Star Wars: The Bad Batch raises the bar for itself once again, with an action-packed episode incorporating many classic franchise elements. Star Wars: The Clone Wars writing alum Christian Taylor returns in top form, setting this weekly installment in the fan-favorite Pantora system, heavily featured in the aforementioned animated series. This time, we move away from the icy planet and into the habitable moon, which turns out to be a bustling city with air taxi traffic and a bustling marketplace.
The blue-skinned Pantoran natives don’t appear to take umbrage at the Empire’s newly imposed policies. In fact, the street crowds are still celebrating the defeat of the Separatists. It stands to reason that because of their elation that the war is over, Republic citizens across the galaxy don’t realize their “liberators” are about to become their new overlords.
The Empire is taking advantage of this momentary peace by installing new government heads, rolling back privacy rights, and conscripting billions of patriotically blinded men and women into a new army to implement these changes. The cheers of hope are undoubtedly going to devolve into screams of terror in the coming months.
Speaking of hope, the Bad Batch remain optimistic that they can lay low and avoid the Empire’s radar. The one snag in their endeavor is that their stolen shuttle’s signature has now been alerted to all spaceports under Imperial purview. The irony: the only way to solve this predicament is to temporarily dock at a landing bay until Tech and Wrecker (Dee Bradley Baker) can successfully scramble the ship’s identification.
Meanwhile, Hunter, Echo, and Omega (Michelle Ang) head into town to use their last bit of funds to restock essential rations and supplies. They will have to worry about sustainable income at some other juncture — for now, it’s survival time! This also includes bribing the landing bay attendant (Taran Killam) to keep the ship’s identity off the daily manifest and passing Echo off as a droid to a Gran trader (Bobby Moynihan) in exchange for a couple grand’s worth of credits. Haggling and deceiving for money is not how the ex-soldiers envisioned spending their post-war days, but they’ve come to realize that playing by the rules in an unjust galaxy only spells doom.
Trouble is literally right around the market, as a new adversary (but a familiar one to The Mandalorian fans) enters the fray, making the fugitives’ lives even more agonizing. Bounty hunter and hired assassin Fennic Shand (Ming-Na Wen) makes her animated debut without missing a beat from her live-action introduction. Wen’s excellent vocal performance maintains character integrity, even showing some shades of Shand we haven’t seen before. Although her mission is to kidnap Omega — likely for Kaminoans Lama Su and Nala Se (Bob Bergen and Gwendoline Yeo, respectively) — Shand exudes a shocking amount of humanity for someone with such an immoral line of work.
Even though Omega is naive and overly trusting, it’s easy to see why she would fall sway to Shand’s charms. The bounty hunter’s confidence, imposing protective gear, and professional demeanor suggest a woman who has succeeded in arduous times on her own terms. That is something to be admired, especially for a girl just barely getting her feet wet in deep space adventuring.
There’s also a nurturing side to Shand that was hinted at with Grogu but never rendered visible. Here, Shand offers valuable lessons for Omega, whether it’s landing safely from a high fall or simply allowing the child to let her instincts be her guide. Even though the pair eventually find themselves at odds, it is clear that Shand genuinely respects her prey. The assassin does not show embittered anger when Omega and her clone company finally escape her vociferous chase. Unbothered and ready for round two, Shand is a huntress who doesn’t believe in mission failures — only extended pursuits.
In the episode’s final stretch, the speeder chase pays homage to the air taxi scene in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. In the prequel film, Anakin Skywalker uses every unorthodox method possible to catch Padmé’s assassin Zam Wesell (Leeanna Walsman), while Obi-Wan commandeers a yellow air cab to make sure his young padawan doesn’t plummet to his death. Taylor’s script improves the scene by not letting comedic ribbing weigh it down, focusing instead on the high-stakes nature of the chase. Every near-death moment is visceral and alarming, not to mention the pursuit itself is elaborately designed. There’s creativity behind every action beat, proving that animation is no slouch when it comes to cinematic thrill rides.
With four major villains breathing down the Bad Batch’s collective necks — Crosshair, Shand, Tarkin (Stephen Stanton), and Rampart (Noshir Dalal) — the crew’s endgame for peaceful, hidden retirement feels lightyears away. Will the cat-and-mouse routine continue in the upcoming installment, or are we about to see a major confrontation come to a head? Only the Force knows…