By George Bate
WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 11: Devil’s Deal
The Bad Batch take a surprising backseat in a captivating and slow-paced episode featuring a fan favorite Star Wars character. Devil’s Deal shifts away from Clone Force 99 and focuses on the Empire’s occupation of Ryloth, the home world of the Twi’leks, as Cham Syndulla tries to balance his planet’s autonomy and safety.
Overall, Devil’s Deal was a welcomed change of pace for the series. The Bad Batch showcases once again that it isn’t merely a story of rogue clones surviving in the Imperial era, but, rather, is a broader tale of what life is like in the quickly changing galaxy. We’ve gotten some insights regarding life for civilians, soldiers, and bounty hunters under Imperial rule, and now the focus shifts to local politics once again following last week’s episode on Raxus. The episode doesn’t get bogged down in action, instead taking the time to showcase how each of the major players are dealing with this situation. Admiral Rampart recognizes how tenuous the situation is and appears to be taking a page out of Thrawn’s book with a more subtle strategy of control. Meanwhile, Gobi is on the other end of the spectrum as he fundamentally disagrees with the Empire’s takeover of Ryloth and takes steps to retake his planet. Orn Free Taa epitomizes self-interest as he quickly finds himself an ally of the Empire. And, of central importance to the episode, we have Cham, Eleni, and Hera (!!!) Syndulla.
Hera is easily one of the most well developed Star Wars characters in recent years and her appearance in The Bad Batch was surprising to say the least. Obviously, the character goes on to play major roles in the Rebellion and New Republic, but here she is a spirited and curious young girl, very much akin to Omega. Kevin Kiner brilliantly leans into John Williams’ Leia theme to deliver a warm and touching melody to accompany Hera in this episode. And, from a canon standpoint, it’s interesting to see the humble beginnings of the eventual Rebel leader. Of course, Hera is accompanied by Chopper, who was also great to see again. So far, we’ve seen Kanan, Hera and Chopper – could other Star Wars Rebels characters make appearances in the future? Either way, seeing Hera and Chopper again was simply delightful.
Hera’s interaction with Omega also adds another layer to The Bad Batch’s exploration into life in the Imperial era. Hera and Omega are children plummeted into very serious situations. They’re deprived of the protected and insulated childhood they deserve as the galaxy crumbles around them. With the exception of The Phantom Menace, the live-action films largely stay away from children in central roles, leaving a gap that the animated shows have brilliantly filled. Amidst the turmoil on Ryloth, Hera is warm and kind and curious, showing that there’s still light left in the darkening galaxy.
With the exception of this scene with Omega, Clone Force 99 are nowhere to be seen in this episode. And this is seldom an issue due to the strong writing on display in Devil’s Deal. The political machinations of Ryloth are more than interesting enough to sustain an entire episode, and hold us over until the Bad Batch’s inevitable inclusion next week. Crosshairs also makes a return this week, sporting some new injuries from his last tussle with his former friends. So far, Crosshair’s intermittent presence in The Bad Batch has been a little underwhelming given the weight behind his turn in the pilot. Nonetheless, the series still has plenty of time to explore this character in upcoming episodes.
The Bad Batch step aside as the focus shifts to the tumultuous political landscape of Ryloth in an episode full of fan favorite characters and examinations into life in the Imperial era. Devil’s Deal sets the stage nicely for Clone Force 99’s reintroduction in the next installment after this deliberately paced and captivating episode.
Images courtesy of Lucasfilm & Disney+