Depending on any given person Star Wars is either loved or hated or indifferent to the person you ask. Currently there are three generations of Star Wars fans that have grown up with each trilogy in the 12-film saga, the three extra films being tie-in films, one of them being a story of a character that was killed in the last film he appeared in. That’s a different story for a different time. Sadly, I grew up post original trilogy and instead with the prequels that at the time was the best Star Wars because it was geared toward the younger demographic. Now, my favorite trilogy is the Original, the prequel and Disney trilogies will never come close to that magic George Lucas created when a kid from Tatooine joined the rebel alliance, destroyed two Death Stars in the process while becoming the most feared Jedi in the galaxy.
In walks Dave Filoni, a true student of Star Wars and George Lucas’s heir apparent to the galaxy far far away. What Dave has accomplished within Star Wars has been mostly on the animation side and again, geared toward a younger audience but creating characters that are some of the most popular characters in the galaxy today and storylines that bridge gaps between trilogies.
Not all the content created in Star Wars is created equal and will attract every single fan who dreams of existing in this world. Especially the Dave Filoni created content. The animation style alone in Clone Wars & Rebels is on the stylized side with characters having high cheek bones and blank stares on their faces. Yes, the animation is certainly off-putting at first but as more exposure of this animation is given, the easier it is to accept. Seasons 1-6 of Clone Wars perfectly defines that animation style with hard lines and barely any softness to anything beyond the characters on screen. But once season 7 started with the introduction to the Bad Batch, the animation got a hefty facelift that continues into The Bad Batch spin-off/sequel series after Cone Wars.
It took 4 short episodes of living with The Bad Batch, an elite team of 4 clone troopers that were genetically modified to have heightened abilites to decide on giving them a spin-off. The team includes Hunter, Wrecker, Tech, Echo and Crosshairs (all voiced by Dee Bradley Baker). Echo joined the team in season 7 of Clone Wars after being experimented on by the Republic. The Bad Batch series starts when Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) executes order 66, the plot for Revenge of the Sith, but now we see it from the clone’s perspective, mainly Clone Force 99 as clones turn on the Jedi, killing the people they called friends and brothers in arms. Episode One beautifully showcases this and throws connective tissue to Rebels with a young Caleb Dume (Freddie Prinze Jr.) escaping death.
From there on out, Clone Force 99 are on their own when they return to Kamino, the planet where the clones were manufactured. Not all clones in the Bad Batch made it safely through order 66 – Crosshair being the only one to have his inhibiter chip activated, turning on his brothers and joining the Empire. On the run from the Empire, a younger looking clone joins the Bad Batch as an unmodified replicant of Jango Fett yet altered in some way that’s never explained nor shown – Omega (Michelle Ang).
The Bad Batch, in its DNA has the same theme’s that has been synonymous with Star Wars since A New Hope. The theme of Jedi/Padawan, Master/apprentice, father figure/child. That thematic relationship is strongest beteen Hunter and Omega even though the two are siblings and technically Omega is older than Clone Force 99. Still Hunter has this instinct to protect Omega wherever they go. Just like with every single Star Wars story that came before this, that relationship feels natural from set up to execution (but really, the best relationship is Wrecker and Omega).
The voice cast led by Baker is phenomenal, giving each member of the team their own unique personality and flawlessly being able to switch from one clone to the next as the dialogue calls for it. Michelle Ang doubles down performance wise bringing life into a character that stole the series the moment she’s introduced. Baker sells the clones relationships with one another showcasing them as a seasoned team who know their roles within the group.
That’s been a pattern lately in the Dave Filoni era of Star Wars – giving us characters we didn’t know we needed and making them important to the story going forward. Filoni also adds more connective tissue to Clone Wars, Rebels and The Mandalorian with returning characters Cad Bane (Corey Burton), Todo 360 (Seth Green), Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) and Hera (Vanessa Marshall) to name a few. Cad Bane returning gives The Bad Batch that western/samurai genre feeling like The Mandalorian with his quick draw and slowed down dialect in a standoff with Hunter.
Again, the animation in The Bad Batch is breathtaking to behold making it difficult to believe it’s animated. Most of the sharpness to the characters have been softened while having the landscapes be the focus of each frame when the clones are on a mission. Each new planet provides stunning detail and beautiful landscapes and scenery.
Really, The Bad Batch is about identity and self-worth. When the galaxy goes from the Republic to the Empire, Clone Force 99 struggles with finding out who they are. Their entire existence revolved around fighting droids along with other clones known simply as “Regs”, it’s all they knew and were programmed to do. Breaking their programming, getting those inhibiter chips cut out of their heads thanks to Rex (Dee Bradley Baker), running from Crosshair and the Empire, discovering who they are and what they mean to themselves as well as to the galaxy is this first season’s biggest storyline. If The Bad Batch is the first animated Star Wars show you’re exploring, some of the plot points can be too steeped in lore to understand or feel a connection to but overall, The Bad Batch is another win for Filoni and team
Created by: Dave Filoni
Premiered on: May 4, 2021
Season Finale: August 13, 2021
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%
Can be seen on: Disney Plus
Starring: Dee Bradley Baker, Michelle Ang, Ben Diskin, Bob Bergen Gwendoline Yeo & Noshir Dalal
Score out of 5: 4.5 out of 5