The HoloFiles

REVIEW: Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Season 3, Episode 5

By George & Josh Bate

The Bad Batch Season 3 episode 5 review

WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Season 3, Episode 5

Last year, Star Wars animation arguably reached new heights with “The Outpost,” a profoundly emotional episode of The Bad Batch that culminated in Crosshair finally turning on the Empire after witnessing their unrelenting brutality. Now into Season 3, The Bad Batch dives into an epilogue (of sorts) to “The Outpost” with ‘The Return,” the fifth episode of the series’ final season. The episode follows the Bad Batch as they journey to the icy planet Barton IV to access an Imperial terminal for more information on the Empire’s insidious cloning operations.

“The Return” stands out as this marks the first time since the series’ first episode that the entirety of the Bad Batch have been together (the living members, that is). With Crosshair turning on his brothers so early in the first season, the team split up shortly after the events of Order 66 and have not had an opportunity to all come and work together. Excluding Tech, who tragically fell to his death in the Season 2 finale, the team is united here – Hunter, Omega, Wrecker, Echo, and Crosshair. This team-up alone makes “The Return” a worthy and intriguing addition to The Bad Batch’s final season.

The two returning members of the team – Omega and Crosshair – continue to serve as this season’s emotional backbone. With the season starting as both Omega and Crosshair were trapped by the Empire on Tantiss, this season has been unique in pairing together these two members of the Bad Batch who have had little substantive contact with one another. The previous episode saw these two characters grow closer as they attempted to escape the clutches of the Empire, and this new episode follows suit. Omega and Crosshair have clearly built a relationship over their short time together, so much so that Omega is integral to Crosshair’s reintegration into the team.

And it’s with Crosshair’s reintegration that “The Return” finds its most compelling element. Rather than having Crosshair welcomed back into the team with open arms, the writers of the series intelligently have Crosshair face consequences for betraying his brothers and aligning himself with the Empire. These consequences largely come in the form of Hunter, who makes no effort to hide his hostility toward and distrust of Crosshair. Seeing actual consequences for Crosshair’s decision play out in the dynamics of the team spotlights The Bad Batch’s continued willingness to spend time with emotionally mature themes and arcs. The characters are organic and unique as the writers do not shy away from clashing motivations and intersecting emotions.

While Hunter’s hostility and distrust represent rather explicit consequences for Crosshair’s betrayal, Crosshair also faces changes in his marksmanship. Crosshair stood apart from other clones with expert sight and accuracy as a sniper, but now struggles with a tremor in his hand. As a clone whose distinction from thousands of others like him lies in his ability as a sniper, to see Crosshair begin to deal with the emotional consequences of losing this ability is remarkably compelling. This plot element is reminiscent of arcs from various superhero films that explore how heroes deal with losing their superpowers. This happens to Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man in Spider-Man 2, Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk in Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Infinity War, and now comes up in The Bad Batch with Crosshair.

Beyond the episode’s emotional arcs, the core plot of “The Return” sees Clone Force 99 try to access Nala Se’s datapad. Omega managed to escape from Tantiss with the datapad, but tight Imperial encryption prevents the Bad Batch from accessing it. The team make it a priority to gain access to the datapad as they believe finding out more about the Empire’s cloning operations on Tantiss will not only help them protect Omega, but will also help them rescue other clones being used as experiments. In this sense, “The Return” does well in making a somewhat one-off episode connect and hold relevance to the season’s central narrative.

It wouldn’t be an episode of The Bad Batch without the team facing some sort of physical challenge, and this episode’s challenge comes in the form of a massive worm monster traveling underground on the icy planet. This is certainly not the first time the team that have came up against a big monster; Wrecker even remarks with a little wink to the audience that the team is facing yet another similar monster. Despite the repetitiveness of this plot beat, the action is solidly animated and there are some decent moments of tension throughout. None of this is particularly noteworthy, although the culmination of this action affords plenty of emotional payoff.

Crosshair and Hunter, who clash throughout the episode, put their differences aside to defeat the monster. Throughout the episode, Crosshair opens up to Hunter about his regrets and explains how his murder of an Imperial officer led him to finally turn his back on the Empire. An initially angry Hunter eventually comes round to see Crosshair’s perspective, reassuringly commenting to Crosshair, “All we can do is keep trying to be better.” 

VERDICT: 7.5/10

The latest episode of The Bad Batch serves as a reflective epilogue to “The Outpost,” an episode from Season 2 that is among the best installments of Star Wars animation to date. The ramifications of Crosshair’s betrayal to his brothers is explored in grounded and mature fashion as Hunter struggles to trust his former brother and Crosshair struggles with diminished marksmanship capabilities. “The Return” is certainly more of a one-off episode than previous episodes this season, but it successfully manages to stay relevant to the central narrative in further developing Crosshair and having the Bad Batch get ever closer to unlocking the secrets of Tantiss. A conventional monster-of-the-week means this episode falls short of true greatness, albeit maintaining the sort of action and suspense we’ve come to expect from The Bad Batch. Regardless, “The Return” affirms that The Bad Batch’s final season continues to start on strong footing.

Stay tuned to The HoloFiles for continued coverage of Star Wars: The Bad Batch Season 3!

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