Last year, Star Wars: The Clone Wars wrapped up its final season with a conclusion that was equal parts thrilling and tragic. Before that, however, the season’s first story arc introduced us to an elite squadron of clone troopers dubbed Clone Force 99, aka the Bad Batch.
With one major exception, the squadron is made up of clones with specialized genetic mutations that make them even more efficient/lethal soldiers:
- Hunter: The squadron’s gruff and (mostly) no nonsense leader. Has the ability to feel electromagnetic signals, essentially making him a human GPS. Also wears a really sweet headband.
- Wrecker: Extremely big and incredibly strong. Can also be reckless, a bit goofy, and is terrified of heights.
- Tech: Basically the Donatello of the group, but with an even bigger brain. Despite being a “nerd,” he’s no slouch in combat department, either.
- Crosshair: Expert marksman and a colossal douche.
The final (and newest) member of the team is Echo, who was originally an elite ARC trooper before being captured by the Separatists during a rescue mission to the Citadel in Season 3 of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
The Separatists replaced the body parts he lost during the Citadel mission with cybernetic limbs. They also hooked him into a supercomputer that not only kept his body alive, but mined his brain for Republic intelligence and strategies. Later, he was found and rescued by Anakin Skywalker and the Bad Batch during an engagement on Skako Minor. After using his cybernetic enhancements to help them complete their mission, Echo decided to join the Bad Batch.
As the Bad Batch series begins, the Jedi Order is about to be decimated via Order 66. One would assume the behavioral modification chips each clone has would ensure Clone Force 99 remains loyal to Emperor Palpatine once the Republic is converted to into the new Galactic Empire. But if there’s one thing you can count on with the Bad Batch (besides always getting the job done), it’s being a bit different from all the other “regs.”
Before we dive into the super-sized series premiere, be forewarned that the recap portion of this review will contain lots of spoilers along with a few dashes of Star Wars history.
The episode opens at the tale end of the Clone Wars. After one of the standard opening narrations sets the stage, we head to the planet of Kaller, where Jedi Master Depa Billaba and her clone battalion have been pinned down by Separatist forces. After assuring the clone captain (Grey) that her padawan will arrive with reinforcements, a young Caleb Dume (who will later become Kanan Jarrus from Star Wars: Rebels) excitedly runs up to report that help is on the way.
Billaba and Captain Grey aren’t thrilled when they find out it’s only five clones, but their doubts are quickly put to rest when the Bad Batch shows up and uses their unique skill sets to quickly take out the advancing Separatist force.
With that bit of badassery out of the way, Hunter approaches Billaba and strongly suggests she launch a counterattack before the next Separatist battalion can arrive. Grey chides Hunter for telling a Jedi General what to do, but she agrees with Hunter’s assessment and orders her troops to advance. As they charge forward, Caleb introduces his master (and the audience) to each of the Bad Batch members. As far as why they’re on Kaller, they explain that a large number of clone forces have been rerouted to Coruscant following Grievous’ attempt to capture Chancellor Palpatine (as seen at the beginning of Revenge of the Sith).
The Bad Batch are the only reinforcements Billaba’s battalion is getting, but they’re all also she’ll need.
Tech then declares that he’s encrypted some com chatter indicating General Obi-Wan Kenobi has tracked and engaged Grievous on the planet of Utapau. If he’s successful in taking down the droid general, then the entire Separatist leadership structure will collapse and the war might be over.
In the meantime, however, there’s still the matter of another Separatist battalion advancing on their position. Billaba tells her eager padawan he can go with the Bad Batch to intercept them. As they depart, Grey receives a transmission from Palpatine to execute Order 66. He and the other clone troopers turn on her and begin firing without hesitation.
Caleb feels a disturbance in the force and turns to see he master being attacked. He sprints toward Billaba to help, but she commands him to flee moments before she’s cut down. As he runs back in the other direction, the confused Bad Batch squadron intercepts Caleb and asks what’s happening. The terrified padawan screams at them to stay away before taking off into the woods.
Tech says that the only clue he can find about what’s happening is something called “Order 66” being repeated on their com channels, although he has no idea what that is.
*Side Note: For those of you are Star Wars comics readers–yes, this completely contradicts what happened in The Last Padawan…and yes, we will dig into that after the recap.
Hunter sends Echo and Tech to talk to the regular clone troopers and see if they can figure anything else out. He then has Wrecker stay behind to stall anyone moving in their direction while he and Crosshair go to track down Caleb. When they find him, Crosshair immediately tries to take the padawan down. As Caleb flees again, Hunter asks why he would do such a thing. Crosshair flatly responds that “good soldiers follow orders.”
*Side Note: This is the same thing that clone trooper Tupp muttered when his inhibitor chip malfunctioned and caused him to murder Jedi General Tiplar in Season 6 of ‘Star Wars:The Clone Wars.’
As Hunter and Crosshair resume their search for Caleb, Tech radios in to tell them that the clones have been ordered to execute all Jedi on sight due to them attempting to overthrow/assassinate Chancellor Palpatine. Crosshair accepts the explanation on the spot, but Hunter correctly points out that it doesn’t make any sense for the Jedi to have done that.
Before they can argue any further, Crosshair spots Caleb in a tree and shoots him out of it. The padawan manages to survive and charges the clones, evading Crosshair’s fire and kicking him into a tree trunk, which momentarily knocks the sharp shooter out. Hunter screams for Caleb not to execute him, then tosses his own gun away and cautiously approaches. He tries to explain that he’s still on the padawan’s side, but Caleb (understandably) doesn’t believe him and turns to flee again.
Hunter pursues Caleb to a cliff overlooking a large chasm. He once again tries to explain that he doesn’t understand what’s happening and that he only wants to help him, but to no avail. Meanwhile, a squad of regular clone troopers manages to get past Wrecker into the woods. At the same time, Crosshair recovers and tracks Hunter to the cliff. Caleb hears the commotion and leaps across to the other side before fleeing deeper into the woods.
When Crosshair and the other troopers arrive moments later, Hunter lies and tells them that Caleb attempted to jump across, but didn’t make it.
Following the battle at Kaller, the Bad Batch and many of the other clone forces are recalled to their home planet of Kamino. As they descend toward the planet’s surface, Crosshair pointedly questions Hunter about his certainty that Caleb died attempting to jump across the chasm. Hunter tells him he’s sure the boy perished, but the sharp shooter appears more than a little skeptical.
After encountering far more security than usual, the Bad Batch land at Tipoca City (the Kaminoan capital and military/cloning hub) to find a much larger military presence than usual — including a sizable contingent of the elite Coruscant Guard. One of the troopers informs them that the war is officially over while two others carry the body of dead Jedi to be disposed of.
The Bad Batch make their way to their barracks, where Crosshair directly accuses Hunter of lying to them and allowing Caleb to escape. Hunter counters that executing their commanders isn’t part of their mission parameters, which Crosshair responds by coldly declaring that “an order is an order.”
Echo then remarks that it doesn’t make sense for the clones to have turned on Jedi they served beside them for years. Tech says that it actually makes perfect sense due to the fact that the Kaminoans engineered the clones to follow orders without question. As for why they didn’t feel obligated to do the same, Tech theorizes that it’s because their pre-existing genetic aberrations were manipulated, thus corrupting whatever programming caused the other clones to follow Order 66 without question…although he isn’t 100% sure that’s the case (i.e. Crosshair).
When Hunter points out that Echo was a “reg” before joining the Bad Batch, Tech guesses that the damage he sustained on Skako Minor wiped out much of his previous programming. Whatever was left got taken out by the Separatist experiments that also made him more machine than man.
Later, the clones are all called together for an assembly, where they watch a transmission of Palpatine’s speech from Revenge of the Sith announcing the formation of his new Galactic Empire. The regular clone troopers cheer for their new designation while the Bad Batch become even more concerned about what’s going on — except for Crosshair, who doesn’t care who’s giving the orders as long as he has a mission/target.
After leaving the assembly, Hunter notices that they’re being followed by a little girl with a human appearance. She introduces herself as Omega before listing off all of their names and declaring her excitement over their return. Before she can explain what she’s doing on Kamino, the Kaminoan’s Chief Medical Scientist (Nala Se) walks up and explains that Omega is her medical assistant. She also also says that the little girl has a tendency to wander and leads her away, leaving the already confused/concerned squadron even more baffled.
Grand Moff Willhuff Tarkin arrives on Kamino, where he informs the planet’s leadership that Palpatine isn’t keen on continuing with a clone army. When Kaminoan Prime Minister Lama Su counters that they have a contract with the Republic, Tarkin declares that it’s null and void since the Republic no longer exists. He also points out that the newly formed Empire can conscript and train soldiers for a fraction of the cost to produce the clones. Lama Su points out that those soldiers won’t be nearly as effective as the clones, which Tarkin angrily responds to by declaring that he’ll be the one to judge that.
Over at the mess hall, news of an imperial officer’s arrival to evaluate the clones has spread like wildfire. As the Bad Batch discusses what this might mean for them, they’re surprised when Omega sits down at their table. When Hunter asks if the child has a family she should be with, Omega appears to not even know what that means.
The awkward meeting is interrupted when a group of regs walk by and heckle the “Sad Batch” about their young companion. Omega responds by chucking a piece of fruit at them and demanding they apologize, which instantly wins Wrecker over. Hunter manages to diffuse the situation, but that gets completely shot to hell when one of the clones calls Omega a “lab scrubber” and Wrecker hurls an entire tray at him, resulting in massive brawl.
Echo notices Tarkin watching the fight with great interest before a regular clone manages to knock him out with a lunch tray. He awakens later in a medical bay being watched over by Omega and a talkative medical droid named AZI-3.
*Side Note: This is the same medical droid who assisted ARC Trooper Fives in removing his inhibitor chip back in Season 6 of ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars.’
Moments later, the Bad Batch arrive to check on Echo. AZI-3 informs them that they’ve all been declared medically defective, although Tech counters that “deviant” would be a more appropriate term. Echo then tells them about Tarkin, who he remembers not being a big fan of clones (from the Citadel mission) and will apparently be the one evaluating them. The bad news continues when Hunter informs the squad that they’ve been summoned for a meeting with the prime minister.
Omega insists on accompanying them since the fight was her fault, but Hunter tells the child that their squad is nothing but trouble and to keep her distance.
Instead of being in trouble, the Bad Batch learn that Tarkin has requested to see them in action during a training exercise. After watching the elite squadron easily defeat the course, Tarkin commands the Kaminoans to switch to live rounds. Lama Su protests that the clones and his facility could be damaged, but the moff insists he’ll be fully compensated.
The prime minister complies and summons a squadron of souped up battle droids. Not realizing the new danger they’ve been put in, Wrecker charges forward and is taken down. Hunter directs his squadron to retrieve their injured teammate before having them fall back so they can figure out what to do next. Unfortunately, the squadron is still saddled with training blasters that have virtually no effect on the droids.
After taking stock of the situation, Hunter sends Echo, Tech, and Wrecker to physically take down one of the droids, which Tech immediately begins reprogramming while he and Crosshair buy them time. After successfully taking over the droid, Tech hops on top of it and begins mowing the others down. Meanwhile, Hunter, Wrecker, and Echo use melee weapons/tactics to destroy the droids Tech’s is unable to hit.
The squad finishes the course with Wrecker tossing one of Hunter’s knives into the air and Crosshair shooting it into the final droid’s head, which looks exactly as badass as it sounds.
Later, Tarkin asks Nala Se to tell him more about the Bad Batch. She explains that despite being genetically defective clones, their cellular mutations enhance specific traits that make them even better soldiers. She also reveals that there are only five clones with such mutations in existence.
*Side Note: In case that bit of dialogue caused you to shout that Echo technically isn’t one of the genetically defective clones, you’re right…but that’s not who she was talking about. If you haven’t figured it out yet, then all will be revealed soon.
Tarkin expresses concern over reports that the Bad Batch exhibit a concerning level of disobedience, especially compared to regular clones troopers. Nala Se and Lama Su assure him this is merely a side effect of their mutations and has never hindered the squadron’s ability to complete their missions.
When Tarkin asks if the Bad Batch successfully executed Order 66, Lama Su says he assumes they did since General Billaba and her padawan were reported to have been killed on Kaller. The moff then reveals that one of the Bad Batch (Crosshair) filed a counter report indicating that the padawan managed to escape.
The moff decides to test the Bad Batch’s loyalty by sending them to the planet Onderon to take out a group of Separatist holdouts. As they’re preparing to depart, Omega finds Hunter and warns him that Tarkin has it out for them. She also claims that Kamino isn’t safe and asks to come with them, but Hunter tells her to stay put, assuring the child that they’ll all manage to adjust to the new normal eventually.
Upon their arrival on Onderon, the squad quickly discovers that the “insurgents” they’ve been sent to eliminate are actually a group of refugees that includes civilians and children. Crosshair has absolutely no issue killing them all, but Hunter commands him to stand down moments before they’re surrounded by soldiers.
The troops take the Bad Batch to their leader, who turns out to be none other than Saw Gerrera. As you might imagine, the clones are confused as to why Tarkin would send them to wipe out a group of Republic fighters and citizens. Gerrera explains that it’s likely because he and his people refused to be ruled by a self-appointed emperor who’s clearly eager to consolidate as much power as possible. With the Jedi wiped out and the clones under his control, there’s little that can stop Palpatine from having control over the entire galaxy.
The Clone Wars may be over, but the a new galactic civil war is about to begin.
Gerrera then tells the camp to pack up and move before returning the Bad Batch’s weapons, explaining that they’d earned their release due to the help the clones provided them before (back in Season 5 of Star Wars: The Clone Wars). He then encourages the elite squadron to consider what side they should be fighting for in the upcoming conflict before departing with his people.
On the way back to their ship, most of the squadron is shocked and disgusted that they were sent to kill civilians…except for Crosshair, who’s royally pissed that they didn’t complete their mission. He and Hunter are about to come to blows when squad leader notices an Imperial probe droid spying on them and shoots it down.
The fact that Tarkin was spying on them (coupled with the whole “go kill some children” thing) convinces Hunter that Omega might have been on to something when she said Kamino wasn’t safe. Tech then reveals that he analyzed the child’s DNA while they were in the infirmary and discovered that she’s an enhanced clone like them.
*Side Note: Tech also mentions the “five enhanced clones” that Nala Se mentioned to Tarkin, but the Bad Batch weren’t in the same room/area when that discussion took place.
Hunter declares that Omega is one of them and that they’re going back for her, much to Crosshair’s chagrin.
Back on Kamino, Omega and AZI-3 sneak into the Bad Batch’s barracks. After finding a doll that Wrecker is fond of (Lula), a group of clones led by a shock trooper enter the room and begin confiscating all of the squadron’s gear. Omega tries to claim that she was simply lost, but the shock trooper says she has to come with him. AZI-3 tries to resist on her behalf and is hit with a stun bolt for his efforts.
Meanwhile, the Bad Batch land at Tipoca City and are immediately surrounded. Tarkin appears and accuses the squad of treason for conspiring with Saw Gerrera (based on the probe droid’s report) before throwing them in the brig.
The group ends up in the same cell as Omega. Hunter tells the child that they came back for her, which makes her light up with joy/appreciation. Crosshair, on the other hand, is all types of pissed. He accuses Hunter of going soft and becoming a liability to the team due to his refusal to follow orders. When Wrecker points out that Crosshair never had a problem disobeying commands before, the sharpshooter responds by once again stating that “good soldiers follow orders.”
While everyone takes a moment to cool off and figure out a plan to get free, Omega sits down next to Crosshair and says she knows what he’s going to do. She pleads with him not to, but also understands that it’s not his fault.
Moments later, a group of shock troopers retrieve Crosshair from the cell and take him to a medical bay. Nala Se explains to Tarkin that despite the sharpshooter’s mutation’s altering much of his cranial activity, Crosshair’s inhibitor chip is still partially functioning. Tarkin then asks if the chip’s programming can be “intensified.” Nala Se says that it can and begins the process.
Meanwhile, Tech figures out that since the Kaminoan facility was built before the Clone Wars, they likely didn’t account for it having to hold prisoners with the strength of someone like Wrecker. He has the other clones form a wall, then searches for a weak point on the wall for Wrecker to punch. As ridiculous as this sounds, it works, creating a small opening into the facility’s crawlspace without alerting the nearby guards.
The opening isn’t big enough for Wrecker, but it is for Omega, who immediately volunteers to go through. After she climbs up into the ceiling above the holding cell control panel. Just as the guards finally start to figure something’s up (on account of the randomly missing prisoner), Omega forces herself to fall through the ceiling onto one of the guards and pulls the release lever.
The Bad Batch easily overpower the other two guards before heading off to find Crosshair. They first go to retrieve their armor/weapons, which Omega reveals is being stored in the same hangar as their ship. The squad manages to finish gearing up seconds before learning that they won’t need to go far to find their teammate, who is now outfitted in new Imperial armor and walking toward them flanked by a squad of shock troopers.
Crosshair demands that the Bad Batch surrender. Hunter refuses and a battle ensues. Crosshair manages to hit Wrecker just as Tech makes it to the ship and fires it up. Crosshair then orders one of the shock troopers to close the bay doors, but he’s unable to do so. Unbeknownst to anyone, Nala Se (who is watching everything play out via a security camera) is secretly holding the doors open from the facility’s command center.
Hunter and Echo manage to get to Wrecker, but also end up directly in Crosshair’s sights. Before the sharpshooter can take them out, however, Omega picks up a blaster and shoots the sniper rifle out of his hands. She then provides surprisingly effective cover, allowing them them to board the ship and escape. As the Bad Batch flies away, Nala Se informs the prime minister that the operation on Crosshair was successful, but Clone Force 99 managed to escape along with Omega. Lama Su instructs her not to say anything until they can determine the Empire’s true intentions.
Back on the ship, Omega gives Wrecker his lost doll while he’s receiving medical care, which strengthens his bond with her even more. The child then wanders into the cockpit and stares in wonder at the stars. She tells Hunter that she’s never been away from Kamino before. When the squad leader compliments Omega’s shooting during the escape, she reveals that it was the first time she’d ever fired a weapon.
As the rest of the squad files into the cockpit, Hunter instructs Tech to set a course towards an unnamed contact who might be able to help them evade Imperial detection. He then tells Omega to strap in for a new adventure as the ship enters hyperspace.
For a franchise series like this, it can be hard to judge the narrative without considering things you were expecting/hoping for along with how the story connects to other media. On its own, however, Star Wars: The Bad Batch delivered a solid and highly entertaining first episode.
As expected, the animation and fight sequences are absolutely gorgeous. The training sequence in particular was some of the best action we’ve ever seen in animated form from the Star Wars universe. If that’s a taste of what we’re going to be getting from this series, then it’s going to be a great deal of fun to watch
The episode also sets up some of fantastic plot threads, including a potential conflict between the newly formed Empire and Kamino. While it’s a safe bet that things won’t play out exactly like they did in the original Kamino Uprising (a Legends/non-canonical event that took place in Star Wars: Battle Front II), anything even close to that is guaranteed to look spectacular. It will also bridge a giant narrative gap — the transition from clones to conscripted soldiers — between Episode III and Episode IV.
The reasons for this change have been discussed quite a bit in the expanded universe, but seeing Tarkin start the process on Kamino has me all types of excited to watch it play out on screen.
Also, how great was Dee Bradley Parker voicing he entire Bad Batch? He’s always been good about giving the “regs” small/unique differences, but Clone Force 99 presented a wholly unique challenge that he completely knocked out of the park. Even Wrecker felt like he had significantly more depth than the goofy demeanor he displayed during his first appearance in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
I wasn’t thrilled about a kid sidekick joining the adventure, but if Ahsoka Tano and Ezra Bridger have taught me anything, it’s that I need to be patient when it comes to child characters in the Star Wars universe. Thankfully, Omega appears much more mature (or at least less annoying) than those two did at first, due in no small part to some solid voice work from Michelle Ang.
The most disappointing bit of character work actually comes courtesy of the way the episode chose to deal with the clones’ inhibitor chips.
While I was hoping to see something a bit more complicated/interesting than the Bad Batch’s genetic mutations making them immune (and maybe getting to see the Bad Batch work as an Imperial hit squad for a while), it still works. Same with Echo’s immunity, which was pretty contrived, but at least made sense.
For Crosshair, however, the decision to have his chip randomly function at a partial level while all the others’ didn’t feels like a major cop out — especially when his appearance in Star Wars: The Clone Wars set him up perfectly to be a villain without any sort of arbitrary “enhancement.” The dude already showed a complete disregard for the life even when it came to his fellow clones/”regs.”
How cool would it have been if he had free will like the others, but still decided to be an Imperial assassin simply because it was what he wanted?
And then we come to the episode’s opening, which was definitely thrilling, but also completely contradicted a great story from the Star Wars comics — one written/produced after Disney rebooted the expanded universe to ensure that everything synced up.
I get that it’s cool now to talk about how much continuity doesn’t matter, but the reaction fans had to seeing established characters in The Mandalorian proves there are still plenty of folks who enjoy it. Part of what makes the Star Wars franchise appealing to a large portion of its fanbase is how the characters/events they read about in one medium can cross over and effect the other.
To be clear, I’m not saying that Star Wars‘ writers should be so pedantic and/or boxed in by the franchise’s continuity that it hinders them from telling a good story. Minor differences (like Cobb Vanth‘s history in the Aftermath novels and The Mandalorian) aren’t worth getting up in arms about, especially when it does little to change the overall character or narrative in question.
Heck, there are even times when ignoring major continuity moments all together (like what Star Wars: The Clone Wars did with Maul’s capture in the Ahsoka novel) can result in a story that’s widely considered to be an improvement.
In this case, however, Greg Weisman and Pepe Larraz’s thrilling story about Caleb being pursued by his former clone trooper comrades (and the conflict they felt over it) was overwritten for sake of what was essentially a cameo — unless Caleb/Kanan shows up again in the Bad Batch series, which would almost certainly contradict what we knew about him from Rebels.
If this type of thing becomes the norm for Star Wars’ print media under Disney, then what was the point of relegating the old Expanded Universe materials to Legends? Why not just keep the same rule from before that anything we see on screen supersedes the comics or books?
I guess it doesn’t matter if you don’t read them, but those of us who do are left wondering if the stories — which are advertised as fully taking place in the beloved mythology/lore of Star Wars — will get wiped out for the sake of an Easter egg or cameo. Yes, you can argue that the quality of the story can (and perhaps should) still be enjoyed in a vacuum, but it also diminishes a key component of what makes a sprawling franchise like Star Wars so much fun for a lot of people.
The fact that cross media continuity was something Disney endeavored to streamline/organize under their banner — and have generally done a good job with until recently — makes it even more frustrating that the Bad Batch didn’t create their opening scene with another Jedi/padawan combo.
** END RANT **
All that being said, the flaws in the Bad Batch‘s first episode are far outweighed by its beautiful execution along with the board it sets to tell some great new stories.
The team’s dynamic is highly enjoyable and Crosshair has the potential to be a truly great antagonist for them. It should also be a lot of fun watching one of the most interesting time periods in Star Wars’ mythology play out through their eyes — especially the relationship between Kamino and the new Empire.
Now we only have to wait three more days instead of a full week to see how their journey begins.
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