Star Wars: The Bad Batch





Paul Asay

TV Series Review

Here’s the thing about clones: They’re all supposed to be the same. Otherwise they’d be really terrible clones.

And sure enough, the members of experimental clone Force Unit 99 are terrible clones. But turns out, they’re pretty good at some other stuff.

You’re a Little Weird for a Stormtrooper, Aren’t You?

Force Unit 99, aka the Bad Batch, is a group of clones with some serious genetic defects—at least according to their more conformative clone brethren.

But those defects also allow for some augmented talents, too—and their names follow suit. Hunter, the leader, is an expert tracker. Wrecker serves as a human tank. Tech fiddles with his instruments while Crosshair fiddles with his sniper. And then there’s Echo. He started life as a more traditional clone, but through a rather unfortunate mishap, he’s now more machine than man.

They don’t look like the other clones. They don’t talk like them. And they sure don’t act like them. Orders? While their genetic family members follow them without question, most of this crew consider orders more like strong suggestions.

So when Order 66 came down from on high—the order to turn and kill the Jedi that had led them into battle throughout the Clone Wars—their collective reaction wasn’t so much “Yes sir!” but “Huh?”

Now, most of the team is on the run from the Empire, pursued by the still-loyal Crosshair, more standard clones and Tarkin’s never-ending resources. The Bad Batch, as they’re known, is looking for a little help, and maybe a little purpose, too. Perhaps the fledgling rebellion could use a few renegade clones. Maybe they’ll find a Jedi or two who survived the purge—one of whom Hunter himself let escape.

For now, their main purpose is just to stay alive and protect Omega. She’s officially a “defective” clone, just like they are. But the pronoun she gives away the fact that she’s not like her cohorts at all. She’s a girl, and a young one at that. And while she’s no battle-hardened vet like her grizzled big brothers, her special abilities may be the most interesting, and perhaps powerful, of them all.

Or maybe Crosshair will track them down and bring them back into the Imperial fold well before they uncover the depths of Omega’s abilities. Or, if the renegades refuse to come quietly, force them to face terminal Imperial justice.

I’ve Got a Good Feeling About This …

Star Wars: The Bad Batch is a spinoff/sequel of sorts to the long-running Clone Wars animated series. Taking place during and immediately after Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, we’re looking at not just a “bad batch” of clones, but an evil Empire.

Naturally, if you’re new to the Star Wars universe, The Bad Batch is not the ideal place to start. This galaxy is filled with a long-running litany of themes and characters that, for fans, need little introduction—and non-fans don’t get introductions at all.

Still, the core characters (though introduced in the series Star Wars: The Clone Wars) are easy to warm up to, even if the universe itself is a bit perplexing. These are simple, relatable characters are trying to make their way in a complex galaxy the best they can. And that makes the trip smoother for relative newcomers and more fun for everyone.

And the show is fun—engaging and rollicking and surprisingly resonant, much like its animated predecessor was. It’s not rated, but the Clone Wars was TV-PG, and that feels about right for this one, too. You’re not going to hear much, if any, bad language. Sexual situations rarely crop up in the heat of pitched blaster battles. One young character does seem to exhibit some telepathic powers, but Star Wars’ quasi-religious Force is rarely a (ahem) force here. And while you’ll certainly find plenty of violence, it’s bloodless and much of it is targeted on non-living foes.

That said, the show can be dark and even grim at times. And while its heroes certainly should be lauded for not blindly pursuing orders—especially terrible orders—moms and dads might want to help any younger, headstrong viewers walk through the difference between orders in the show (such as killing innocent civilians) and orders at home (such as cleaning their rooms).

But if that’s the extent of our cautions, that makes The Bad Batch a pretty good, clean show.

Episode Reviews

May 7, 2021: “Cut and Run”

Hunter and his cohorts find their way to a distant planet to get a little help from another renegade clone, who’s married and has a family. Omega marvels at the planet: She’s never seen dirt, much less other children. But their stay is short lived. With the newly constituted Empire flexing its muscles, the renegade clone and his family are hoping to leave for another planet. The catch? The Empire now requires a “chain code” for travel—a way for it to track its citizens—and the clone can’t get a code without being discovered as a deserter. The Bad Batch decides to do what they can to help—with predictably violent consequences.

There’s a pretty sizable melee at the spaceport. Several stormtroopers get knocked out. Several others are bloodlessly shot. (They’re incapacitated, though it’s difficult to say whether some or all are killed.) A vicious wild creature stalks and threatens Omega before it’s zapped a few times with a non-lethal blaster rifle, and it runs back into the forest.

May 4, 2021: “Aftermath”

The series begins with a feature-length (72-minute) first episode, wherein Force Unit 99 disobeys the Jedi-extermination Order 66, loses a team member, gains another one and takes to hyperspace in search of new adventures.

We see the lethal order given, and a Jedi battles valiantly against blaster-holding clones. We see her suffer one relatively minor wound, but we learn later that the clones were successful in killing her. Her Padawan (a Jedi apprentice) escapes after parrying some laser blasts as well, leaping over a gigantic chasm. Hunter, the leader of Force Unit 99, lies to aid the boy’s escape, telling someone that he watched the Padawan fall to his death. Another Jedi gets removed on a stretcher, the body covered by a sheet.

Loads of droids are “killed” by Unit 99—shot, stabbed, blown up, torn apart and sent falling off cliffs. Sometimes their demise is emphasized by stray electrical sparks, but there’s no effort to equate these terminations with real, actual death. Unit 99 deals with a few life-threatening situations, though, and a couple members are injured. One undergoes a “medical” procedure designed to reinforce a chip installed in his brain.

Tech, the Unit’s smartest member, speculates that the Empire controls most clones via programming. He suspects that they are also products of that programming. Wrecker, the strongest member, denies it. “I like to blow things up because I like to blow things up!” he insists. He also bets credits on whether a team member survived a fight.

Unit members engage in hand-to-hand combat with a different batch of robots, sometimes using wrestling moves to overcome them. We learn that the Empire wanted the Unit to kill a bunch of “Separatists,” including children.

A food fight breaks out between standard clones and members of Unit 99. A girl hiding in the ceiling falls to the floor. A few clones are knocked out.

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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