This review is based on episode one of Star Wars: The Bad Batch.
Fall in, soldier.
Who would’ve thought that hardened men raising children would be the next phase of Star Wars glory, and on TV? Not us, but it’s welcomed for sure. Following the incredible success of The Mandalorian and the banging series finale of Star Wars: Clone Wars, Disney+ is continuing George Lucas’ good work by bringing his creation, Clone Force 99, to the spotlight with its latest animated series, Star Wars: The Bad Batch.
Originally introduced in episodes of Clone Wars, The Bad Batch follows an elite team of experimental clones who had gone rogue after Admiral Tarkin called for their termination. The titular Bad Batch comprises leader and stoic soldier Hunter, former ARC Trooper turned cyborg, Echo, computer and weapons specialist, Tech, the hulk of the team aptly called Wrecker, and lastly team sniper, Crosshair – all voiced by the talented Dee Bradley Baker.
Fans were first introduced to The Bad Batch in Clone Wars throughout that show’s 7 seasons – we’re talking meeting Echo and other cadets in Clone 99 first in season 1, and then later seeing him become the ARC Trooper he is in season 3. Now, Echo and the rest of the elite team are not only deservingly getting their own show, they’re presenting a whole new undiscovered narrative and adventure for Star Wars fans in a spin-off of The Clone Wars, and it starts right off the bat with episode one.
Picking up literally at the moment when Palpatine enforced Order 66, The Bad Batch’s 72 minutes long premiere episode cleverly explores the mixed bag of emotions the galaxy felt during the end of the war, the transition from Republic to Empire, whilst introducing who the members of The Bad Batch are to new viewers all at the same time.
For an introductory episode, episode one covers a lot of bases and the 72 minutes duration is definitely warranted. The long episode means viewers can really engage with the new and old characters, and if you haven’t found a bias by the end of the episode one, you did not pay enough attention.
Despite being clones, each member of the team is unique in their own ways. Hunter may be the leader of the pack, but his disobedience to orders causes friction within the group. Wrecker is a killing and fighting machine, but his childlike wonder and inner softness will easily earn a place in your heart. Tech is the brains, but he’s likeable and isn’t a know-it-all smartass and Echo, if you’ve seen his backstory in Clone Wars, is a character you empathise with greatly. Lastly, there is Crosshair, who is cold and distant, and is someone you can’t help but understand, even if he does and says really questionable things.
Whether or not you’re familiar with members of The Bad Batch, the first episode is able to quickly weave the characters’ relevance to the overarching timeline, now called ‘Reign of the Empire’ which, in canon, also happens at the same time as Solo and before ‘Age of Rebellion’ where Rebels, Rogue One and A New Hope all take place.
It’s one of Disney+’s strengths in developing new Star Wars content that gives new viewers an easy point of entry into the vast world of Star Wars, but also gives old fans something new and exciting to look forward to. Again, it isn’t a Star Wars series if it doesn’t show you how each character and sub-plot connects to the bigger picture and the movies, so if you never cared about Clone Force 99, you 100% do now.
Playing out like an actual movie, this re-introduction of the characters is a much stronger one than the Star Wars: The Clone Wars movie that served as the backdoor to the animated series of the same name. Well-paced and simultaneously delivering action and heart at every corner, audiences will get bits that bring forward the storyline, as they wait patiently for new weekly episodes to drop on the streaming service.
Compared to the beloved The Mandalorian,The Bad Batch stresses less on the conversations and more on getting things moving along. It’s perfect for fans who just want to see action and be amazed by the beautiful art and animation.
Speaking of art, The Bad Batch follows the very same aesthetics and style of Clone Wars. The Bad Batch’s decision to continue the same look and style as Clone Wars helps to give a feeling of continuity of the events during and after the war. Though the successful weaving of narratives and experiences would have allowed for a new art style, the deliberate decision to keep to the same style is something fans can appreciate.
As mentioned earlier, there’s something about having hardened men taking care of a child that works for Star Wars, and like Grogu in The Mandalorian, viewers are introduced to Omega, a human child who immediately squirrels her way into the center of the team at the start of the series. Whilst not as cute as Grogu (sorry not sorry Omega), viewers know better than to underestimate her importance to the overall story.
Whilst the first episode still doesn’t tell you what, why and how she’s essential, they establish her as another member of The Bad Batch that you can’t shake off no matter how annoying she gets. Thus, if you haven’t warmed up to the idea of her when you first saw her in the trailers, you best do it soon.
Though there is still much for The Bad Batch to explore and unveil, especially since we’ve only seen episode 1, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that the series won’t replicate the formula that led to the success of The Mandalorian. This is especially since Omega hasn’t successfully captured hearts the way Baby Yoda did so focusing a storyline on Omega could potentially lead to downfall.
All in all, The Bad Batch is looking like it’s going to give fans an inside peek of what it was like to be part of the transition from Republic to Empire as well as give some deserved spotlight to interesting characters created by George Lucas himself. It’s a little too early to say whether this series will achieve the same success as The Mandalorian, Clone Wars or even Rebels, or be another lackluster turn out like Resistance. That said, we love the members of The Bad Batch, and we hope the series will offer more.
At ease, soldier.
Catch Star Wars: The Batch every week, now on Disney+.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
If you never cared about The Bad Batch in Clone Wars, you will now. Giving viewers an insider peak at the transition from Republic to Empire, The Bad Batch is an action-adventure that holds much promise.
Story - 8/10
Direction - 7/10
Characterisation - 8/10
Geek Satisfaction - 8/10