A few drawbacks aside, Dave Filoni co-writes another satisfying action & story-packed side story in the Star Wars universe.
Star Wars fans, are we ready? Because it’s time for Star Wars content to return and both delight and hurt us all in that inimitable Dave Filoni way. We love it, though. Star Wars: The Bad Batch is the newest Star Wars series to land on Disney+ and the first in their projected slate of new Star Wars programming. “Aftermath,” the feature-length premiere of The Bad Batch, written by Jennifer Corbett and Dave Filoni, and directed by Steward Lee, Saul Ruiz, and Nathaniel Villanueva, is a sweeping introduction to new challenges and new characters, but also a love letter to the stories that have come before.
A spin-off of the popular Star Wars: The Clone Wars, The Bad Batch focuses on the titular squad (officially Clone Force 99), introduced in a Season 7 arc. Clones made with engineered “desirable mutations,” the Bad Batch are an insular clutch of misfits: Hunter, the leader, who has enhanced senses; Crosshair, a super-sniper; Tech, the smart one (sorry other guys); and Wrecker, the big guy with a penchant for blowing things up. The fifth member is Echo, a former “reg” (regular clone), whose rescue in The Clone Wars necessitated the introduction of the Batch, and whose torture at the hands of the Techo Union left him, as Tech says, “More machine than man.” Dee Bradley Baker voices every clone character.
Just before the events that ended The Clone Wars, the Batch land on the planet Kaller to help a Jedi Master and her beleaguered clone troops. Immediately following the events of Order 66 and the subsequent end of the Clone Wars, the Batch return to their home planet Kamino to check on their brothers, determined to understand what’s happened to the other clones (and why the Bad Batch is seemingly immune). The original four members were never at ease with their brother clones; when Tech is rudely brushed off by another trooper after an innocuous question he notes “Doesn’t seem different to me.” But now, instead of a collection of identical but individual fellow clones, however, they meet the new generation of the classic Star Wars stormtrooper, a sea of good soldiers in faceless white armor.
Tested by the visiting Governor Tarkin (Stephen Stanton) and sent to Onderon, ostensibly to clean out a remaining passel of droids, the Batch instead finds more questions (and one of the episode’s numerous cameos). When it’s clear the Batch isn’t going to go gently into the nameless ranks, they’re forced to flee Kamino and head out for themselves in a universe where nothing makes any sense. Joining them on this adventure is Omega (Michelle Ang), a young girl whom they meet on Kamino who is eager to befriend the group of fellow outcasts.
“What is it?!” Wrecker asks when Omega first greets the team; it’s classic Wrecker, but also a very good question for the rest of the season. Omega is a sweet new character, a sprightly fangirl who wants to hang out with her new friends but who also displays a preternatural empathy and understanding of some of the panicked events surrounding the crew. Luckily for her, Hunter has at least a general idea of what a child is, unlike his brother, so at least we know someone will be getting her some food.
[It’s] a sweeping introduction to new challenges and new characters, but also a love letter to the stories that have come before.
Within this spoiler-free plot outline is a riotous tumble of Easter eggs, guest appearances, world-building, and heartbreak, tied up by Kevin Kiner’s exuberant score. It’s hard to picture a better premiere for a series; choosing to open with a 72-minute episode/film was the right call. As a Star Wars adventure, it knows exactly which buttons we want pushed (and which we do not) and pushes them all.
Now, there is one nagging issue with the series, and the Bad Batch in general, that warrants addressing. The clones, including the Bad Batch (special mutations and all), are clones of Jango Fett, played in the prequels by Temuera Morrison. The clones are men of color, something that was never illustrated particularly well in The Clone Wars but has been rendered especially poorly with the Bad Batch. Crosshair and Tech are drawn as white men, and Echo apparently lost his melanin as part of his torture, which…sure. The Bad Batch members are already physically different from their brothers just by height and body type, the effective whitewashing is an unnecessary element of an otherwise excellent series. It’s a discordant note that has soured the experience for some fans and deserved a mention here.
The Bad Batch walks that fine line of “so lore-heavy it loses casual fans” and “over expository to viewers” with aplomb; the cameos will thrill some fans (particularly of other Star Wars animated programs) without losing others, and the storytelling brooks no gatekeeping. Jump on in, everyone, Star Wars is back.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch premieres on Disney+ May 4th.