By George Bate
And, as the Clone Wars end, the era of the Empire (and the Bad Batch) begin. The newest Star Wars series finally hits Disney+ after months of anticipation and, thankfully, does not disappoint whatsoever. Viewers are treated to an epic and cinematic 70-minute premiere episode full of unexpected appearances and moments, unique character development, and an episode that brilliantly lays the foundation for what’s to come in Star Wars: The Bad Batch.
It’s hard not to associate The Bad Batch pilot with the words “epic” and “cinematic.” The extended length, jaw-droppingly detailed animation, and an unexpectedly deliberate pace makes the first episode of The Bad Batch feel more like a feature film than anything we’ve seen in Star Wars animation to date, with the exception of the Siege of Mandalore arc in season 7 of The Clone Wars. Every sequence is meticulously crafted top to bottom and every department is firing on all cylinders in this pilot. Kevin Kiner’s score adds a grand sense to the whole episode, evoking many of John Williams’ themes from the prequel trilogy, while also carving out a distinct tone for Clone Force 99. The dialogue from writers Jennifer Corbett and Matt Michnovetz perfectly suits the tone of the new series. And, of course, the animation is stunning to say the least. The episode feels like a Star Wars film given the extent to which our lead characters hop from planet to planet, each of which are beautifully animated and really come to life in this episode.
From a narrative perspective, The Bad Batch clearly forges its own tale moving forward, while honoring what came before it and the era it is situated in. The pilot very much feels like a sequel to The Clone Wars, but, as the minutes and scenes go by, it becomes increasingly clear this is its own show – this is The Bad Batch. One of the most interesting things about this pilot was how it explores what it’s like to be a Clone amidst the changing structure of the galaxy. We’ve seen projects like Star Wars Rebels and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story highlight the efforts of rebels fighting to overthrow the tyrannous Empire in the years before the Battle of Yavin. And we’ve seen a lot to do with the seedy underbelly of the Star Wars galaxy during this era, perhaps most notably Solo: A Star Wars Story. But, The Bad Batch adds a different layer to this era that was perhaps the highlight of the series so far. What is it like for a Clone Trooper following Order 66? How do you adjust to the fact that your comrades, the Jedi, are all of a sudden gone? Do you adhere to the directions of a new government or do you follow your own moral backbone? All of these questions and more are intricately explored in The Bad Batch and make it stand out from other projects set during the Imperial Era.
The episode also excels in the extensive character development it’s able to achieve in its 70+ minute premiere. Clone Force 99 featured in four episodes of The Clone Wars’ final season, but they were largely servicing a broader narrative populated with established characters like Rex, Cody, and Anakin. Now, the Bad Batch truly take center stage. All of what we learned about this rag-tag crew from their arc in the Clone Wars is expanded on tenfold here. Yes, each character has their own, distinct abilities as a soldier, but they also have truly unique, idiosyncratic personalities that complement one another brilliantly. It’s a testament to the direction and writing of this pilot that we really get a solid feel for each of Clone Force 99, without a disproportionate focus on a single character. We intimately see and feel what it’s like for Hunter to lead his team amidst this changing galaxy and navigate his own morals and duty to the Empire. We see and feel what it’s like for Wrecker, who is naturally predisposed to destruction, but is confused by the state of things and always apt to unleash his inner child. The crew comes together brilliantly in this episode, in large part due to Dee Bradley Baker’s spectacular performances as the titular characters. Baker has been a staple in Star Wars for many years now, but The Bad Batch feels like the best opportunity yet for the talented voice-actor to get the much-deserved spotlight. Baker deftly transitions from character to character and really makes each member of Clone Force 99 feel like their own individuals.
As all good pilots do, The Bad Batch sets up a number of interesting plot threads ripe for exploration in subsequent episodes. This is a spoiler-free review, so no worries if you haven’t had a chance to catch the episode yet, but let’s just say there’s more than a few appearances and plot choices that took me by surprise. Some of the most intriguing elements of this premiere pertain to Omega, the new character teased in promotional material. Her origins are unknown, as is her purpose on Kamino, but it’s certain that she will play a significant role in the series moving forward. Her inclusion definitely evokes elements of The Mandalorian in more ways than one.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch kicks off with an epic and cinematic 70-minute premiere full of intrigue, suspense, and humor. Extremely polished and refined, the series feels like a sequel to The Clone Wars and features plenty of unexpected appearances and moments. It evokes some of the best elements of The Mandalorian and features a captivating opening act that ranks up there with some of the best Star Wars animation to date. A deliberate, slower pace allows for each of the titular crew to develop as unique characters, making us eagerly anticipate what’s to come for Clone Force 99.
Images courtesy of Disney+ and Lucasfilm