By George Bate & Josh Reilly B.
Hearing Tom Kane’s booming voice introduce us to “The Bad Batch” was all we needed to get us prepared for and invested in the seventh and final season of The Clone Wars. This first episode of the season felt different than premiere episodes for previous seasons of The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, Star Wars Resistance, and The Mandalorian in that this episode was first seen with unfinished animation almost four years ago when it debuted at Star Wars Celebration and was soon thereafter released on starwars.com. Regardless of the extent to which the plot, character dynamics and mechanics of the episode were previously known to people who viewed the unfinished episode years ago, “The Bad Batch” is a thrilling, well crafted, and intelligently structured installment of The Clone Wars.
From a technical standpoint, the season premiere is visually stunning to say the least. Every season of The Clone Wars progressively improved in regards to the details and scope of its animation, and this season is no exception. The updated animations bring to life detailed and smooth character designs and locations, a far cry from the less refined imagery of the original Clone Wars film released back in 2008. While The Clone Wars as a show overall often leans a little too heavily into action, this episode balances intelligent storytelling with engaging action that takes a more calculated different approach than some previous episodes. The build up to the action takes a slower pace at times and Kevin Kiner’s dramatic score often cuts out in order to build tension with silence and subsequent warfare. This is best demonstrated near the end of the episode when Clone Force 99 and the other troopers raid the Cyber Center and the ‘camera’ continually tracks the action from the moment they enter the complex deep into the battle. Beyond the action, as demonstrated by some of the more recent trailers for this new season, the character designs are once again really impressive. The detail rendered onto Rex’s face when he speaks to Cody about Echo or when Anakin asks Rex if he’s not telling him something, and countless other moments in the show mark huge visual improvements for the series.
“The Bad Batch” excels with its wholesome character moments. The brotherly dynamic between Rex and Cody, Rex’s mourning of his old squad, and the combative attitudes of the different clone squads are all highlights in this episode. One of the best things to come out of The Clone Wars overall was the extent to which it made clone troopers actual characters, as opposed to mindless soldiers blindly following orders. This is a pattern that began in the very first episode of the first season of The Clone Wars and has continued ever since. It has always been a strength of the show, for instance, to highlight the clones’ reactions to the war, their unique personalities, and their distinct relationships with the Jedi. “The Bad Batch” offers up some of the most noteworthy and memorable clone interactions of the series yet, something that only increases anticipation for the rest of the installments of this arc.
Without spoiling the ending of the episode for those who have not seen the 2015 unfinished version of the episode or this newly released version yet, the episode concludes with an intriguing cliffhanger. Indeed, there are few, if any, notable criticisms of this episode in isolation, but, when considered in the context of a broader final season, the episode does raise slight concerns. This seventh and final season of The Clone Wars is only 12 episodes, four of which will be stories from this Bad Batch arc that were already covered in the previously released unfinished versions. This issue is amplified by the fact that these episodes are released weekly and only 22 minutes long. This isn’t to say these episodes of the Bad Batch arc can’t still surprise. “The Bad Batch” changes things up slightly, in particular the scene at the beginning in which Rex talks to Cody about Echo. Regardless, however, those familiar with this arc will likely be eager for exposure to new stories and characters, in particular those that blend into the events of Revenge of the Sith as teased in the trailer.
The Clone Wars returns for its seventh and final season with a visually stunning, deliberately paced ensemble piece. Although the episode will make less of an impact for those who have had previous exposure to the arc as unfinished episodes several years ago, “The Bad Batch” strikes a healthy balance between well-crafted action and wholesome brotherly moments between different clone factions. The Clone Wars‘ sixth season effectively wrapped up many of the plot threads from the fifth season, but it’s nice to see The Clone Wars finally see the definitive ending it deserves. If the rest of the seventh season is anything like “The Bad Batch,” Star Wars are in for a treat.