Unlike this episode’s title, Star Wars: The Bad Batch makes me want to fasten and secure my seat. This (hopefully) extended narrative voyage takes place during the rise of the Empire timeline. Last week’s one-hour premiere was a phenomenal start to a promising new series in the ever-expanding Star Wars mythos. As we saw, the twist ending revealed Omega (Michelle Ang) to be the last of the five genetically mutated clones that comprise “The Bad Batch.” This is a compelling secret that only incriminates the cooly sinister Kaminoans while also providing an inclusive space for atypical female characters.
As the first girl clone in Star Wars, there are bound to be groundbreaking directions the writers can take with Omega’s unique personal journey. She has no biological ties to family other than the siblings she just met, who broke her out of laborious confines she didn’t realize was child abuse. Then there’s the matter of maturing from kid to adult in a seedy and violent galaxy, living a life on the run without much guidance or identity affirmation. Her paternal figures are genetic brothers, though group leader Hunter (Dee Bradley Baker) believes she needs a safer, more stable home if she wants a shot at as decent a life one can have under Imperial rule.
The drawback of this episodic dilemma is that it too closely mirrors a superior episode of The Mandalorian: “Sanctuary,” directed by Bryce Dallas Howard. Because of viewer familiarity with Baby Yoda’s mini-arc in that chapter, Omega’s identical subplot fails to play out with intended suspense. Even the reason behind Omega continuing to tag along with trouble magnets is less convincing than Grogu’s. What does work is Hunter reexamining his responsibilities moving forward, realizing he must start behaving like a survivor instead of a soldier.
Voice actor Dee Bradley Baker does a terrific job giving each clone a distinct personality, particularly Tech, whose hyper-intelligence and butler mannerisms recall See-Threepio. Unlike the fussy protocol droid, Tech is neither a pushover nor paranoid. He trusts the odds because he creates them in his favor and always knows how to soothe discontent among the ranks.
I have to admit, I’m not missing Crosshair at all. With that said, the writers seem to be fickle about whether or not the enhanced clone is inherently callous or just more sensitive to the inhibitor chip’s influence. The non-committal points to a near-future redemption arc, problematically wiping clean the sniper’s murderous intent towards the Jedi, not to mention betraying the trust of his unit. I know the franchise is all about bringing villains back to moral recognition, but there should be consequences if, indeed, Crosshair acted mostly uninhibited. As it stands, he’s currently Wilhuff Tarkin’s (Stephen Stanton) mind-warped pet soldier, ready to hunt down his former allies at the behest of this frightening new dictatorship.
Having escaped Kamino, the Bad Batch now find themselves seeking refuge on the planet Saleucami, home of clone deserter Cut. The ex-soldier cut ties with his military lifestyle after falling in love with Twi-Lek resident Suu (Cara Pifko). Dedicating himself to Suu and her two sons has made him more fulfilled than any victorious day on the battlefield. However, with the Imperial extending its reach and might — this time forcing everyone to have to identify clearance cards whenever they travel off-world — it’s time for the family to pack up and leave before Cut’s identity is discovered.
Omega ends up bonding with Suu’s children Shaeeah and Fauja (Nika Futterman), though her backyard adventures attract wildlife danger. Despite some life-endangering drama, Hunter strongly considers leaving Omega behind with Cut and Suu, who have the experience to raise and safeguard a child better than he or his brothers could. Does this conundrum sound a bit too familiar? As mentioned, the heavy decision Hunter is robbed of intensity because it replicates Mando’s (Pablo Pascal) dilemma with what to do with Grogu after he also forms a kinship with hospitable local villagers.
The main source of intense fear stems from Suu and Cut waiting to see if their fake credentials from Tech are accepted. Thankfully, we don’t have to wait to exhale for long, though the same cannot be said for the Bad Batch. The team face clones under the direction of Vice Admiral Rampart’s (Noshir Dalal), the series’ proxy antagonist, while Tarkin caresses his pointed chin in deep thought from afar. Here’s to hoping Rampart is more complex than your typical clip-toned Imperial with a steely disposition.
Omega is not the grating child nuisance that typifies most tagalong kid characters. Her inquisitive nature, empathy, and courage are valuable assets to her elder brothers. It will be a joy to see Omega experience the galaxy’s diverse wonders for the first time. Furthermore, her companionship soothes the emotional sting the Bad Batch experienced from having their world upheaved after a single genocidal directive. Reconciling feelings of guilt and sadness cannot be easy, but something tells me these mutated clones tend to evolve faster in emotional intelligence than the “regs” ever could — no offense, Rex and Cody!
It’s becoming quickly apparent that this Clone Wars sequel series is prioritizing kinship above action. In other words, The Bad Batch is the first family saga to be front and center without the name Skywalker attached.