Star Wars: The Bad Batch is finally here, ending what feels like an eternity without substantial Star Wars content. After watching the first episode, I feel pretty comfortable saying series creator and Star Wars godsend Dave Filoni has, once again, absolutely captured the magic, excitement, and sheer intensity of Star Wars.
Sadly, however, Filoni has once again made the choice to throw pre-established canon, written into books and comics, out the window in lieu of his own narrative.
*HEAVY SPOILERS FOR THE BAD BATCH BELOW*
As recurring Talkin’ Tauntauns guest Nick Nafpliotis pointed out in his review of the series premiere, this is the third time one of Filoni’s projects has overwritten established canon. The first time was in The Clone Wars‘ final season, in which he told a story of Darth Maul’s capture that differed from what had already been set forth in E.K. Johnston’s Ahsoka novel.
He again threw out the work of another Star Wars novelist, this time Chuck Wendig, in season two of The Mandalorian, when Cobb Vanth recounted how he acquired Boba Fett’s iconic armor in a way that completely contradicted what Wendig had explained in his novel, Aftermath. These first two instances were certainly frustrating, simply due to the canonical inconsistencies they created, but aren’t necessarily better or worse than what preceded them. Instead, they’re just different.
In The Bad Batch, however, Filoni decides to completely rewrite the established canon for the sake of a cameo. Actually, let’s call a spade a spade. He rewrote canon solely for fan service.
The contradiction in question happens in the first ten minutes of the episode, in which we see Clone Force 99 rescue padawan Caleb Dume and Master Depa Bilaba from an incoming battalion of droids. Shortly after, Order 66 is issued and the regular clones kill Master Bilaba as Clone Force 99 chases Dume only to eventually let him go. Not a bad way to open the series, really — except Greg Weissman and Pepe Larraz already told that story in the 2015 comic Kanan: The Last Padawan. And their version of events was much more engaging.
There is no reason why The Bad Batch opening sequences needed to feature Caleb Dume and Master Bilaba, especially when you consider that the story has already been (wonderfully) told. Sure, a handful of diehard Rebels fans will immediately perk up and say “Oooh, Caleb Dume? That’s Kanan Jarrus!” But I am willing to bet that those fans who know Rebels that well are also going to notice the sudden ignorance of canon. So what does this canonical rewrite even accomplish? It’s not a stronger story and the only people who are going to catch the reference are the same people who are going to recognize the contradiction. Is it just because Filoni likes to play with the toys he made? It’s just empty fan service, and I think it will actually anger the fans it is trying to serve (fans like me).
And make no mistake — Filoni is awesome. This isn’t going to suddenly turn me into a Filoni hater or make me enjoy Rebels or The Mandalorian or Ahsoka any less. But it is incredibly disheartening to see Filoni make a habit out of being so flippant with established canon. I know there are people that scoff at the notion of canon, but part of what makes the resurgence of Star Wars so exciting is the interconnectedness of all the stories. Characters’ stories from Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn carried over to Rebels, Rebels characters surprisingly pop up in Doctor Aphra, and Doctor Aphra characters get more of a fleshed-out story in Han Solo: Last Shot.
Up until these three most recent instances, Disney has managed to do a splendid job keeping their canon consistent and honoring the work that is being done off-screen. This consistency has given the comics, books, and audio dramas real weight and importance. I know that what I am reading in Lost Stars is contributing to the greater Star Wars narrative, and what I see in Target Vader has a chance to come up again in another medium. As I said, this interconnectedness is what makes Star Wars so exciting right now. When you ignore canon between mediums, that excitement is lost.
These inconsistencies aren’t just frustrating from a narrative standpoint, they’re insulting and disrespectful to the writers and artists who work on Star Wars stories in comic and book form. We’ve spoken to many creators on Talkin’ Tauntauns — novelists, short story writers, comic writers, artists — and all of them talk about how much of a dream come true it is to play in the Star Wars sandbox, to contribute even the smallest bit to the grand story of the galaxy far, far away. How much must it suck to watch your contribution be washed away so effortlessly?
It’s no secret that working in books or comics is not a career people seek to get rich. It’s a career of passion. For the vast majority of Star Wars creators, the opportunity to work on Star Wars is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to merge their passion for their craft with their passion for Star Wars.
They don’t do it for the money (which they don’t get all that much of anyway), they do it out of sheer love for the franchise and the distinction of adding to the Star Wars canon. So when a much more stable — financially and professionally — Star Wars storyteller wipes away their story, I don’t understand how anyone can see that as anything but a slap in the face.
I get it — Star Wars is a movie and, recently, a television franchise first and foremost. The fact of that matter is, though, that Star Wars is a multimedia franchise that at least tells its fans that every story, regardless of the medium in which it’s told, carries the same weight. That’s why book releases get a ton of press and comic storylines get write-ups in major entertainment outlets.
Disney leads us to believe that every story matters, yet they turn around and let Dave Filoni (again, who I love) rewrite any book or comic story that he wants. So how is that fair? How are we supposed to trust Disney? Why should anyone, die-hard fans or casual fans, care at all about the books, comics, audio dramas, or short stories if they can be erased without a second thought by a film or television release?
For a guy who obviously adores Star Wars more than anything in the world and respects the franchise, Dave Filoni sure seems like he doesn’t care about the work other writers do in the Star Wars canon. That, simply, sucks. And I wish he would stop.
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