The Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated spinoff returns for a second round of adventures for its misfits, with all the highs and lows of the first season.
Welcome to 2023, Star Wars fans, and welcome to another season of The Bad Batch. Our band of unruly brothers (and sister) is back again, still running less-than-legal missions for Cid (Rhea Perlman) and finding themselves in every possible scrape as they do so. The first season of The Bad Batch was an adventure-filled romp through the aftermath of the Clone Wars and Order 66 (though not without its issues, as we’ll discuss later) and Season 2 is off to a strong start with its two-episode premiere: “Spoils of War” and “Ruins of War”.
“Spoils of War” wisely opens with an action sequence (and not a flashback to Order 66!) catching the audience up immediately with the gang. Wrecker has awakened a pod of giant alien crabs and he, Hunter, and Echo try their best to make it back to the ship where Tech is assigning homework to Omega (Michelle Ang). (For future reference, Dee Bradley Baker voices every clone character). Omega has clearly been practicing with her energy bow and gets to dig herself right into the action along with her brothers. It’s a fun start to two episodes that, while never sad, exactly, have their fair share of darker feelings. Estranged Bad Batcher Crosshair, who chose to remain with the Empire at the end of last season, is still missing in the opening episodes, but hints of his presence remain.
The overarching story is a fairly basic Bad Batch adventure: Cid wants them to steal a portion of Count Dooku’s treasure, which has remained abandoned in his castle since his death. Naturally, the Empire is also after said treasure, so the Batch’s window of opportunity is already closing. The premiere episodes are a solid beginning to the season, rife with hints about upcoming battles with the Empire and intriguing new characters who stop by just long enough to make us wonder (such as Wanda Sykes’ Phee Genoa, a pirate who stops by Cid’s, insults Hunter’s facial tattoo, flirts with Tech, and then departs).
Like The Clone Wars and Rebels, The Bad Batch walks the fine line between “this is kid stuff for kids” and “adult cartoon”. The ethics of creating an entire army of human beings to be cannon fodder notwithstanding, this is also a show that ends its second episode with a murder, something that I’m fairly certain has never happened on Paw Patrol*. It’s likely some adults will find the show too childish and it will appall others that the Stormtroopers aren’t using their blasters on stun.
Storywise, there’s a slight staleness to the gang’s first adventure. They’re going after some expensive cargo and tangling with the Empire at the same time. We’ve seen it. What new scrapes will the Batch find themselves in and how many cameos? (Season 1 tended to stumble a little over the weight of its cameo appearances) There’s still plenty of time to give us something fresh.
The biggest issue with the show holds over from the first season: the whitewashing of key characters (Tech and Crosshair) and the treatment of Hunter and Wrecker, who most resemble donor Jango Fett. This is especially egregious in Wrecker’s portrayal as the biggest and most brutish of the characters while also being the one with the most melanin. Boba Fett had his own show literally a year ago, and The Bad Batch is still struggling with the portrayal of characters of color? Do better, Star Wars.
The Bad Batch’s second season is off to a strong start, and here’s hoping it learns to separate itself just a tad from the shows that came before it. Still, it remains a fun, if flawed, piece of Star Wars media.
*I don’t know this for certain.
The Bad Batch streams every Wednesday on Disney+.