For years, Star Wars: The Clone Wars was the dirty secret of the Star Wars fandom. The series, run by Dave Filoni, had quickly delivered some of the most exciting and emotional stories in the franchise’s history. Consistently underrated, except by those in the know, the animated series built a strong cult following. Many of the franchise’s most exciting and interesting characters initially appeared in the spin-off series, including Ashoka Tano and Bo-Katan.
As Clone Wars concluded in 2020, they introduced a bevy of characters poised for spin-offs. The resulting series, Star Wars: The Bad Batch, follows a genetically modified group of clone soldiers. This group’s increased abilities allow them to act independently and assert their agency. The Bad Batch signals a step forward for Star Wars animated series while maintaining the familiar tones of the previous series.
Shaping up to be a fun addition to Disney+, the series follows Clone Force 99 at a turning point in the galaxy. The five members (all-voiced by Dee Bradley Baker) of Clone Force 99 include Hunter (the leader), Wrecker (the muscle), Tech (the brains), Crosshair (the sharpshooter), and Echo (a former Clone, tortured and reconfigured by Separatists). The series picks up in the moments immediately proceeding Order 66, the Order that led to the deaths of the Jedi order. The order creates division among the group and puts them directly in the crosshairs of Admiral Tarkin. With the help of a young girl Omega (Michelle Ang), the elite team seeks lives beyond servitude.
The storytelling templates set by Clone Wars remain as effective as ever. Filoni’s influence is undeniable, especially with his credit as the series creator. However, he’s handed the writing and directorial duties over to Jennifer Corbett and Brad Rau. The veterans of Star Wars Resistance quickly establish compelling team dynamics that explore the conflicts within each soldier. The tension between the members stirs the emotions in just the right way. It’s the total tonal package.
Dee Bradley Baker deserves a ton of credit for his vocal turn, creating undeniably distance personas for each of the crew. Even more impressive, he can retain enough similarities between them to establish their genetic similarities. The nuances of his vocal performance are truly astounding, and the series is largely successful on his work alone.
Perhaps most exciting of all, The Bad Batch takes a massive step forward in its visual aesthetic. The stylistic flourishes of Clone Wars are present but an increased budget adds layering and depth to the images. While many animated series struggles with looking too blocky, The Bad Batch thrives on its highly rendered, smooth aesthetic. The impressive work features the best animation in the Star Wars universe to date. This will attract viewers hesitant to watch the foundational animation from Clone Wars.
The Bad Batch scratches the Star Wars itch, even though it’s only been a few months since The Mandalorian began. The team-based show will fill in the gaps of the post-Empire era. With familiar faces already introduced over the first few episodes, the series will continue to expand the lore behind each individual. The first episode bodes well for those seeking an emotional core to their Star Wars, and The Bad Batch will quickly become another niche hit within the fandom.