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.
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.
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!
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 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 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 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 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 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.
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.
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'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.
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.
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!
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!