I admit, Star Wars: The Bad Batch had me skeptical.
I didn’t love the characters when Clone Wars season 7 introduced them in a sort of back-door-pilot story arc, wishing that screen time had gone toward characters with unfinished arcs like Asajj Ventress or Boba Fett. The “Bad Batch” were a little too over the top for my personal tastes.
So, when their own series was announced, it didn’t inspire the usual intrigue for me. It wasn’t until the first trailers arrived that I realized this series could do something really interesting—and now, having seen the first two episodes, I get it. I’m all in.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch focuses on Clone Force 99, a group of experimental Clone Troopers engineered to have specific strengths. Their leader, Hunter, has enhanced senses (and a great Rambo cosplay). Wrecker is a powerhouse with a penchant for brawling and destruction, Tech has enhanced mental faculties and natural prowess with all things technological, and Crosshair is a master marksman. After the events of Clone Wars season 7 they were joined by Echo, a regular clone who was captured and turned into a cyborg by the Techno Union.
While not widely known throughout the Republic Army during the Clone Wars, the Bad Batch had a reputation for pulling off otherwise impossible missions, typically while ignoring standard rules and procedures. But as the Clone Wars end, the Republic is replaced by the Galactic Empire, and their role in the new government becomes uncertain.
The premier episode, Aftermath, does an excellent job of setting up the series’ place in the larger Star Wars timeline. After some initial action, connections are made to the events of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. A familiar galaxy-wide event is shown from a brand-new perspective, and a stark example is given as to how different the series’ heroes are from their fellow Clone Troopers.
(If nothing else, the opening events of the series are definitely recommended watching for any fans of The Clone Wars or Rebels, especially. An important event from a lesser-known comic is lightly retconned, but surely I won’t be the only one who jumps to their feet and hollers at the surprise cameo.)
The use of familiar locations and characters continues throughout the episode. Hunter’s crew returns to the cloning facilities on Kamino, as seen in Episode II: Attack of the Clones, for example. I noticed some clever nods to the second Prequel, echoing certain shots of Daniel Logan, Bodie Taylor, and Temuera Morrison’s portrayal of the Clone Troopers at various life stages.
Another familiar character has a substantial role to play in the episode, further tying the animated shows and movies together. This recognizable face, and the actor who takes up the performance, are not just here for fan service, though. Their inclusion makes complete sense for the story and immediately ups the tension—and the same can be said for a third character who appears later in this seventy-minute premiere.
In between instances of standard Clone Wars action, intrigue, and humour, we get to see more of the protagonists than in their initial appearance. As they’ve been genetically engineered for specific purposes, they do begin to show more nuance and personality gradually. I’m not sure I’ll ever grow to love Wrecker, but I was relieved to see there’s a little more narrative meat on their bones.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t honour the spectacular talent of Dee Bradley Baker as every single Clone character. Baker’s voice work is as synonymous with the Clone Troopers as Temuera Morrison, the man who gave them their likeness. I don’t think he’s ever had to argue with himself so much, as so many separate characters, as he does in this premiere. Each of the Bad Batch members has their own distinct personality and voice, but the true challenge is to bring that same level of individualism to a handful of regular Clones within one scene, and Baker makes it sound easy.
Also, new character Omega presents an interesting enigma. She is another enhanced Clone, but one who appears to age normally, like Jango Fett’s unaltered “son” Boba.
For me, the most interesting part of The Bad Batch‘s premiere was the state of the galaxy itself. This series can approach a segment of the Star Wars timeline that is often neglected or glazed over—the transition from Republic to Empire. Revenge of the Sith explored this in the briefest terms, but the bulk of the changes would come after its events. Subsequent comics have explored aspects of the days immediately after the fall of Anakin Skywalker, but The Bad Batch can really dig into it from the perspective of the Clone Troopers.
After all, we know the Clones did not become the Empire’s notoriously useless Stormtroopers, or at least were phased out well before the events of Solo or A New Hope. But what happened to the thousands upon thousands of Jango Fett’s clones when the galaxy no longer needed them? Hopefully, Star Wars: The Bad Batch will show us—and this is what has me finally on-board for the series.