Plot: Star Wars: The Bad Batch follows the elite and experimental clones of the Bad Batch as they find their way in a rapidly changing galaxy in the immediate aftermath of the Clone War. Members of Bad Batch—a unique squad of clones who vary genetically from their brothers in the Clone Army—each possess a singular exceptional skill that makes them extraordinarily effective soldiers and a formidable crew.
Review: Happy Star Wars Day! With Resistance and The Clone Wars coming to an end in 2020, there has not been much new Star Wars animation. But, as announced in last year’s investment presentation, Dave Filoni’s beloved series continues in the form of sequel/spin-off The Bad Batch. Focused on characters introduced in the final season of The Clone Wars, this new series presents a unique perspective in the expanding franchise with minimal Jedi but the promise of connections to The Mandalorian and other upcoming Disney+ series. In short, this is a series that will appeal to fans of the animated series that came before it while delivering a new story that shares more in common with The Mandalorian than the Skywalker saga.
The first two episodes of The Bad Batch were made available for this review and they deliver a clear tone and narrative that will propel this series forward. The first seconds of the premiere episode, which clocks in at a feature-length 70 minutes, features The Clone Wars logo burning into the new series title. We then hear the familiar intro narration that accompanied each episode of the preceding series. The first episode, titled “Aftermath”, picks up from the moments just before Emperor Palpatine executed Order 66. We then see some overlap with the events from the final act of Revenge of the Sith, firmly setting this series’ place in the Star Wars timeline. From there, The Bad Batch breaks off to tell its own story centered on the title characters.
For those unfamiliar, The Bad Batch is comprised of Hunter, Wrecker, Tech, Crosshair, and Echo (all voiced by Dee Bradley Baker who also lends his talents to every Clone Trooper including Captain Rex). These defective troopers all have distinct personalities and traits which makes them much more fun to watch than the standard Jango Fett copies. Each has a unique ability that makes them work well as a team and often disagree about how to approach missions. When they first appeared in The Clone Wars, they offered a nice view different from the faceless Republic soldiers. Here, after not being triggered by the Order 66 command, they are put to the test by Moff Tarkin who wants to do away with the clone program and replace the Empire’s forces with recruited stormtroopers.
Without divulging too much about the plot, Clone Force 99 becomes an enemy of the Empire and heads out on the run from their former clone brethren. Over the feature-length premiere episode, which feels like a cohesive story and not a pair of episodes crammed together, the action is intense and the storyline slightly more mature than what we got from The Clone Wars. The stakes are clearly not tied to the Jedi despite familiar names being mentioned. As teased in the trailer, we do meet Rogue One character Saw Gerrera and in upcoming episodes, we will meet The Mandalorian‘s Fennec Shand as voiced by the great Ming-Na Wen. But, this first episode puts the Bad Batch front and center.
While the Empire and the fall of the Republic are major elements to the story and the series is set firmly in the Star Wars universe, this series feels different. Like The Mandalorian, it exists within the canon of George Lucas’ creation but it tells a very un-Skywalker story. Thematically, there are a lot of similarities that echo the relationship between Mando and Baby Yoda (aka Grogu) as well as the dynamic in Rebels between Ezra Bridger and Kanan. The Bad Batch takes the heroic Clone Troopers from The Clone Wars and turns them into villains which makes the titular squad all the more enjoyable to watch as they are not the evil, faceless soldiers that gunned down the Jedi. These characters are fun to watch even if the story does start to treat some cliche moments with the new character Omega.
With a story that continues to show that Star Wars can be about more than lightsabers, Jedi, and Sith lords, The Bad Batch is a fun action series with quick pacing and solid writing. While I was never a huge fan of the animations style of these series, I was able to tolerate it in order to enjoy this tale. If you are not a fan of Dave Filoni’s animated Star Wars properties, you likely won’t be converted by The Bad Batch. If you don’t like Star Wars without the main Original Trilogy characters, you likely won’t be convinced by this series, either. But, if you enjoy any world-building that expands the canon set in a galaxy far, far away, you will enjoy this show.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch debuts May 4th on Disney+.