By George Bate & Josh Reilly B.
WARNING: The following review contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episodes 7 and 8
The Bad Batch’s second season continues to improve with an insightful, emotional two-part arc full of political intrigue and surprise. Episodes 7 and 8 of Season 2, titled “The Clone Conspiracy” and “Truth & Consequences,” follow Senator Riyo Chuchi’s fight for Clone rights and representation in the Imperial era, which leads her to uncover the conspiracy surrounding Rampart’s destruction of Kamino.
Without a doubt, these two episodes of The Bad Batch are not only the best of the season so far, but are also up there with some of the best episodes of Star Wars animation. Visually striking, this arc is the most aesthetically breathtaking The Bad Batch has been yet, with the galactic capital of Coruscant coming to life looking just as it did in the prequel trilogy. Coupling the impressive animation are the episodes’ emotional themes and impactful narrative. In this sense, “The Clone Conspiracy” and “Truth & Consequences” encapsulate why The Bad Batch is such a good series. Narratively, it continues to explore different facets of Clones’ lives during th Imperial era, while, emotionally, the episodes strike a chord in focusing on the close bonds of Clone Force 99. Needless to say, these two episodes are a must-watch.
In a manner not dissimilar from the recently released Andor series, The Bad Batch embraces the intrigue and mysteriousness that comes with Star Wars’ political storytelling. There’s plenty of action in the Imperial Senate as Senator Riyo Chuchi (voiced by Jennifer Hale) champions the rights of and representation for Clones in a galaxy that is quickly forgetting their importance. Senator Chuchi’s views and actions here reflect one of the best parts of The Clone Wars and, in turn, The Bad Batch in developing the Clone Troopers as unique, fleshed out characters. It really shows how far Clone Troopers have come from cool looking background soldiers in Episodes II and III to entire episodes of Star Wars television about their lack of and need for political rights and representation. The exploration of these themes in The Bad Batch worryingly parallels how Veterans are poorly treated in the real world after war comes to an end, and also nicely adds context to Temuera Morrison’s cameo appearance in Obi-Wan Kenobi as a homeless former trooper begging for money on the street.
At the core of these politically-driven episodes is the titular Clone conspiracy, which is admittedly a little convoluted. Rampart seemingly destroyed the cloning facilities on Kamino in Season 1 such that, as the Senate pushes for a new army as Clones are aging and phased out, the Empire has no other option but to turn to passing the Defense Recruitment Bill and implement an enlisted army. As with many of the political threads in the Star Wars prequels, this conspiracy is somewhat convoluted and isn’t exactly spoon-fed to the audience, requiring quite a bit of inference.
Once grasping the conspiracy at the core of these episodes, they proceed forward in much more enjoyable and approachable fashion. Senator Chuchi meets Slip, a Clone Trooper who reveals to her that the Kaminoan cloning facilities were destroyed under direct orders from Admiral Rampart and the Empire. From here, the conspiracy begins to unravel – Bail Organa (voiced by Phil Lamarr) becomes involved in more scenes that evoke Mon Mothma’s role in Andor, Slip is killed before he can reveal more information, Chuchi gathers evidence from a former Kaminoan senator, and a former Clone Trooper is revealed as the assassin who tries to kill and silence Senator Chuchi.
As the conspiracy unfolds, Captain Rex joins forces with Senator Chuchi and recruits Clone Force 99 to extract data from Rampart’s ship, which would reveal to the Senate how Rampart and his forces destroyed the cloning facilities on Kamino. To add urgency to the Bad Batch’s mission, they must gather this information by tomorrow as this is when the Defense Recruitment Bill goes before the Senate. The extraction mission is tense and fairly straightforward, requiring the brand of improvisation and creativity the Bad Batch are known for.
As the Bad Batch complete the extraction mission, Omega accompanies Chuchi to the Imperial Senate. It’s more than a little questionable that Omega freely walks around unrecognized, especially when she is standing right before Admiral Rampart. Nonetheless, Omega’s childlike curiosity and innocence as she is puzzled over the Clones’ lack of rights is so wholesome and endearing that it’s easy to overlook the Empire’s failure to recognize Omega.
At the last minute, the Bad Batch succeed in their mission and deliver video footage of Rampart’s attack on Kamino to Senator Chuchi and before the Senate. Finally, the good guys land a blow to the Empire. Or, so we think…
What follows is the best scene of The Bad Batch Season 2 so far. Palpatine emerges from the depths of the Imperial Senate in a scene that can simply be described as haunting. Showcasing his power and political deftness, Palpatine effortlessly manipulates the truth, blaming the Clone Conspiracy unilaterally on Rampart, while still convincing the Senate that the Defense Recruitment Bill must be passed. Ian McDiarmid, in another fantastic performance as the villainous Sith lord, tarnishes the reputation of Clone Troopers and, in turn, welcomes the birth of the Stormtrooper. That’s right, The Bad Batch provides a satisfying, intriguing, and logical origin story for the Stormtrooper.
But that’s not all. As we said, The Bad Batch excels narratively and emotionally. This latter achievement is demonstrated with Echo’s surprising decision to join up with Rex and leave Clone Force 99 behind. “I’m going where I’m needed,” he says. It’s gut-wrenching to see a teary-eyed Omega say goodbye to Echo, especially in the context of their previous conversation in the episode about what made Echo join Clone Force 99.
The Bad Batch’s two-part arc about the Clone Conspiracy encapsulates what’s best about the series: narratively, it sheds light on how the lives of Clones continue to change in the Imperial era, while, emotionally, it capitalizes on the injustice of Clones’ lack of rights and the bonds between Omega and the rest of Clone Force 99. All of this makes for an arc full of suspense and political intrigue that culminates in a spine-tingling scene with Emperor Palpatine. Echo’s departure from the squad, meanwhile, will mark a change for Clone Force 99 moving forward as they lose yet another member. While this season of The Bad Batch has experienced the ups and downs of contained missions-of-the-week so far, this week’s two-part arc is a must watch for Star Wars fans.