When first announced, many had doubts about whether or not The Bad Batch carried enough potential for an entire spin-off. Clone Force 99’s introduction in the final season of The Clone Wars was almost a miracle itself; fans were under the impression for years that the team would be left in the void of abandoned Star Wars concepts. The days of watching the Bad Batch in unfinished story reels are now a distant memory, as Lucasfilm’s latest animated endeavor debuts on Disney+. Coming in at a whopping 70 minutes, The Bad Batch series premiere doesn’t necessarily break new ground, but it sure does wash away any doubts.
Kicking off with a bang, this story begins at the very end of the Clone War, leading into everyone’s favorite tragedy, Order 66. The Bad Batch wastes no time in catching viewers up to speed, displaying the squad full force in all their camaraderie and diving into the universe’s greatest twist all within the first 15 minutes. A very conscious decision, the show is not only aware of how much ground there is to cover, but of all the hurdles that lie on said path. Why devote an entire series to the perspective of a ragtag team of clones? Didn’t The Clone Wars already do that enough throughout its 7 seasons? The answer to this pivotal question becomes clearer as the premiere progresses.
By moving consecutively after Order 66, audiences get to see crucial, albeit familiar, territory through a new lens. In truth, keen Star Wars fans will probably find a lot more to appreciate in this premiere. Many longtime questions finally get more exploration, such as what the hell happened to thousands of clones in the wake of the Empire? These kinds of deep-cuts are, realistically, not on the minds of every Star Wars fan. Delving into the lore can be fun and all, but it doesn’t necessarily call the need for an entire show. A lot of recent Star Wars media has struggled to find its own worth when heavily surrounded by lore (something that isn’t inherently negative), and even though it may seem like this on the surface, The Bad Batch avoids this curse.
Yes, there are plenty of callbacks and references to The Clone Wars and even Rebels. Yes, fans will surely flip out over a handful of notable guest appearances. Yes, certain things finally get to be explained. Thankfully, The Bad Batch proves that there is way more to the show than such examples of fan service. The most commendable aspects of the premiere come in the form of unexpected twists. The world of Clone Force 99 is turned on its head. As they see their fellow brothers in arms turn on the Jedi, they start to question high command, and even each other. Their defective genetics grant them the most autonomy from the entire clone army. Even with their rebellious nature and history, they get the chance to truly make their own decisions for the first time in their manufactured life.
It’s here where things get really interesting. The series takes a few turns and starts to display its true potential when deviating from expectations, leading to new dynamics within the group that were unforeseen in the lead up to this premiere. To no surprise, the team each reacts to this new regime and Order 66 differently, but unlike many times before where they could just shoot or destroy something and go back to normalcy, there is no more war. And when the new Empire has secret plans for the future of all clones, desperate times call for desperate measures. The 70 minute runtime may first sound like a stretch, but the time dedicated to introducing larger themes (sprinkled with some spectacular action no less) justifies the setup. By the premiere’s end, there is a clear view of where this narrative could go, and it’s as wide as the horizon. A bright quality that is carried across the best of Lucasfilm animation.
And it goes to say just how effortlessly this transitions over from season 7 of The Clone Wars. Calling this a ‘spiritual successor’ is undercutting it as it feels more like a direct sequel series. The same animation style obviously carries over without trouble, but so does the signature mix of gleeful and mature tones. The fresh addition of clone trooper Echo even comes across as seamless. In this sense, The Bad Batch does feel like it will appeal strongly to people already in love with this era of Star Wars. Although, a decent amount of effort is put into building a new audience, something that will only be tested over time. This is mostly through the new character of Omega, a mysterious young girl who is more connected to the defective clones than they initially think. It takes a while for Omega to find her footing in the premiere, but when she does, her role proves to carry so many possibilities.
“A surprise to be sure, but a welcome one”, The Bad Batch launches with a solid and promising debut. The majority of concerns stemming from the conception of this show are disproved. It feels great to say that this latest Star Wars project doesn’t seem to be letting itself be defined by loads of fan service and deep-cuts. The premiere is full of such treats, though that is exactly what they are – just appetizers. The main course is teased to be something not exactly seen before. There are tastes of themes and concepts carried over from past shows, but this is a whole new playing field. Suffice to say, everyone can bet that series creator Dave Filoni is intending on taking full advantage of this opportunity.