Julien Neaves, Sci Fi Head Writer
This past Friday was the 16th and final episode of Season 1 of CGI animated series Star Wars: The Bad Batch. And I would love to say the Force was strong with it but it was just okay.
The series follows the titular group of elite clone troopers with genetic mutations who find themselves enemies of the state with the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Empire. I reviewed the first couple of episodes and was planning to do more in between but most left me with a feeling of “meh”. And unfortunately that trend continued with the finale arc. With a Star Destroyer-sized SPOILER ALERT let’s take a look at the finale arc and then the season overall:
From War-Mantle to Kamino Lost
Kamino Lost concludes a three part arc which began with War-Mantle and continued with Return to Kamino. War-Mantle was a highlight, showing the Bad Batch discovering a secret Imperial base with conscripted troopers, which was confirmation the Empire had moved on from the clone army. We knew this happened at some point between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope but it was cool seeing it onscreen. It did happen a bit quicker in the show’s run than I thought it would have, though. We also see the abandonment of Kamino, Nala Se being forced into Imperial servitude and Lama Su’s fate being left up in the air, though if he was not killed it is likely he was imprisoned. War-Mantle ends with Hunter being captured, which sets up the next episode.
Return to Kamino was alright. It was pleasant returning to the planet and learning more about Omega and Clone Force 99’s origins. The secret underwater tunnel system was also an interesting visual touch. And we got to see the Bad Batch face off with Crosshair again, but after so many previous encounters the impact has definitely diminished. And speaking of impact, the most important scene in the episode, the finale arc, and arguably the entire season was the Imperial fleet blasting the hell out of Tipoca City. It was a very affecting experience seeing this vital location being blown to kingdom come. And this then set up the final episode.
Kamino Lost was a full-on disaster episode and I actually found it the weakest of the three. Sure, there are a few thrills and a massive underwater creature but I never once felt that any of the characters were in danger. And speaking of characters, did Echo actually DO anything this entire episode? I was hard-pressed to think of anything, which makes sense as he has been woefully underutilised for the entire season.
The one actual emotional moment in Kamino Lost was the loss of AZI but that was immediately undercut with Crosshair rescuing both him and Omega. I think if he had just rescued Omega then he could have his brief redemption and the audience could still feel the pathos of AZI’s sacrifice. I did enjoy the image of Omega looking over the burnt remains of Tipoca City. Crosshair tells Hunter and company that nothing has changed, and while he is referring to their antagonistic relationship it can be applied to the show as well. Yes, the home of the clones is lost but it was a location the team had been avoiding, and there seems to be no immediate impact to their wandering, mercenary ways. The end of the finale is supposed to be a stinger that has the audience hungering for the next season. This ending was more like, “Okay. That happened.”
Editor Jules Finale Arc Score: 6 out of 10
The Good, The Bad and The Batch
Let me begin with the positives from the first season. I loved seeing this underexplored era of Star Wars, namely the early days of the Empire. I enjoyed the various ways they were extending their reach and control and the impact across the galaxy. The animation was also very well done, continuing the visual style established in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. And the show was never short on action, with each episode featuring at least one thrilling set piece.
The season was also jampacked with Easter eggs and a few cameos. Things kicked off with Deepa Billaba and Caleb Dume (future Kanan Jarrus of Rebels) in the premiere before having Admiral Tarkin, Saw Gerrera, Cut Lawquane, Bib Fortuna, Hera and Chopper all showing up. But my favourite appearances had to be bounty hunters Fennec Shand and Cad Bane, especially Bane. This cowboy-inspired bounty hunter was easily one of the best characters from the Clone Wars and I always wondered what happened to him. And we now know he is still alive and kicking and bounty hunting. The episode Bounty Lost, which saw Shand and Bane face off, was actually my favourite of the entire season, which is ironic as it features the Bad Batch the least save for a focus on Omega.
And this brings me to the main issue with the show—the main characters. Aside from the precocious and endlessly adorable Omega the rest of the Bad Batch just feel like one-dimensional caricatures with no more depth than early video game characters. It was an issue I flagged when the show premiered but I hoped work would have been done to make them feel more three-dimensional. But aside from a closer friendship between Omega and Wrecker and Hunter and Omega having a more surrogate father/daughter relationship these clones just felt very flat. I mentioned Echo above and he is the worst example. He was introduced as a hacker but we see Tech handling all the computer stuff and Echo is kind of just there to make up numbers. I think he should have gone off with Rex to help start the Rebellion as he was adding little to the team. But he is just a symptom of a bigger problem. Heck, even Cid seems to have a lot more personality than these clones. And while Crosshair was cool he was not interesting enough to be a big bad this season.
Another issue is the stakes. In The Clone Wars there was the war with the Separatists, in Rebels there was the Rebellion, and even in the uneven Resistance there was the early battles against the First Order. But The Bad Batch? They are either running from the Empire or having random misadventures on their mercenary missions. The stakes are only their survival which is just not that compelling, especially when your main characters are not all that compelling themselves.
The Bad Batch has me concerned that we may already be seeing some signs of Star Wars quality fatigue, especially with a bantha-load of shows on the horizon. But The Clone Wars, Rebels and Resistance all had somewhat rough first seasons so there is still time and space to course correct, especially with the great Dave Filoni at the helm. We’ll see how things go in Season 2.
Editor Jules Season 1 Score: 6.5 out of 10
So how would you rate the finale and the first season? And you can check out more great Star Wars animated content below:
Julien “Editor 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”. Read more.