Disney’s “Star Wars: The Bad Batch” offers a lot to Star Wars fans, especially those who loved “The Clone Wars” and “Rebels” TV shows. However, its greatest strength is also its greatest flaw because the show relies on fans’ previous knowledge of the Star Wars universe a bit too much, and the many cameos from characters that appear in other Star Wars shows may put off new Star Wars fans. That being said, the show still has quite a lot to offer even if you are not a Star Wars expert.
At the time of writing, the show has premiered 14 of its 16 episodes that follow the adventures of the titular Bad Batch formerly known as Clone Force 99, a group of defective clones with desirable genetic defects. The Bad Batch consists of Hunter, with enhanced senses; Crosshair, with enhanced accuracy; Wrecker, with enhanced strength; Tech, with advanced cognitive functions; Echo the cyborg and newcomer Omega. Their advantageous genetic defects allow them to overcome their programming and the dreaded Order 66 that turned the Clones against the Jedi.
The show starts at the end of the Clone Wars chronologically, but also symbolically. The Bad Batch is very much a spiritual successor to “The Clone Wars” and “Rebels” shows. In fact, most of the main cast has previously appeared in the former series. The connection between this show and the others is clear both visually and thematically. While the animation of the Bad Batch has clearly come a long way from the early Clone Wars seasons that premiered in 2008, it still looks similar enough to connect the two shows visually. Another connection between the shows is Dave Filoni who not only created The Bad Batch, but has previously worked on both “The Clone Wars” and “Rebels” TV shows. Filoni’s mark is most evident with the show’s many cameos from characters that originate from his two previous series like Captain Rex, Hera Syndulla and Cad Bane, just to name a few. The many cameos highlight the issue with the show’s reliance on its audience’s knowledge of the Star Wars Universe. While a longtime fan like me would recognize Caleb Dume, anyone else watching the first episode of the Bad Batch might not recognize who this character is or his importance in “Rebels.”
Despite this minor flaw, Bad Batch actually offers quite a lot to both hardcore and newer fans. For example, unlike the morally black and white Dark Side versus Light Side dynamic featured in most Star Wars movies, the Bad Batch is full of moral quandaries that show the galaxy as more morally grey. After fleeing their homeworld of Kamino, the Batch become mercenaries in order to survive. Each episode tends to focus on a single mission but also highlights the aftermath of the Clone Wars and the many changes the people of the galaxy face with the new empire. A few of the Batch’s planet-hopping escapades bring them to worlds that present hard choices, forcing the characters to reevaluate their priorities and values. One example is the planet Raxus, the former capital of the Separatists, where the Bad Batch are sent to save a former Seperatist senator, someone who fans will remember was on the opposing side that fought against the Republic in the Clone Wars. Unlike “The Clone Wars” TV show, which portrays the Separatists primarily as villains, this episode portrays the citizens of the now former Seperatist Alliance in a more favorable light. Raxus Senator Avi Singh seems to genuinely care about his people, something that the new empire clearly does not. Another ongoing plot point involves Crosshair, the only member of the Batch who followed order 66, as he commits increasingly grievous acts out of blind loyalty to the Empire. His ongoing feud with his brothers leaves a rift between the clones.
The show’s greatest strength is its characters, most of which are portrayed by Dee Bradley Baker, who somehow voices all of the clones each with their own mannerisms and vocal tones in a way that distinguishes each of them as individuals. However, the group’s dynamic with Omega, voiced by Michelle Ang, is the clear highlight of the series. While dealing with morally grey situations that call for tough decisions, Omega serves as the heart of the group and keeps the Bad Batch honest and honorable.
The show does require some knowledge of the greater “Star Wars” universe to truly appreciate, as it is clearly a show meant for “Star Wars” fans. The excellent animation and action pairs well with a complex and morally grey narrative. You may need to watch a few other series before you can fully appreciate the Bad Batch, but the good news is that all the shows you need to watch are conveniently also on Disney+. Clever marketing aside, “Star Wars: The Bad Batch” is an excellent show with a lot of depth and potential for anyone who grew up watching “The Clone Wars” and “Rebels” TV shows. It may not be universally accessible, but it’s still an excellent addition to the “Star Wars” universe.