Can an episode serve as both filler and setup while still managing to clear the bar as passable entertainment? The fifth entry of Star Wars: The Bad Batch certainly makes that case. If you like cute monsters that turn conflict into playtime, then there’s plenty to squeal in delight about with “Rampage,” especially considering it revolves around a certain Return of the Jedi fan favorite. Despite having one too many juvenile moments that leave you wondering if George Lucas made a behind-the-scenes cameo, enough fan service exists to keep the “adult” Star Wars crowd satisfied. This series’ maturity has been its best asset, but it is hard to fault the creators for reminding viewers that this program, like the saga that inspires it, is mainly geared towards kids.
The beginning of the week’s show starts off on a promising note: we finally get to see a cinematic representation of Ord Mantell, a planet first introduced in the 1996 Shadows of the Empire multimedia project. Spanning across a video game, a comic book, and a bestselling novel, the transmedia narrative takes place between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Ord Mantell is introduced as a junkyard world that serves as Boba Fett’s “layover” stop before delivering Han’s carbonite form to Jabba the Hutt. Much of the story is now considered non-canon and filed under the “Star Wars: Legends” banner, though its main protagonist Dash Rendar has been officiated since.
While Ord Mantell isn’t the piece of junk world that remains engraved in memory — courtesy of memorable level design from the Shadows of the Empire Nintendo 64 development team — seeing it in all of its canonical glory is a dream fulfilled. In “Rampage,” it’s the Bad Batch’s next stop in ridding themselves of Omega’s (Michelle Ang) bounty. While the junkyard hills make an appearance later, the central metropolis is a seedier, mustier version of Mos Eisley or Nevarro city. It is in one of the local cantinas that their unknown contact is, well, drawn out.
Echo (Dee Bradley Baker) informs his crew that the Jedi often used an information broker named Cid (Rhea Perlman) in the Republic’s war against the Separatists. Ord Mantell is her last known location and, after some impressive sleuthing by Omega, is discovered to be her new base of operations. Move over Bossk because Cid might just replace you as the most popular Trandoshan in the galaxy. Wise-cracking and strangely endearing by her lack of transparency, this elder member of the fearsome reptilian species disarms the crew by her wit and frankness.
Cid knows the Clone deserters are in desperate need of information — namely, who this bounty hunter is that attempted to kidnap Omega — and she’s willing to milk the anxiety for as long as possible. Ladies and gentlemen, the mistress of quid-pro-quo, has just revealed herself; by the looks of things, she is sticking around until fear of the Empire stops being the most valuable form of galactic currency.
For the Clones to get the identity information the audience already knows, the fugitive siblings must first rescue a prized possession of Jabba the Hutt named Muchi. No, it’s not another slimy yet cute little nephew this time around — think a whole lot bigger and toothier. It doesn’t take long to find their target, but the junkyard hillside is advantageous ground for Muchi’s captors. Hunter, Tech, and Wrecker are outmatched and subsequently captured. Omega, meanwhile, manages to scurry away and bump into a locked cage next to a young Falleen boy, presumed to be Muchi. The raging snarls coming from the giant crate are menacing yet oddly familiar. Naturally, Omega’s curiosity saves the day as she unleashes a baby rancor we all know and adore.
Muchi is, in fact, the very same rancor that Luke Skywalker triumphed against in Return of the Jedi. Listen, Muchi grew up into a resentful adult, so give him a break. As a little youngster just itching for someone to brawl with, he’s really rather harmless. Wrecker volunteers to be the punching bag to tire out the gargantuan infant, and somehow their duel manages to be more ridiculous than watching Mario and Luigi go at it in Super Smash Bros. The fight is certainly one of the more ridiculous scenes of Star Wars lore of late, but we just have to keep reminding ourselves that animation, like tricks, is for kids.
Guess who comes to collect the terrible tike once he’s brought back safely to Cid’s? In all his passive-aggressiveness splendor, Bib Fortuna (Matthew Wood) adds babysitter to his majordomo duties, picking up Muchi with clear irritation at the lowliness of this assignment. Even though it’s good to see him, you know, still alive in this timeline, Fortuna is another popular character — like Admiral Ackbar — who deserves their own mini-arc as a way of honoring their legacy. Out of posthumous respect, this should not be too much to ask, right?
As mentioned, the information provided has been privy to audiences since two seasons of The Mandalorian ago. The new tidbit we do learn is that Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) is relatively new to the trade of bounty hunting, not to mention her only sole contract is with whoever hired her. Is it just me, or does it seem more than obvious it’s the Kaminoans who are footing the bill? I sure hope there’s a lot more to Shand’s involvement than something so glaringly identifiable because I’d hate to see the series waste precious episodes leading to a conclusion we knew was seventy-five percent certain at the end of 1×4. What is more troublesome is seeing Wrecker’s headaches begin to turn into migraines. Something is physiologically going on that must result from the latent effect of the clones’ inhibitor chips. What that could mean for Wrecker’s future allegiance is up to the Force, though my sense is that his innate goodness will prevail. As burly as he is, Wrecker is no beast.