Julien Neaves, Sci Fi Head Writer
Before you can say “Baby Yoda” we have new Star Wars content dropping on Disney+, namely the new animated series Star Wars: The Bad Batch, which is both a sequel and spin-off to the fantastic Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Those who watched the seventh and final season of The Clone Wars will recall meeting the titular special squad of Clone Force 99 with their genetic mutations.
Disney+ dropped the first two episodes of The Bad Batch this week and as Red Mango Reviews’s resident sci fi guy and a mega Star Wars fan (we really need to get a name for Star Wars fans btw) I am here to give you the low down on them. With a Death Star-sized SPOILER ALERT here’s my reviews of Aftermath and Cut and Run:
Episode 1: Aftermath
First off I have to say I love that opening title sequence. Starting with the blood red Star Wars: The Clone Wars title image from the final arc of the last season and then burning away to reveal the new Star Wars: The Bad Batch title image not only looked awesome, but perfectly captured the episode starting right before the end of The Clone Wars and then moving into the rise of the Empire. The inclusion of Admiral Yularen’s opening narration, another Clone Wars staple, was a welcome touch. The CGI animation style is also the same as the show’s predecessor, so if you enjoyed that then you will feel right at home here.
The first episode also throws in a surprise from another Star Wars animated series, Rebels, as we see the Order 66 execution of Jedi Master Deepa Billaba on the planet Kaller and the escape of her Padawan Caleb Dume. If the name Caleb Dume doesn’t sound familiar, then you may know him better as the Jedi Kanan Jarrus in Rebels (actor Freddie Prinze Jr. also returned in Aftermath to voice the younger version of the character). I thought the inclusion of Billaba and Dume was an interesting touch, even though I found Hunter chasing after the Padawan went on a bit long. I did enjoy the earlier sequence of The Bad Batch taking out the droids as it was both action-filled and hilarious thanks to some pithy one liners by those perpetually inept B1 battle droids.
And speaking of Hunter, it’s a good time to talk about the members of The Bad Batch. You have the leader Hunter with the enhanced senses, fondness for knives and close combat, and with a look like a less-jacked Rambo. You also have the large but not too bright brawler Wrecker, and the highly intelligent and condescending Tech. Rounding off the group is the caustic sharp shooter Crosshair and Echo, who was (deep breath) a regular clone that had been presumed dead but was being used as a pawn by the Techo Union before being rescued by Anakin Skywalker, Captain Rex and Clone Force 99 (whew!). Now each member of The Bad Batch (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker along with the rest of the clones) has a distinctive personality and look but in these opening episodes they do feel somewhat one dimensional at times. And I found Wrecker’s antics were a little annoying and Echo was underused both in this episode and the next. But it is early days still, so this is not a major concern.
And Aftermath does a good job of using Hunter and Crosshair to represent the contrasting views to the change in status quo from Republic army to Imperial army, which was announced via a giant hologram of new Emperor Palpatine and some archival audio from Revenge of the Sith. The Clone Wars did stellar work in showing the individuality of each clone but it appears that with the activation of the inhibitor chip they have all drunk the Imperial Kool-Aid. I will say I was sad to see Crosshair turn villain as he is my favourite member of The Bad Batch, but I am holding out hope that he is eventually brought back into the fold. And the prospect of a former member turned bad guy is always exciting storytelling.
One bad guy who has never wavered in his villainy is Wilhuff Tarkin, who we meet here as a newly-minted Imperial admiral and some years off from the Grand Moff Tarkin we know and loathe in A New Hope. His appearance and dislike for the clones sets up an important storyline of the Empire eventually phasing out clones in favour of conscripted soldiers. And was anyone shocked when he turned the squad’s training exercise into a live-fire training exercise? Anyone? Hands? Nope? This is one dastardly dude and it would have been shocking if he played fair. Also unsurprising was the “insurgents” he sent the squad to eliminate on Onderon were actually fugitives, including Saw Gerrera. Like the Jedi in the opening sequence I was also pleasantly surprised to find Saw here. His appearance in The Bad Batch makes his fourth franchise appearance after Rogue One, The Clone Wars and Rebels. This is one rebel freedom fighter that gets around. And Crosshair’s determination to eliminate the fugitives, including women and children, was quite cold blooded but showed both the power of his programming and the dark side (no pun intended) of following orders.
Aftermath also introduces a new defective clone, the young female Omega from Kamino. And when I saw new child character I was like, “Umm, didn’t we just do the whole hardened-warrior-cares-for-a-child-and-learns-the-value-of-family thing with The Mandalorian?” The answer is yes, yes we did. And while the character is precocious she is thankfully not annoying. It seems that she may also be Force sensitive but that is yet to be confirmed. All in all Aftermath is a solid and promising start for the new series.
Aftermath Episode Score: 7 out of 10
Episode 2: Cut and Run
The second episode Cut and Run is a slower, more dramatic story, and unlike the 75 minute-run-time of Aftermath it is 31 minutes; I suspect the latter will be the average episode run-time moving forward. We do a dip into nostalgia again here as it features the return of clone deserter Cut Lawquane, who we first met in The Clone Wars Season 2 episode The Deserter. That episode wasn’t one of the best of the series, but it was important for showing a clone deciding to leave the war behind and start a family. And as the new series is all about a group of clones going rogue this is some clever and subtle story symmetry. And I will admit it was cool checking up on Cut and his family on Saleucami. The scenes of Omega experiencing sand and playing with a ball for the first time were also heartwarming.
And it’s a Star Wars series so we now we’re going to see some monstrous creatures eventually. When Omega wanders past the fence she is attacked by the multi-eyed, four-footed Nexu, a creature we first saw terrorising Padme in Attack of the Clones. According to starwarsfandom.com these predatory felines are native to the planet Cholganna and besides Saleucami are also found on the planet Zhanox. I thoroughly enjoyed Suu blasting the living daylights out of that thing. She’s one bad mama jama!
My favourite aspect of the episode was its presentation of the newly imperial world. We see the Empire is beginning to occupy worlds, seize ships, and force everyone to register via chain codes. And in a way those chain codes feel even more evil than the later planet-destroying Death Star. Quite insidious, Darth Sidious! Lore and world-building is one of the things I love most about any sci fi franchise, and what excited me most about The Bad Batch is the opportunity to explore the world of Star Wars in the early days of the Empire, just as The Mandalorian explores the early years after the fall of the Empire. It’s all one massive story and I am excited to read this chapter.
Quick question though—is the Empire not looking for Clone Force 99? Because Hunter was walking around Saleucami with his face all exposed and zero effort to disguise himself. And it’s not as if he doesn’t have a unique look with his half face paint or tattoo or whatever. Those scenes kind of pulled me out of story. On the positive side, I did like him bonding with Omega and the surrogate father/daughter thing they seem to be building. And of course she left Cut and Suu and came back to the clones. Not exactly a twist there.
Cut and Run shines more in its lore-building than in its actual story, but it is still a decent episode. And I have seen enough here and with Aftermath to hook me for the other 14 episodes of this season. Then again, even if both episodes were piles of Bantha fodder I still would have watched the rest of the season. This is Star Wars after all.
Cut and Run Episode Score: 6 out of 10
So what did you think of the first two episodes of Star Wars: The Bad Batch? For my review of Star Wars: Resistance you can click here. Or for my Top 5 Reasons the Force is Strong with Star Wars: Rebels you can click here.
Julien “Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. I can also be found posting about TV and movie memes, news and trailers on Facebook at Movieville. And to stay on top of all Redmangoreviews articles you can like and follow us on Facebook here.