting, assuming he can do some superhuman things in battle. And he's usually right. Wrecker is gregarious with his friends, and he's a big softie when it comes to sentimental things. It's hard not to love this guy, and he's easily my favorite.

Tech from Star Wars: The Bad Batch

Tech has enhanced intelligence and a talent for breaking into computers, hijacking electronics, and translating languages. He also has stereotypical "nerd" spectacles and a penchant for correcting people or dropping in bits of trivia during conversations. Besides being a seasoned fighter with dual blasters, Tech's accurate, on-the-fly calculations in battle help the rest of the team execute the perfect attack.

Crosshair from Star Wars: The Bad Batch

Crosshair is the silent type who always looks brooding and intense. His sniper skills and instincts are as superhuman as Wrecker's strength. And when he takes out his signature toothpick to speak, it's because there's something important to say. The Bad Batch fight scenes as a team show off Crosshair's brilliance and his ability to think several steps ahead.

Echo from Star Wars: The Bad Batch

Echo is a recurring elite clone trooper from the Clone Wars series who joined The Bad Batch at the end of their story arc in the show's final season. Presumed dead after an explosion, Echo was captured and enslaved as a cyborg so a corporation could gather and sell intelligence secrets from his mind. The Bad Batch helped rescue Echo, and Echo earned their trust by applying his new inside knowledge and droid-like computer port to turn the tide on the Anaxes battlefront. He's also proved that he's still a top commando on the battlefield.

This team has kicked off their new show with style. Star Wars: The Bad Batch comes in with guns blazing, full of action, humor, and heart. I won't recap the whole 70-minute debut episode here, I'll just reflect on some key plot points and my reactions and encourage you to check out the show. 

The Bad Batch on Kaller in Episode 1

To start off, I have to talk about how beautiful this animation is. Though the series is a spinoff from The Clone Wars, it's building on the major upgrades the series made to its animation in its final season. The character faces seem to be the only artifacts from its highly stylized early seasons. This newer animation uses focus effects, lens distortions, and brilliant camera movement as though on a 3D set with conventional live action film technology. It's easy to forget I'm watching animation instead of live action with CGI.

Caleb Dume from The Bad Batch
The first 10 minutes of the series included a certain padawan who Star Wars: Rebels fans will be very familiar with.

Corresponding with the final events of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, the first episode starts with The Bad Batch witnessing the infamous Order 66 and trying to make sense of what's going on around them. I was relieved that most of The Bad Batch aren't affected by the inhibitor chips implanted in clones' brains to guarantee they would follow Order 66. As the order goes out, the "regs" turn on their Jedi leaders and kill them. But in The Bad Batch, only Crosshair seems inclined to kill the Jedi, and he's confused as to why. None of the team knows what "Order 66" was until Tech does a little digging.

After The Bad Batch returns home to Kamino and starts testing the waters, Admiral Tarkin arrives. Stephen Stanton returns to his Clone Wars and Rebels role as Tarkin, a performance that adds a unique brand of sinister to the character. Tarkin is strongly inclined to discontinue using clones for the new Empire, and he seems to have it in for this defiant Clone Force 99. That is all except for Crosshair, who is affected enough by the inhibitor chip's programming to file a report about Hunter allowing a Jedi padawan to escape.

Tarkin and Lama Su
Admiral Tarkin and Kamino Prime Minister Lama Su observe Clone Force 99 in a training simulation.

Tarkin's actions usher in the first big story arc for the show. After reading Crosshair's report, Tarkin decides that Clone Force 99 needs to prove their loyalty to the Empire. Tarkin sends the team on a mission to take out some "insurgents" on Onderon. When Hunter discovers that the reported enemy is actually a small group of civilian refugees, including children and elderly folk, he orders the team to stand down. Meanwhile, Crosshair is itching to follow orders and getting increasingly irritated with Hunter. 

In that same sequence, Saw Gerrera explains that the refugees' only offense was resisting oppression from the new Empire. Fans of The Clone Wars, Rebels, and the film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story should recognize Saw as the Republic-trained guerilla fighter who would eventually become a rebellion leader. Andrew Kishino reprises the role of Saw as he played it in The Clone Wars, which links perfectly with Forest Whitaker's performances in Rogue One and Rebels.

Saw Gerrera in The Bad Batch
Saw Gerrera hints at the rebellion to come.

The episode eventually leads to Tarkin isolating Crosshair and having the cloners intensify the effect of his inhibitor chip. They then send him to kill off his Bad Batch brothers before they escape punishment for treason. I have mixed feelings about this part of the story. On the one hand, it's a good setup to get the guys on the run and in opposition of the Empire while still having a reason to stay engaged: to bring Crosshair back to his senses. On the other hand, opening this way doesn't give a lot of time for new viewers to connect with who Crosshair was as a member of the team. To really get that, you'd have to go back and watch those first four episodes of The Clone Wars Season 7. This missing emotional link was my only major concern about the opening episode.

Omega from The Bad Batch
Omega introduces herself to The Bad Batch on Kamino.

Another thing I'm loving is this new character, Omega, performed by Michelle Ang. Omega is an adolescent female clone working as a medical assistant on Kamino. She follows The Bad Batch around, clearly knows a lot about them, and snoops into their things while they're away. At first, I was worried they were putting her in as the trope of an obsessed fan who's stalking is rewarded by becoming a member of the team. But we find out later that she's already one of them: an experimental clone with desirable mutations who has a strong desire to escape what's going on on Kamino. We don't know what those desirable traits are yet, but she's a crack shot with a blaster the first time she picks one up. I look forward to seeing more of Omega.

It's not a long wait to find out what's next: Episode 2 drops in its usual weekly time slot this Friday. While Episode 1 was long, I'm glad they didn't try to divide it up across three "normal" episodes (20-25 minutes each). The first big chunk of story took us from Order 66 to The Bad Batch being on the run, opposing the new Empire, and looking for a way to rescue their friend.

We know from the series trailer and other announcements that Ming-Na Wen has brought her live action role as Fennec Shand (introduced in The Mandalorian) into this animated series. She wasn't in the first episode, but I look forward to seeing where she comes in!

Fennec Shand, live action and animated
Ming-Na Wen as Fennec Shand in The Mandalorian (top) and The Bad Batch.

Star Wars: The Bad Batch is just the newest entry in a rich Star Wars universe, with a vast range of stories across film, TV, comics, novels, games, and more. I encourage all Star Wars fans to take time and indulge in the amazing stories that so many talented story writers have brought to life. Even older fans like myself can open their hearts and minds and find something they like about these newer stories and characters.

Look for my follow-up article on The Bad Batch when the season ends!

Have you seen The Bad Batch yet? What do you think so far? Got a favorite character? Let's chat in the comments below!

Why In The World Would Anyone Play SIMS?

Disclaimer: Sims were definitely harmed in the writing of this article.

What is it about the virtual world of The Sims that has so many people captivated and willing to spend hours on a virtual version of themselves? Why would someone want to work and play in a virtual world or create a virtual family? Why would someone cook for their virtual selves and meet Sim friends instead of just actually doing those things? 

Psychoanalyst Steve McKeown says that playing games can serve as a healthy escape from everyday life. He also argues that it's a better alternative to other vices like alcohol and drugs. (source: Pemberton)

McKeown says, "The suggestion that we may spend more time in a virtual world than the physical one has been developing speedily over the years and has fast become a way in which we can live an alternative life in exactly the way we want.”

McKeown adds that there's a risk for people to “burn out” if they don’t have a suitable means of escape. Steve said that The Sims game series (Maxis and Electronic Arts, 2000-present) is a particularly positive way to do so because players can explore their lives or personality in a way they hadn’t previously.

The Sims can allow a person to escape social normality, its pressures and chronic stresses that are so prevalent in the real world, it allows the gamer to create a perfect reality in which they play the main character and have full control over the outcome

So that’s a psychoanalyst’s thoughts on why we might play The Sims. But let me tell you how I started playing.

For me, it had a lot to do with Star Wars. YES, Star Wars! They added a pack to The Sims 4 for you to be able to travel to Batuu. The area in the game looks like the fictional world of Batuu created at Galaxy’s Edge in Disney Parks. Why would I not want to create a version of myself that can wield a lightsaber? 

Star Wars smuggler Hondo talking to my SIM

In case you couldn’t tell, I am a huge fan of Star Wars! I downloaded The Sims 4 onto my PlayStation 4. I tried and tried to create a character on the PlayStation that would remotely resemble me. I couldn’t get the controls to work, so I answered a quiz and it just created a Sim -- that looked NOTHING like me! Rage quit number one in the books. 

I then moved to the PC version after being told by another Sims player that I should definitely not play on the PlayStation. I was able to figure out the controls much easier on PC to make a more customizable Sim.

Okay, let’s get started! Time to pick a job. Okay, I will be an office worker since that’s kind of what I do now. I let her make her own food and go to the bathroom when she needed to. Oh, wait... I had her start gaming and now she won’t use the bathroom in time. Well, that was interesting. CLEAN UP ON AISLE FIVE! 

Also, one day my Sim woke up and she was FAT! I didn’t know this could happen! I guess if you allow your Sim to only eat cheese for weeks and not work out that can and will happen. Reality check one. Okay, gym time, and let’s learn to cook. How is this an escape from real life? THIS IS REAL LIFE!

My Sim set herself on fire trying to cook. Multiple times. Enough to the point that she started dating a fireman. I mean, why not if he’s going to be there all the time anyway? 

I also had a Sim friend come over to my house to visit and DIE! I had no idea what to do with the urn, so it just sat there. In my living room. The grim reaper came to take her away and just hung out in my house. He sat on my couch brooding, reading my books, and just hanging around creeping everyone out! Thankfully he did not eat my food (he had probably heard about my cooking). Then, to top it off, my dead friend came back as an angry ghost and began yelling at me. 

SIMS fighting in Batuu

In the game, I've passed out from exhaustion. I've had visible smells emanating from my body that have driven people to the other side of the room due to poor hygiene. I've even had people walk in on me in the shower. What is happening? Is this how my life really is? Is this actually relaxing me and helping me disconnect from reality? 

So, I did the next logical thing. Rage quit number two in the books, and I created a new Sim because, let’s be honest, my first Sim was just cursed. I picked a job as an astronaut for the second Sim because what the hell? I even got a roommate, and she was quite proficient at putting out the fires I set while cooking. 

What Stormtrooper?

At this point, I've only just started playing, and I've only visited the Star Wars world of Batuu once. When I shared my misadventures with friends, I heard stories from other players on why your Sim should never be left unsupervised. 

Friend and Replayer Charlotte Merritt (aka Snapefantasy) said that she loves to build houses and almost always has a pool. She explained that if you have the Seasons pack you should definitely delete the pool during winter. Apparently, Sims do not know that they should not have a pool party in the dead of winter. 

Charlotte also said that, for her own stress relief, she would create a Sim in The Sims 3 and have them go swimming and delete the ladder. The inevitable would happen. Apparently, in The Sims 4, they learned to get out of pools without ladders (unless it’s cold of course). *Insert graveyard instead of the pool* 

Freezing to death at a pool party in winter

Stephanie Judge (the lovely editor for Retro Replay) said that in The Sims 3 she had one of her Sims die in someone else’s house fire. He was a firefighter. She had to go back to the person’s house to get his urn. She also had her Sims take it upon themselves to go to a pool party, in winter (I’m sensing a theme here). She said there were about 20 dead Sims and she had to wait for the reaper to plead for her Sims death. And the Sims kept climbing in the pool and dying, so she had to wait a while. 

Another time, Stephanie had a Sim die of heatstroke and a toddler playdate turned grim apparently. Not to worry folks, the toddler was resurrected. I think that's yet another argument against leaving your Sims unattended. 

Amelia's SIM

Amelia Brown, another friend, and Replayer said that she believes the game literally turned against her. She had managed to create a gorgeous Sim and had been playing her for almost two years. She liked her so much that she had her take the age-freeze potion to stop her from aging into middle adulthood. Whenever she lit the fireplace, house fires would break out, and she always died. Most times, she had just saved her progress, so she would just quit the game and restart to a point before the house fire. 

Amelia said she was also abducted by aliens, electrocuted, and struck by lightning. She even had to have a family member resurrect her after she died suddenly. Amelia eventually got tired of fighting death and began a new Sim, declaring it was safe to say that it was never meant to be. 

I asked each of these friends why they would subject themselves to this game of getting attached to these characters only for them to die in gruesome ways. Their responses reflect what psychoanalyst Steve McKeown was saying about the game. 

Charlotte says that The Sims is a great stress relief for her. 

Stephanie Judge's SIM lightsaber training

Stephanie loves to create her own worlds in The Sims as her occasional escape, and it’s a way for her to become whoever she wants to be. Stephanie spends most of her time creating the Sims and building their homes. She finds it very relaxing. With so many different Sims to play, whether it’s The Sims Medieval or the classic The Sims games, she says it’s a truly awesome gaming experience. 

Amelia adds to this by saying that she's a very creative person and, between character design or just creating a narrative around the characters, The Sims is a creative outlet. She says she likes to spend days creating a family with detailed backstories and traits. 

So, even though our Sims are obviously idiots (even if you give them an intelligent trait), we still continue to play them. And I’ll admit that it’s a guilty pleasure for me, too. Some days it’s just mindless entertainment to run or ruin the life of this poor moronic soul: making sure she just manages to cross the street without being hit by a car or getting her to the restroom in time. We do our best to take care of our Sims and probably give them a more entertaining life than we have. Mine is a Jedi! You can even buy packs, install mods, and create new and better kitchens, and yet your Sim will still manage to set themselves on fire, and I can’t help but laugh hysterically and then put her out. 

Retro Replay set with Nolan created by Amelia Brown

Why do you play The Sims or any kind of world-building, character-building game that gets you hooked? Are there any other games that you would consider a guilty pleasure that you put hours into? Leave comments below!

Star Wars: The Good, The Bad & The Indifferent

This article contains spoilers

Star Wars became a pop culture phenomenon the moment it hit the scene. The sweeping, adventurous science fiction space opera, filled with intense family drama, discovery of self, and inner strength has won the hearts of millions worldwide. Despite its ongoing success and ever-growing, deepening fan base I have yet to meet someone who loves every single film, animated series, video game, book, and graphic novel. The scope of the Star Wars universe is so vast and diverse that it has attracted just as a diverse audience who can’t seem to agree on what makes this universe so magical.  George Lucas revolutionized the film industry with his determination to bring his abstract ideas to life. Who would have thought an ongoing space drama would ignite the imagination of the whole world? 

Safe Space: The Original Trilogy

If someone told you they never watched Star Wars before, where would you make them start the story? The way George Lucas intended it? Episode IV, A New Hope? Or would you suggest starting at the beginning with Episode I, the Phantom Menace? I have heard of parents introducing their children to the saga in the sacrilegious way of starting with Episode I. Those poor misguided younglings… 

There is something sacred about the original trilogy. The saga started out as an underdog, with everyone involved having minimal expectations of its outcome. The success it saw overnight upon its release astounded it’s creators, paving the way for the next two installments. Out of the three original movies of the trilogy, everyone has their personal favorite, but everyone agrees the original trilogy is the best trilogy. It doesn’t matter which of the three movies you love:  A New Hope as it is the introduction into the universe we’ve all grown to love; The Empire Strikes Back is where we see new and diverse landscapes, learn more about the mysterious Force and see a budding romance between two very opposite beloved characters; or The Return of the Jedi where we see the rebellion finally claim victor over the evil Empire and a final resolution to the complex family issues that span two generations. 

 Do you remember the first time you watched these magnificent films? How did you feel then? How do you feel now when you revisit them?

 There is tangible magic that breathes life into Star Wars. We can all feel it. We get excited about it. Even casual fans are passionate about it. It is unanimous: the original trilogy is the best trilogy.

 What Happened: The Prequels

No one asked for it, but when we all first heard that the Star Wars universe would once again be gracing the silver screen we ALL were excited. Where would the story pick up? How would it be developed? How would George bridge the gap between the last generation to the next? How would Anakin Skywalker’s descent into darkness be brought to the fore and how would this all leave us feeling? 

When Episode I, The Phantom Menace, was released I was young enough to “enjoy” it for what it was. I had become a huge fan by the time I was twelve years old, but even at that young age, I wondered what the heck George was thinking. Nothing about the sequels was close to what I had remotely imagined the story would be like. When “Old Ben” briefly reminisces about his good friend Anakin Skywalker the storyline played out very differently in my mind from what George delivered to us as cannon. 

I will never forget the feeling of betrayal and utter disappointment as I watched, on premiere night Episode III. Unpopular opinion: Episode III, Revenge of the Sith is the worst of the prequels. Here is why: The first twenty minutes of the movie seemed like it was filmed by amateurs, in a silly, comedic blooper-like medley of insulting jibs and ridiculous puns as the fate of the Galactic Republic is at stake. Twenty minutes of film that should have hit the editing room floor and forgotten forever. Twenty minutes of on-screen time that could have been used to a sweeping portrayal of the downfall, the onslaught massacre of the Jedi. Instead, we get less than three full minutes to mourn the key figures of this endangered, almost extinct order, as Order 66 sweeps the galaxy. 

By the end of that film, I wanted to rage, as “Annie” did. This Annie is NOT okay. George got lost in the details, forgetting what mattered most. He lost focus, and those closest to him, in his creative realm, let him wander in the madness. He had forgotten the big picture and got sidetracked too many times along the way. The story we were left with was cobbled and lacking. The key players felt like cardboard cutout marionettes dancing to an off-kilter haunting unmelodic tune. 

I haven’t gone full dark side. Yet. There is some good that came from the prequels. Ewan McGregor was magnificent as Obi-Wan Kenobi. I am beyond excited to see him return. Duel of the Fates is one of the most memorable, intense pieces of classical music created in modern times. The lore of Darth Maul was so compelling that fans demanded he is resurrected from the dead and given a key role in the animated series the Clone Wars. We got introduced to Boba Fett’s back story.

For a clip of Duel of the Fates click below:

https://youtu.be/8G3BKjGjJmA

I have found in many discussions that younger people tend to like, even love the prequels. It’s what they grew up on. I can understand that, from a certain point of view.

 

 

What are some things that you enjoy about the prequels? 

The Mouse Becomes Our New Hope: The Sequels

Would you believe I predicted Disney would acquire Star Wars? I was ten years old and, in mixed company, someone asked me who my favorite princess was? I took a moment and thought about it. I wanted to say Ariel, but the moral of her story was to change yourself to find your prince. I wasn’t okay with that. Then, I wanted to say Belle, but she too sacrificed her independence at the incessant demands of a beast-man. Jasmine was a bit cocky to be a role model, running away from home thinking that’s how she could escape her problems. None of these princesses would do.

Who is the best princess? Princess Leia: composed, diplomatic, strong-willed, can handle herself when things get tough, not afraid to stand up for what she believes in, unwilling to change herself for a dashing, rascal smuggler. She is a true role model. 

I gave my answer: Princess Leia. I was told to pick a Disney princess. I refused and repeated my answer. “But she’s not a Disney princess!” “Yet,” I finished. The “yet” prompted a response from two grown men not even invested in the conversation. “That will never happen, little girl!” “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” were the unsolicited replies I received. What other Empire would have the resources to acquire Star Wars? There is only one answer: Disney. 

When I heard the news that Disney had officially acquired Star Wars and there was to be a sequel trilogy I was ecstatic. This news gave me a new hope (pun intended) that everything I had hoped to see would come to fruition. 

They did not disappoint. Love them or hate them, the sequels paved the way for our expanded view of the galaxy we love. As someone who has read every expanded universe novel, I have enjoyed watching the creators of the new stories pull influence and ideas from this lore and sculpt it into something new. New tales are being told within the universe, but the Galaxy still feels like home.

(Featured here is my personal Star Wars collection.)

Kylo Ren was everything his grandfather, Vader, should have been. I had been waiting to see a villain of his caliber since the original trilogy. I finally received him. The ongoing battle between dark & light, the return and departure of beloved old characters, and nostalgia re-lived was the cathartic experience we all were hoping for.

I do understand some of the gripes people have about the new trilogy, but overall I am willing to overlook some of their imperfections for what they have given us in return. Disney wants to give us fans what we want. They are listening. 

The Standalones 

Rogue One was a breath of fresh air for all of us tired of the Jedi/Sith drama. We got to see the story told from the point of view of the normal people of the galaxy fighting to make a difference. The execution of the film captured the Star Wars essence without trying too hard or making things feel forced. (No pun intended). I went to see it with some friends and afterward, I turned to them and said, “You ask me why I continue to read Star Wars books and keep up on the lore. THIS is why. These are the stories I keep tuning in for.” 

Solo: A Star Wars Story was a fun ride. Alden Ehrenreich was an odd choice for me as a young Han, but I did my best to enjoy the story for what it was. There will only be one Han Solo: Harrison Ford. 

When it’s Mando season, every Friday or Saturday you get asked, “Have you watched the Mandalorian yet?” Everyone wants to know if it’s “safe” to talk about the new episode. The hype for what is going to happen next is alive and well. The story is beautifully crafted and delivered and we are compelled to stick with our favorite characters as they brush shoulders with some key players for the galaxy at large. 

Jon Favreau gets it. He understands the bigger picture. He is creating with all of us in mind. For this, I am thankful. I hope to see this mentality from creators in the future for the next Star Wars projects. 

Epilogue

Star Wars is a story that binds us together, flowing through our imaginations, keeping the human spirit bound to the determination to make the galaxy a better place. Whatever story, timeline, or character you are drawn to keep the imagination alive for the next generations.

Why do you love Star Wars? Share with me in the comments so we can keep the lore alive.

Newly Launched Lucasfilm Games Hypes New Projects In The Works

In a press release on Monday, January 11, 2021, Lucasfilm announced that all of its official gaming titles would fall under the new identity Lucasfilm Games. This is an evolution of the interactive division under Lucasfilm VP Douglas Reilly. StarWars.com reports that Lucasfilm Games "encompasses the company's rich catalog of video games and its eye toward the future." To launch the hype train, Lucasfilm Games rebranded the Star Wars Games social media channels to @LucasfilmGames on Twitter and @LucasfilmGames on Facebook.

The announcement was accompanied by a sizzle reel for Lucasfilm Games that shows scenes from current titles available across consoles, PC, and mobile platforms:

My head filled with questions: What does this mean? Is Lucasfilm going to establish its own in-house game development? Or is this just a new way it's working with its game developers at EA?

I initially thought that this rebranding was representing a change in how Lucasfilm wants to manage the story content in their licensed games. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (2019, EA and Respawn Entertainment), which got a next-gen console optimization this week, was likely a testing ground for the development approach they want to take with games moving forward. The new Star Wars: Squadrons is following in its footsteps, as is the Star Wars: Journey to Batuu game pack for The Sims 4.

Fans may know that the stories in these games are considered part of the official Star Wars canon. Fans also know, some begrudgingly so, that canon is carefully controlled by Lucasfilm with the Lucasfilm Story Group serving as the advisory panel. If Lucasfilm wants to keep all games' storytelling within canon, it seems natural that they would establish a new identity around that effort and involve the Story Group.

As the week progressed, I learned there was a bit more to it.

The hype train continued on Tuesday with a teaser from Bethesda for an Indiana Jones video game that's in the works:

My first thought: Indiana Jones, yes! But wait, what happened to that EA exclusivity with Lucasfilm?

Bethesda Softworks is currently a subsidiary of ZeniMax Media and is known for publishing the successful franchises The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Wolfenstein, Rage, and the Doom reboot games. In that same Twitter thread announcing the new game, Bethesda described it as "an original story... from our studio MachineGames... in collaboration with Lucasfilm Games." They said it will be some time before they have more to reveal, but that they're excited to share the news.

What kind of game will it be? Though Bethesda has a lot of success in the action RPG space, MachineGames is best known for its work on first-person shooter Wolfenstein: The New Order (2014). Given the overlap between that game's World War II era alternate universe and Indiana Jones' time setting, my prediction is that we're looking at either a Wolfenstein reskin or something new that's strongly influenced by their work on Wolfenstein.

Keeping the hype going on Wednesday, Lucasfilm Games announced that they're working with Ubisoft on a new story-driven, open-world Star Wars adventure game:

My first thought: I love Ubisoft! This is going to be awesome! But again, what happened to EA?

My answer came in the link from that Tweet to a brief interview with Douglas Reilly about this new Lucasfilm Games venture. He reports that they've been working quietly behind the scenes for a while, but that they're now ready to start making announcements. 

Douglas Reilly, Vice President, Lucasfilm Games

Reilly states, "We've got a team of professionals here at Lucasfilm Games who can work with the developers, shape the stories, shape the creative, shape the games, to make them really resonate with fans and deliver across a breadth of platforms, genres, and experiences so that all of our fans can enjoy the IPs that they know and love."

What about that old exclusivity with EA? Well, Reilly says they're still proud of the games they've made with EA and that the relationship they have with EA is "stronger than ever." But Reilly's team is now extending that same partnership to other developers, like Bethesda and Ubisoft.

A big theme in that interview was storytelling. Reilly repeated a few times that they were looking to help more people bring their story ideas into the Lucasfilm spotlight. I think we can expect the new era of games under the Lucasfilm Games identity to focus on new stories and expanding the franchises we already love, particularly Star Wars.

Drew Karpyshyn was the lead writer on BioWare's Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Will his stories of Revan finally become canon?

As a nine-year subscriber and avid player of Star Wars: The Old Republic (BioWare, 2011), I also wondered how this might impact previously non-canon stories from the Old Republic games. Characters like Revan and historical references like the Mandalorian Neo-Crusaders from video games and comics were moved into the Legends category. Lucasfilm's Dave Filoni and Pablo Hidalgo have each made references to Old Republic people, places, and events in their work. But will those things ever find a broader, more permanent place in canon lore?

We now seem to have a partial answer to that. First, the Knights of the Eternal Throne expansion of SWTOR was part of the sizzle reel. As I mentioned in my article Storytelling Across Both Games and Film, the Lucasfilm Story Group consulted on the story in that expansion. Second, BioWare has been hyping its predecessor Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (2003), with both KOTOR releases still widely available, and with KOTOR II being reimagined for mobile platforms. Fans are also clinging to rumors that future films or Disney+ series will include stories and characters from KOTOR and SWTOR.

It's only Wednesday as I'm writing this. What else will Lucasfilm Games announce as part of this hype train? Let's keep an eye on those social media feeds to find out, then dish about the hype in the comments here!

What are you thinking so far? Are you feeling the hype yet, or are you still waiting to hear more?

Did the Mandalorian Save Star Wars?

So, here is the thing.

You were very excited when Disney brought back Star Wars and choked on your food when the Millennium Falcon took flight at the end of the first ‘Force Awakens’ teaser. Correct me if I am wrong.

Then you went in, watched it, cried, realized it was a nostalgia piece, but it was still your favorite thing in the Universe. Last Jedi rolled in and you either went to the group that hates everything about it, because it is NOT ‘Star Wars’ enough and god forbid forced new things down your throat… or… you were in the other group where you loved it so much, because of the new perspective and new introduction, that you celebrate it to this day. There’s no middle ground (or high ground) in this conversation, but let me remind you all, that when it first came out ‘Empire Strikes Back’ was just as dividing among fans.

And then… Rise of Skywalker arrived. You heard the Emperor’s laugh at the end of the first teaser and you facepalmed yourself so hard that your head actually fell off. Disney got scared. Brought back, Abrams. They basically rewrote every change that Last Jedi invented and chose the safest route with Palpatine. What were the results? The most painful Star Wars movie to watch with unnecessary fan service. So, all together we can say that Disney’s renewal of the Skywalker-saga wasn’t as successful as they hoped it would be. I mean… It was successful when you were looking at the box office, but you know what I mean. Sure, they released Rogue One separately from the Skywalkers and it was like a breath of fresh air (and for yours truly was the best thing since the original trilogy) and they brought in Solo as well, but that was nothing but a fun entrance really.

We can say that Star Wars fans were not really hopeful. But then! Something truly magical happened. In between ‘The Last Jedi’ and ‘Rise of Skywalker’ a new series snuck into view about the cutest being in the Star Wars Universe… wait! Hold on. What? It’s not about the cutest being? It’s not even called ‘The Child’? Have I been living a lie? Fine… A new series came into view about The Mandalorian. You know, Boba and Jango Fett, Sabine, etc. You could tell from the very first episode that the Mandalorian will finally be something that makes all hearts beat together.

Why? You may ask. 

Well, first and foremost, yes it does have a nostalgia feel to it, just like the new trilogy (Force Awakens especially). What makes it different from those though is the balance that they were able to hold throughout the episodes. It always had enough to make fans smile and gasp, but at the same time was able to introduce new stories and characters that you can grow to love later on. Meaning: Nostalgia did NOT overshadow the new world. 

They were also able to expand the Universe, something that many fans were looking forward to while keeping the familiar feel to everything in it. Just like they did in ‘Clone Wars’ and ‘Rebels’ so smartly they included enough familiar places and also races for us to be able to adjust to the new things, exactly how they did with the nostalgia feel. On top of that they started to bring in things from the animated shows that many people fell in love with. If you watch an episode more mindfully, even the structure they have is very similar to Clone Wars, but it obviously does have a more continuous-nature since it only follows Mando and the Child’s journey. Disney, if you ask me, learned from the mistakes of the new trilogy and trusted Jon Favreau enough to give him much needed free reign over the series. Favreau is a Star Wars fan, just like Abrams is a fan too, but for me personally, it is very visible which one of them had much more freedom with what they were given. 

It brings in the cutest being as well, who immediately builds up a cult following, and no, I will not shut up about it. The Child, or shall I say, Baby Yoda came in like a thunderstorm and lifted  Star Wars up into new heights and brought in new fans. The relationship between him and Mando became the stuff of legends. What is a better recipe for success than a kid stuck together with a grumpy old man as they go on new adventures every week? And on top of that, the kid is actually a mini Jedi… Say WHAAAT? I remember that there were a lot of speculations before the series came out if it will include any Jedi or not. I can safely say that none of us were expecting what we’ve got, but we are very satisfied. For a very very long time, George Lucas didn’t really let anyone touch on the questions around Master Yoda, we were never introduced to another one of his kind and there were a lot of questions about it. This points right back to what I said before: The Kid himself is familiar, fans quickly put the name ‘Baby Yoda’ on him, therefore, it builds on the familiarity and nostalgia, but we are finding out different things about him therefore it brings in the new. Perfect balance. 

We arrived at the pivotal point here. Where everything comes together smoothly and it does not feel forced or too much. The Mandalorian introduced Bo-Katan (played beautifully by Katee Sackhoff) and connected it to the season 1 ending with Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) and the Darksaber. Then it brought in Ahsoka Tano with the perfect choice for the role: Rosario Dawson. And on top of all this, we got back Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) and Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen). Familiar names, right? Fan favorites, right? Fan Service. Done. Right. Yes, I said it. All these beloved characters came back for a reason, they had a purpose and it wasn’t JUST done in the name of fan service. Example: The Darksaber, known by fans from Clone Wars and Rebels, showed up at the end of season one. It made sense that someone from Mandalore would come for it and the safest bet was Sabine or Bo Katan. We got the latter. The search for the Jedi. Candidates? Luke Skywalker, Ahsoka Tano, a big maybe on Ezra. We got Ahsoka. Was it fan service as well? Yes. Does it still make sense? Also yes. Fennec, we knew she would be alive as it was shown at the end of her season one episode that someone picked her up. That someone happened to be Bobba Fett. Fan service? Yes. Does it work? Yes. Where the new trilogy went completely sideways with this was the fact that they opened a new storyline with Last Jedi, it was different, it was innovative, but it did have backlash. What happened? It scared Disney. How did they want to sort it out? By bringing in the well-known even if it doesn’t make any sense at all (nostalgia) and pump it up with fan service but going completely the wrong way about it. 

Jon Favreau shall be forever praised for his true understanding of the Star Wars Universe and what makes it work exactly. He came in and he was able to pull off something that seemed impossible: Create something Star Wars related that can appeal to everyone in One Way or Another. A New Hope is on the horizon. 

The Child (sorry, now we know his name) Grogu and Mando’s journey will continue on Friday only on Disney+  and they will return with season 3 next year Christmas day. 

How do you feel about the Mandalorian? Do you feel that it has saved Star Wars or just added to the magic? 

Traveling To Galaxy's Edge In The Time Of COVID

Let’s be honest, the Coronavirus ruined 2020 for everyone. I had to postpone my wedding and reschedule my honeymoon. I also lost my job. I had tickets for a Retro Replay photo op and Retro Replay Live, which were both canceled. I had plans to go to Vancouver BC in August for a Stargate convention (Gatecon.com) that was postponed until 2021. It’s been tough to find a new job and my mental health has been struggling.

The honeymoon plan for me and my fiancé Rachel was Disney World and Universal Studios in Florida. Though cases of COVID were up in Florida, both parks had strict rules on masks and distancing. The safety protocols were enough for us to decide we would go on this trip. Not only did we need something to look forward to, we needed something to let us forget about how absolutely horrible the state of the world is.

Me and the Kylo Ren TIE

Anyone who knows me knows that I love Star Wars. But, I’m not one of those people who has always loved it or even knows everything about it. I started watching Star Wars about 10 years ago and I was instantly obsessed. From the costumes to the special effects, Star Wars was incredible to me. In the years leading up to the opening of Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland and Disney World, I could barely contain my excitement. When we planned our honeymoon, I was ecstatic that I would finally get to visit the planet of Batuu and get to build a lightsaber at Savi’s Workshop.

While we were planning to celebrate my birthday on our trip, I was more looking forward to the time I would get to spend at Galaxy’s Edge. Upon arrival, I was holding back tears. The joy I felt was unfathomable. The attention to detail really made me feel like I was a part of the Star Wars universe. Finally getting the chance to pilot the Millennium Falcon on Smuggler’s Run and getting to help save the Rebels on Rise of the Resistance was a dream come true. And last but certainly not least was the most exciting experience, becoming a true Jedi by building my very own lightsaber.

You are given 4 theme choices for hilt pieces when building your lightsaber:

Making of the lightsaber
Making of the lightsaber

Peace and Justice, salvaged scraps from fallen Jedi temples and crashed starships in these Republic-era designs honor the galaxy’s former guardians.
Power and Control, originally forged by dark side warriors, this style features rumored remnants from the Sith homeworld and abandoned temples.
Elemental Nature, this theme embodies the Force - an energy created by all living things, like Brylark trees, Cartusion whale bones, and Rancor teeth.
Protection and Defense, these materials bear mysterious motifs and inscriptions that reconnect users with the ancient wellspring of the Force.

I had a hard time deciding on my theme. I was torn between Peace and Justice and Protection and Defense. I ultimately decided on Peace and Justice, due to the way the pieces looked. To me, they felt like the best choice. Once we were called into Savi’s Workshop, we were given a workspace to stand at. The room is full of a handful of Gatherers, a group of lightsaber-building experts who have traveled the galaxy collecting parts and relics.

The lead Gatherer explains the meaning of the Kyber Crystals, and what their colors represent.

Lightsaber

Blue: like that of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, and Rey
Green: like that of Qui-Gon Jinn, Ahsoka Tano, Luke Skywalker, and Yoda
Violet: like that of Mace Windu
Red: like that of Darth Maul, Darth Vader, and Kylo Ren

Going into the experience, I was trying to decide between blue and green for my Kyber Crystal. Since I didn’t have a lot of time to make a decision once the Gatherers were walking around with the selections of crystals, I hastily opted for blue. I feel as though I made the right choice, however. We were instructed to insert the crystal into our hilt, where they lit up briefly. I was given the tray of parts to choose from and started to construct it. I was surprised at how heavy the pieces were. 

The hilt
The hilt

Once my hilt was complete, I handed it off to a Gatherer, who inserted it into the stabilization chamber. This part of the experience still makes me tear up when I think about it: The lead Gatherer then asks the builders to step forward, place their hands on their hilts and activate the lightsabers for the first time. The chambers open, and everyone lifts their lightsabers to the sky. A quick message from Master Yoda played, and I was officially a Jedi. I was given a sheath on the way out the door, and I headed next door to Dok Ondor’s for a little extra shopping. I bought 3 additional Kyber Crystals: green, violet, and yellow, which are unavailable during the build process. I was able to have my lightsaber shipped home from there, where it would arrive shortly after we returned from our trip.

Jen

I cannot begin to explain what this experience meant to me, and having a memento like a lightsaber I was able to personally construct is something I will never forget. This trip was exactly what Rachel and I both needed. While wearing masks in the Florida heat was less than ideal, being able to go on this vacation was an incredible experience. In total, we rode 86 rides and walked over 100 miles. Our feet were thankful to get back home and start up a two-week quarantine, and our cats were definitely grateful to have us home again. Going on vacation mid-pandemic was definitely interesting, but I hope my next vacation can go back to normal.

What lightsaber hilt and Kyber Crystal color would you choose?