The HoloFiles

REVIEW: Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Season 3, Episode 9

By George & Josh Bate

The Bad Batch season 3 episode 9 review

WARNING: The following review contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Season 3, Episode 4: “The Harbinger.”

When the trailer for The Bad Batch Season 3 dropped, fans showed their excitement and anticipation for a number of elements. What’s going to happen to Crosshair? How will the team deal with the death of Tech? What exactly is Doctor Hemlock up to on Mount Tantiss? But, more than anything else, the talking point from the season’s promotional footage was Asajj Ventress. The former Dathomorian Nightsister and assassin for the Sith became a fan favorite after she appeared in the 2003 microseries Star Wars: Clone Wars before playing a more sizable role in the canon The Clone Wars series. Her journey (seemingly) came to an end in the novel Dark Disciple, which adapted the events of an unmade arc from The Clone Wars, but, as evidenced in this latest episode of The Bad Batch, that is not the case.

“The Harbinger” kicks off with the team back at their home base on Pabu. The idyllic island introduced in Season 2 has been the closest thing the team has to a home, so even seeing the likes of Crosshair and Wrecker do mundane tasks brings a sense of homeliness and comfort.

In these opening moments of the episode, Hunter reminds everyone (including the audience) of the team’s current objective: find out more information about what the Empire want with Omega on Tantiss in order to be better equipped to protect Omega. Crosshair asks Hunter about this objective, “Does it matter?”, essentially questioning whether the team need to learn more about Omega’s pursuers in order to protect her. Hunter succinctly responds, “Can’t be prepared if we don’t know what we’re dealing with.” This is a seemingly menial exchange, but it highlights a key strength of The Bad Batch. Unlike times in some of the Skywalker Saga films in which characters’ motives aren’t entirely clear, The Bad Batch also takes time to carefully guide the audience through the plot. It’s not hand-holding or dumbing-down, but, rather, a desire to depict key narrative points with clarity executed exceptionally well.

The Bad Batch season 3 episode 9 review

Elsewhere on the island, Omega and Batcher find themselves exploring. After some ominous music and an unsettling moment in which the formidable Batcher is so scared he runs away, Omega comes face-to-face with none other than Asajj Ventress. We theorized regarding last week’s episode that Fennec’s unknown contact was Ventress, and “The Harbinger” confirms this theory to be correct. Immediately, Ventress’ inclusion raises a number of questions, especially for those who read Christie Golden’s Dark Disciple book. How Ventress is alike despite seemingly meeting her demise in Dark Disciple isn’t explained in The Bad Batch…and that’s totally okay. From the very beginning in 1977, Star Wars has had a long history of posing questions that are intended to be explored in subsequent stories. And that appears to be the case here with Ventress’ return. A recent article published by StarWars.com mentions that Dave Filoni “brought up the idea of bringing her into The Bad Batch,” with executive producer Jennifer Corbett assuring that “how she survived will be revealed in future content.” Ultimately, this is the right decision as getting into the weeds of how Ventress is alive would not only alienate viewers who haven’t read Dark Disciple, but it would also take time away from seeing how Ventress contributes to Omega’s story – the central narrative of the series.

Soon after meeting Omega, Ventress is confronted by Hunter, Wrecker, and Crosshair, who are obviously wary of this mysterious stranger who has suddenly arrived on Pabu. Ventress is here as she has been told by her bounty hunter colleague Fennec Shand that some rogue clones were looking for information about the Empire’s pursuit of high M-count targets. Ventress says, for her payment, she simply wishes to know why the team want to know this information. This exchange has a number of interesting implications. Firstly, Ventress being Fennec’s contact confirms that Ventress is a Class 1 bounty hunter, a designation presumably reserved for the elite. But this exchange also shows that Ventress isn’t your typical bounty hunter. She doesn’t arrive requesting credits in exchange for information, instead adopting a more curious attitude about why someone would want to know about matters related to M-count.

The Bad Batch season 3 episode 9 review

Speaking of M-count, “The Harbinger” addresses this concept more directly than recent episodes of The Mandalorian and The Bad Batch have, and possibly more so than any canon project since The Phantom Menace. Ventress describes M-count as referring to a value of a material in everyone’s blood, with high M-count possibly indicating that a person is capable of wielding the Force. Omega can’t contain her excitement when she hears this, proclaiming, “You’re saying I’m a Jedi?!” in all too relatable manner (imagine if you were just told you have a high M-count and that means you may be able to wield the Force?). It’s also just great in this exchange to hear Ventress use the term ‘midichlorians,’ considering it’s been so long since we heard that word. It still beggars belief that a concept as derided as midichlorians when it was introduced in 1999 is now heartingly embraced by fans.

That’s not all Ventress has to say that is of interest. The former Sith assassin mentions that she had assumed clones could not be Force sensitive, but, as the Kaminoans made millions of them, it’s possible. Ventress’ surprise about a possible Force sensitive clone makes sense given that Hemlock and the Empire were also surprised to learn Omega has a high M-count.

After Omega begs Ventress to test her midichlorian levels, Ventress reluctantly agrees to test Omega’s Force sensitivity. The resultant sequence with Omega balancing on the edge of the rock has obvious callbacks to Luke training Rey on Ahch-To in The Last Jedi; Luke and Ventress were both attempting to test the Force potential of a young woman, and happened to be on an isolated island. We always love a good parallel to the sequel trilogy, and “The Harbinger” features a really fun and meaningful one.

The Bad Batch season 3 episode 9 review

Inevitably, the Bad Batch grow concerned about Ventress given her sorted history and try to intervene. As Omega is off completing another test, the team goes head-to-head with Ventress. After Ventress disarms the team of their blasters, the fight that ensues is a rare hand-to-hand combat sequence in Star Wars. And, although we’ve been rooting for the Bad Batch the whole season, it’s still pretty neat to see such a cool character like Ventress so easily defeat the highly specialized clones.

The confrontation eventually ends with Ventress talking a little bit about how she and the Bad Batch were pawns of the same war and that the current Empire “is more dangerous than you could possibly fathom.” The Bad Batch often subtly references the events of the Clone Wars, not just for mere winks to the audience, but in meaningful ways that tap into very lived-in implications of a bloody and disturbing war. There’s clearly a lot that Ventress has gone through with the Empire she isn’t disclosing, but, again, it works that this information isn’t disclosed given the story’s focus on Omega and the rest of the Bad Batch.

Before letting Omega complete her testing with Ventress, Hunter and the others try to warn Omega of how dangerous Ventress is. Omega’s exchange with Crosshair is particularly interesting. In response to Omega’s statement that “people can change,” Crosshair says that she is “being naive.” But everyone else doubted Crosshair’s ability to change, it was Omega who saw light and potential in her brother. “I never gave up on you, did I?” Omega poignantly retorts. The emotional crux of Season 3 so far has been the relationship between Omega and Crosshair, and it’s nice to see this relationship is still given attention following Crosshair’s reintegration into the team. Redemption is a key theme running throughout the course of Star Wars, not just The Bad Batch, and here we are seeing once again how Omega’s empathy and compassion is her greatest strength – her special ability, of sorts.

The Bad Batch season 3 episode 9 review

Omega and Ventress resume their testing by going out into the waters of Pabu on a boat. In a bit of a tired beat, the two are interrupted by…yet another massive monster (far from the first in the grand scheme of The Bad Batch). Granted, this particular monster features quite a cool design – from its massive size to turtle-like shell to changing skin color to octopus tentacles. In a true show of the Force, Ventress handles this situation by calming the creature down after tapping into the Force. The visual of Ventress holding up her hand to this massive creature is very reminiscent of Ahsoka tapping into the Force to communicate with a purrgil in the live-action Ahsoka series recently.

As the testing concludes, the Bad Batch and Ventress confirm that they are now on agreeable terms. Ventress tells Omega that she does not have a high M-count, although hints that she was lying to Omega once the young clone is out of earshot. which runs counter to the information discovered by Hemlock on Tantiss. Ventress tells Hunter and Crosshair that, if Omega is Force sensitive, she would have to be trained, which would entail leaving her team behind. This dilemma of staying with one’s found family or training in the Force came up in The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett as Grogu left and eventually returned to Din Djarin after training to be a Jedi with Luke Skywalker.

With that, the episode draws to a close as Ventress flies away. Before she does so, however, she says that she has “a few more lives left,” which is the most direct reference to Ventress seemingly losing her life in Dark Disciple. In these closing moments of the episode, Crosshair also asks Ventress what side she is on, to which Ventress responds, “My own.” The future of Ventress, both in The Bad Batch and Star Wars more broadly, remains unclear. Although what is clear is that Ventress will appear return…

VERDICT: 8.5/10

Asajj Ventress made her grand return this week in an episode of The Bad Batch full of endearing moments, intriguing character development, and gorgeous animation. How Ventress is still alive after seemingly meeting her demise in Dark Disciple is intelligently not addressed in the episode, which allows for the series to continue its focus on Omega as the central character. The bits of information that are provided about Ventress are tantalizing and have us eager to see the former Sith assassin return in a future story. Ventress testing Omega and Omega discussing redemption with Crosshair are highlights, while references to The Clone Wars, The Last Jedi, Ahsoka, and The Mandalorian prove to be both meaningful and fun winks to the audience. With “The Harbinger,” the final season of The Bad Batch delivers another excellent outing and continues to evidence why this third season is the best of the bunch.

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