“The Bad Batch” Episode 1 Review!

SPOILERS FOR THE BAD BATCH AHEAD!

I’m gonna be honest, the Bad Batch didn’t make much of an impression on me when they debuted in The Clone Wars‘ final season just last year. The concept – an elite team of genetically-defective clones whose individual mutations give them special abilities – was admittedly quite intriguing, but the execution was only okay, never elevating the material. And despite their uniqueness being so crucial to their very existence, there wasn’t ever enough time in that season to clearly distinguish their character arcs; only their physical appearances, skills, and a handful of archetypal traits.

The Bad Batch
The Bad Batch | brickfanatics.com

But now the Bad Batch have an entire sixteen-episode series in which to extensively explore both their team dynamic and individual storylines; and the series’ premiere event (which clocks in at 71 minutes, longer than any episode of The Mandalorian, or even Marvel’s Disney+ originals) sets an appropriately dark and sophisticated tone for that journey, much like the final season of The Clone Wars. The first episode dives into the fascinating question of what happened to the Old Republic’s clone armies after they had played their part in initiating Order 66: mindlessly slaughtering the Jedi and clearing a path for Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) to conquer the galaxy.

While most Star Wars media has looked at Order 66 from the perspective of the Jedi who survived it and went into hiding, The Bad Batch picks up with the clones themselves, who have nowhere to hide from the shame and guilt of what they’re slowly beginning to realize was the entire purpose for their existence all along. The Bad Batch themselves didn’t even kill any Jedi – the inhibitor chips planted in their brains are faulty, giving them their unique personalities and casual disregard for orders – but they won’t turn their backs on other clones: especially not the one member of their team unit, Crosshair (voiced, like all clones, by Dee Bradley Baker), whose inhibitor chip is still working strongly enough to give him internal conflict as he fights between his programming and what he knows to be right.

Star Wars loves inflicting an undue amount of pain and grief on its fans, so it’s no surprise that The Bad Batch opens by once again reliving Order 66 – but what did surprise me was that we finally get to see the death of the Jedi Depa Billaba (Archie Panjabi), and the fateful moment at which she told her young padawan, Caleb Dume (Freddie Prinze Jr.) to flee before the clones could kill him too, burdening him with years of guilt and setting him on the path to become the rogue knight Kanan Jarrus, whom we would later meet in Star Wars: Rebels. Is it slightly distracting that Dume – a young teen at this point in the timeline – has an adult man’s voice? Maybe, but Prinze Jr. is iconic and frankly irreplaceable in this role.

What Jarrus left out of his tragic backstory was that the Bad Batch were witnesses to this horrific moment, and that it was the team’s commander, Hunter, who allowed him to escape even though Crosshair was prepared to kill the young Jedi. Much of the episode’s first half revolves around this decision and its ramifications, including the wedge it drives between Hunter and Crosshair – eventually leading the sharpshooter to betray the team and join forces with Admiral Tarkin (Stephen Stanton).

The Bad Batch
Omega | starwars.com

But even with Tarkin and Dume’s cameos, the episode feels like it’s kicking off a fresh and unique story that will organically weave these and other cameos into the narrative (whereas The Mandalorian simply shoehorned them in wherever possible), while keeping the focus on our core cast of characters. The Bad Batch, thankfully, are all pretty interesting once you get to know a little bit more about them: I particularly adore Wrecker, the team’s big scary muscly sweetheart, and Tech, who’s an endearingly snarky know-it-all. Echo is the only member who still feels in need of a personality boost, but his character was originally a regular clone before joining the Batch, so that’s not entirely surprising.

The team also gains a new member in this episode – a young girl (voiced by Michelle Ang) with an adventurous streak, whose backstory is still something of a mystery. Ominously named Omega, she comes from the cloning facilities of Kamino, where she works as a medical assistant to the Kaminoan doctor Nala Se (Gwendoline Yeo), but the episode doesn’t take long to confirm that she is in fact another defective clone. Since all clones are assigned male at birth, Omega’s gender identity is pretty significant – although I’m wary of concluding from this that she’s meant to be a trans character, as some fans have been saying. Unfortunately, I feel her distinctive white-blonde hair and possible Force-sensitivity give away that she’s more likely an early prototype of a Palpatine clone.

But even if that is the case, I like her character a lot – and her wide-eyed reaction to traveling through hyperspace for the first time made the simple plot device feel magical again after nine movies. Hopefully she survives through The Bad Batch, and doesn’t transform into Snoke from the sequel trilogy or something like that, but I genuinely won’t be surprised if her character is meant to explain away some of the plot-holes in The Rise Of Skywalker.

I want to believe that the show is too sophisticated to go down that route, however, because in other regards it displays the same level of subtlety and thematic cohesion found in most of Dave Filoni’s animated projects. On that note, The Bad Batch can certainly be enjoyed by both adults and kids, but the premiere’s longer runtime combined with its darker, more contemplative tone may cause the audience to skew a little older. The action scenes are fun and lively (teamwork is always cool, especially when it involves characters cleverly building off each other’s strengths), but there’s not a lot of fighting in this particular episode.

The Bad Batch
Admiral Tarkin | nbcnews.com

Considering that I went into The Bad Batch expecting to be bored out of my mind by characters who I hadn’t really liked when they first showed up, I regard all of this as a huge win – and I’m excited to see where the series goes from here. I’m not sure if it’ll be my next obsession like Rebels was, but I will continue to review it because I like Star Wars, even when it seems purposefully designed to cause me emotional distress.

Episode Rating: 8/10

“The Bad Batch” 1st Trailer!

Lucasfilm’s animation department had only a little to offer longtime fans last night during Disney’s crowded Investors Meeting – and unfortunately, what we did get wasn’t an announcement of the Star Wars: Rebels sequel that many of us have been hoping for. But The Bad Batch, currently the studio’s only major upcoming animated series, will surely unite fans of Rebels, The Clone Wars, and even The Mandalorian, as it explores a unique time period at the intersection of all three series.

Bad Batch
The Bad Batch | syfy.com

The Bad Batch might sound familiar to you, and that’s because they’ve been around for a while: even before they officially showed up in the final season of The Clone Wars on Disney+, earlier this year. The small, loyal team of defective clones (each of whom has heightened abilities thanks to individual genetic mutations) first appeared in drafts for the final season that were revealed to fans back when The Clone Wars was off the air and a revival seemed impossible. Everything turned out well in the end, though: showrunner Dave Filoni was able to complete the story he had planned, and the Bad Batch did appear as expected. But when their season arc was completed, fans wanted more – and so, early next year, we’ll be treated to a new series following the Bad Batch as they navigate the rapidly changing political scene in the aftermath of the Jedi Purge and the rise of the Galactic Empire. This is a time of upheaval across the galaxy: and so far we haven’t seen it properly fleshed out in the new, Disney-approved canon.

Bad Batch
The Bad Batch | starwars.fandom.com

One of the most fascinating events during this dark age is the seemingly abrupt shift from well-trained, skilled clone armies to fallible, clearly inferior, stormtroopers. In Rebels, we learned a little bit about this: how it was Emperor Palpatine that gave the order to disband the clones and abandon them. Real shocker there. By the time that Rebels rolled around, about a decade after the fact, almost all the clones had disappeared – and the few stragglers that were left (like Rex) were homeless and destitute, just barely getting by. Needless to say, it doesn’t seem that the Empire had any plan to compensate veterans for their sacrifice. The Bad Batch seems to be focused primarily on this event, and hopefully it will clear up the question of why stormtroopers (whose universally faulty aim is a running gag in Star Wars at this point) were viewed as more practical to the Empire than clones. Was it out of fear of betrayal? Or simply for cost-effective purposes, since the cloning facilities on Kamino can’t have been cheap to operate? Whatever the case, it looks like the Bad Batch will pull a classic “you can’t fire me! I quit!” move on the Empire, because we can see them fighting stormtroopers at several points during the trailer.

The scarred and weather-worn faces of clone troopers Echo, Hunter, Tech, Wrecker and Crosshair won’t be the only ones familiar to Star Wars fans. A shocking reveal was that Fennec Shand, the ex-Imperial sniper played by Ming-Na Wen on The Mandalorian will be returning (voiced, I presume, by Wen, a longtime Disney favorite and the voice of Princess Mulan), although here she’s not a scrappy, desert-dwelling rogue with a bounty on her head: she’s new on the scene and backed by the full might of the Empire. I assume she’ll be one of the series’ villains – though we already know she outlasts the Empire’s fall and eventually softens up a little, becoming Boba Fett’s partner in crime on Tatooine.

Bad Batch
Fennec Shand | comicbook.com

Presumably, the show will include cameos from many other Clone Wars characters (Grand Admiral Tarkin, who appears in the trailer, is obviously a lock; and wherever he goes, Wullf Yularen can’t be far behind), and even some from Rebels – though it’s still too early for the Rebellion itself to exist, except as a far off hope. Appearances from either a young Hera Syndulla or Kanan Jarrus (or both!) would blow my mind. Who knows? Perhaps we’ll even witness some of Grand Admiral Thrawn’s secretive backstory, as he rises to power in the ranks of the Imperial Navy.

Trailer Rating: 6/10

6 Characters Who Could Have Saved Grogu From Order 66

SPOILERS FOR THE MANDALORIAN AHEAD!

Today’s episode of The Mandalorian was practically overflowing with Star Wars deep lore, including several big reveals, Easter eggs, and hints and teases of even more exciting things to come. But whereas many of those things (like Ahsoka’s future, and the location of Grand Admiral Thrawn) may be explored in spinoff series’ down the line, the true identity of Baby Yoda – sorry, Grogu – and the details of his mysterious backstory are almost sure to be explored in The Mandalorian itself. So let’s discuss the new biggest mystery surrounding Grogu’s past: who saved him from Order 66.

Grogu
Grogu | insider.com

Thanks to Ahsoka Tano, we now know that Grogu was raised in the Jedi Temple on Coruscant in the last years of the Old Republic. He was mentored by many Jedi Masters, and presumably became fairly strong in the Force – but in the intervening years between the fall of the Jedi Order and his reappearance in The Mandalorian shortly after the fall of the Empire, he has somehow forgotten much of his Jedi training and distanced himself from the Force. Ahsoka explains that this is because Grogu is afraid of something; probably the trauma of having survived the Jedi Purge and the execution of Order 66, when Emperor Palpatine turned on the Jedi and slaughtered all but a few in a massive bloodbath. In one of Revenge Of The Sith‘s most memorable sequences, Palpatine’s disciple Anakin Skywalker stormed the Jedi Temple and murdered pretty much everybody, including children. But somehow, Grogu survived the Purge, thanks to an unnamed rescuer who got him out of the Temple and kept him hidden from Anakin, Palpatine, and the long arm of the Empire for years. While the Emperor continued his hunt for Jedi survivors with the help of Darth Vader and a small army of Jedi traitors known as Inquisitors, Grogu remained alone in a secret location until somehow being brought to the attention of ex-Imperials in the aftermath of the Empire’s collapse. The rest is history.

But now, let’s look at a few characters who could have been Grogu’s secret savior (and one or two who definitely weren’t) – and who could be very important players in The Mandalorian‘s future storylines, as we continue to explore the child’s backstory and purpose.

Grogu
This is not the face of someone about to rescue a baby | express.co.uk

6: Anakin Skywalker. This is a bizarre theory I saw making the rounds on social media, though it seems very out of character for young Skywalker. In Revenge Of The Sith, we saw Anakin go from senselessly murdering children in the Jedi Temple to mowing down an entire Separatist council, Force-choking his wife, and trying to kill his mentor. I’m not sure there’s any space in between those events for Anakin to suddenly have a change of heart, randomly decide to spare a single padawan‘s life, and then go back to being an out-of-control killing machine. In his later years, as he witnessed first-hand the horrors he had helped to bring about, Anakin quietly (and sometimes subconsciously) started helping his enemies in small, secretive ways – such as destroying a Jedi holocron that would have supplied Palpatine with the names of every Force-sensitive child in the galaxy: which means that, technically, older Anakin actually did save Grogu’s life. But young Anakin? Not a chance.

Grogu
Yaddle | starwars.com

5: Yaddle. The Mandalorian introduced a new complication in the story of Yoda’s female counterpart, Jedi Master Yaddle, with Ahsoka Tano stating definitively that, in all her time as a Jedi, she’s only ever known one other member of Grogu’s species, besides Grogu himself – Yoda. It’s a big slap in the face to all of Yaddle’s fans, who are still waiting for her to return. She hasn’t been seen in live-action since her very first appearance in The Phantom Menace, and it’s been way too long if you ask me: especially since the current canon doesn’t provide any information about Yaddle’s fate in the Purge (and, in fact, hints that she survived). So why doesn’t Ahsoka know about her? Well, Yaddle is believed to have retired from her post on the Jedi High Council before Attack Of The Clones, meaning that Ahsoka might have never come into contact with her if she left the Temple completely. But if that’s the case, that means Yaddle probably wasn’t anywhere nearby when Anakin attacked and Grogu needed saving. So I think we have to rule her out as a likely option, but take comfort in the fact that it means Yaddle’s survival is even more plausible!

Grogu
Shaak Ti | aminoapps.com

4: Shaak Ti. I feel kind of sorry for Master Shaak Ti – who, coincidentally, filled Yaddle’s seat on the Jedi High Council. Ti was given a very important role in the Jedi hierarchy, overseeing the training of the Clone armies on Kamino. But in this role, she failed to thoroughly examine the nefarious secret behind the purpose of the inhibitor chips hidden inside each Clone soldier, despite all the warning signs. It would have been cruelly poetic if she had been killed by one of those same Clones at the same time as most of her fellow Jedi, but she was actually murdered by Anakin Skywalker himself: impaled while meditating in the Jedi Temple. That would seem to rule her out as a potential Grogu savior, but she did record a final hologram message before her death telling any surviving Jedi to rise up and rebuild the Order – so clearly, she knew what was going on before Anakin got to her. Could she have had time to rescue Grogu in that brief space of time and make up for many of her failings? Possibly. I doubt it, but never say never.

Grogu
He…survives this? | starwars.com

3: Mace Windu. I know what you’re thinking: isn’t Mace Windu literally one of the first Jedi to die in Order 66? Doesn’t the Emperor personally kill him, with help from Anakin? Well…maybe. Windu’s death is something that’s been debated in the fandom recently, with some (including Samuel L. Jackson himself, and George Lucas) theorizing that such a powerful Jedi could have withstood losing a limb, being electrocuted by Force lightning, and then getting thrown out a skyscraper window. This is Samuel L. Jackson we’re talking about here, so I’m prepared to buy that. And if he did survive his apparent death, maybe he could have gotten back to the Jedi Temple before Anakin and rescued Grogu: though I’d be interested to hear his reasoning for why only Grogu warranted saving. This theory raises a lot of questions. Too many, if you ask me. But if it means we get SLJ/Baby Yoda content, I’m prepared to forgive even the most random of retcons.

Grogu
Yoda | observer.com

2: Yoda. We still don’t know whether Yoda and Grogu are related in any way, despite being two of only three known members of their unidentified and incredibly secretive species, but Yoda would definitely have known who Grogu was during the child’s time in the Jedi Temple. He probably also selected some of Grogu’s Masters, and might have taken a role in mentoring the child – when Ahsoka mentioned Yoda’s name in her conversation with Din Djarin, Grogu’s ears immediately perked up, indicating that he recognized the name, at least. Yoda was one of the wisest and most far-seeing Jedi: if Grogu has any huge relevance to the overall story of Star Wars, it wouldn’t be surprising if Yoda knew that well in advance, and decided to protect the child from harm so he could one day grow up to become…whoever he becomes. Yoda did visit the Jedi Temple the morning after Anakin’s attack, so he could have found Grogu, if the child had hidden during the assault on the Temple. But why wouldn’t he have taken Grogu with him to hide on Dagobah?

Grogu
Jocasta Nu, the galaxy’s coolest librarian | themarvelreport.com

1: Jocasta Nu. If anybody had the motive and means of smuggling Grogu out of the Jedi Temple, it was Jocasta Nu. The elderly Jedi librarian who briefly interacted with Obi-Wan Kenobi in Attack Of The Clones may not have been of much assistance when trying to track down Kamino, but she became instrumental in rescuing and preserving Jedi knowledge after the Empire rose to power. According to the new Disney canon, she was able to escape from the Jedi Temple on the night of Anakin’s attack with a treasure trove of books, holocrons, artifacts – and potentially one stray padawan? Nu tried her best to locate other surviving Jedi, particularly Force-sensitive children; a list of whose names she kept in a valuable holocron. Although Darth Vader eventually killed her, she didn’t fail entirely in her goal: Vader destroyed the holocron without telling Emperor Palpatine of its existence, and the information Nu snuck out of the Temple provided the blueprint for Luke Skywalker’s later attempts to rebuild the Jedi Order. And it’s possible that, if she was Grogu’s savior, she may have played an even more important role in saving the galaxy.

As you can probably tell, there aren’t a whole lot of Jedi who could have saved Grogu: some of the ones on this list were probably either too far gone to the Dark Side, too far away, or just too dead, to help out. It’s possible this is a completely unimportant conversation, too: maybe Grogu was rescued by someone random, a Jedi we’ve never met before in any story. But I don’t think so. The way this reveal was set up – combined with the revelation that more Jedi are coming in future episodes of The Mandalorian – makes me think we will learn the identity of Grogu’s savior, and it will be someone we already know. It also makes me think we’ll be getting flashbacks to the attack on the Jedi Temple: just like the flashbacks we saw of Din Djarin’s own childhood trauma, and the slaughter of his people by Separatist battle droids, in The Mandalorian‘s first season.

So what do you think? Who saved Grogu? Somebody on this list? Somebody completely different? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special” Review!

Lego’s holiday-themed parody of the Star Wars universe probably won’t become a cult classic like its predecessor, the notoriously unwatchable Holiday Special that aired in 1978, but…that’s probably okay. Lego’s Holiday Special is a brief, hilarious, and surprisingly action-packed story that takes us further forward into the Star Wars timeline (albeit, non-canonical and made out of animated building blocks) than ever before, and all the way back to its beginnings in the prequel trilogy, in a charming mini-adventure that allows characters from every trilogy (and even some of the expanded material) to interact, duel, or share memorable moments together. In so doing, the Special also very gently (and in some ways imperfectly) fixes some of the biggest problems that fans have pointed out about The Rise Of Skywalker, which is one of those movies that I’ll probably always have an irrational soft spot for, but definitely don’t feel as positively about now as I did when it came out.

Lego Holiday Special
cnn.com

The Special takes place soon after the end of The Rise Of Skywalker, during the Star Wars universe’s “Life Day” – an all-inclusive holiday that has existed on the peripheries of Star Wars canon since the original Holiday Special. In all that time, however, no one behind the scenes has done anything to sketch out the in-universe customs or traditions of Life Day, and so it still just borrows most of the standard trappings of Christmas anyway: the decorated tree, the lights, gift-giving, ugly sweaters. The Special’s setting on Chewbacca’s homeworld of Kashyyk is another throwback to the original Special, which centered around Chewbacca’s family on Kashyyk (and, side-note, also introduced the world to the Mandalorian bounty hunter Boba Fett). But Wookiees are less crucial to the overall plot in Lego’s version than they were in the original: most of the action revolves around a time-hopping quest to learn forgotten Jedi secrets.

Early on we find out that, in this timeline, Rey (voiced by Helen Sadler) has started mentoring her best friend Finn (Omar Miller) in the ways of the Force, and her apprentice has already begun training with a lightsaber, using the same time-honored methods as countless Jedi padawans before him – a natural part of his character arc that many of us hoped we’d get to see in live-action. Sadly, the Star Wars films mishandled and mistreated Finn’s character: only revealing him to be Force-sensitive after The Rise Of Skywalker‘s release, not unlike dozens of other crucial bits of plot information that were vaguely alluded to in the movie itself and then later confirmed by people behind-the-scenes or by tie-in material. Lego certainly tries to right that wrong by making Finn visibly (though non-canonically) Force-sensitive, but it still makes the same egregious mistake that the films did – by sidelining him, and all of the franchise’s living characters of color to a side-quest (better described as decorating duty and cooking, in this case) while Rey and BB-8 get to go on the actual adventure. And even though that adventure gives Rey plenty of opportunities to cross paths with characters like Mace Windu or a younger Lando Calrissian, both prominent and beloved Black Star Wars heroes, those encounters don’t happen (Mace Windu is present in the background, but never speaks). It’s simply unforgivable that Finn, at the very least, doesn’t get to participate in the action – his Force powers come in handy just once, and well…it’s not quite as epic as one would hope.

On the bright side, it is great to be able to welcome Kelly Marie Tran back to Star Wars as Rose Tico, after her character was treated so horribly by the franchise. Tran will soon be getting even more attention and recognition for her voice-acting talents with the upcoming release of Disney’s Raya And The Last Dragon, where she voices the film’s heroine, Raya. It would be hard to determine anything about her performance in that role from the cameo she has here, however – especially since, for some reason, it seems like every other line she delivers is “are you crying?”, while Poe (voiced by Jake Green), visibly in tears, tries to pass it off as allergies. Other notable Star Wars actors reprising their roles include Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, Billy Dee Williams as Lando, Matt Lanter as Anakin Skywalker, and James Arnold Taylor as Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Lego Holiday Special
nerdist.com

Rey, meanwhile, discovers a magical Jedi gemstone that allows her to travel through time – a nod to the World Between Worlds, a mystical location outside of space and time that was first explored in Star Wars: Rebels, but never really reappeared until now…sort of. Rey’s misadventures start out slow, with her basically just listening in on conversations between various Jedi master/apprentice duos – going all the way back to her master’s father’s master and his master before him. But once she meets Darth Vader (voiced by Matt Sloan) and Emperor Palpatine (voiced by Trevor Devall), the action picks up and hilarity ensues. The duel between Vader and Rey has been one of the most hyped-up events in this Holiday Special, and luckily it does not disappoint: in fact, it takes place across several different planets, in several different eras, and eventually grows to become an all-out battle on Luke Skywalker’s farm back on Tatooine, involving three different Obi-Wan Kenobi’s, at least two Han Solo’s (and one Greedo), pod-racers, a bunch of very confused stormtroopers, and a legless (but no less fearsome) Darth Maul, among others. Baby Yoda is even featured, and neither Rey nor Darth Vader can resist pausing their fight to adore the infant alien – who is apparently just as much of a celebrity in-universe as he is in real-life.

But where the Special really hits its peak is when it unites Vader, Palpatine, and the First Order’s Supreme Leader Kylo Ren (voiced by Matthew Wood), after the Emperor decides to time-travel to the future and see what he’s managed to accomplish. Sure, it’s not a bizarre musical number by Jefferson Starship (yes, that really happened in the original), but for all the grumbling from Palpatine about “less talky-talky, more fighty-fighty”, the intensely awkward comedic interactions between Kylo and his Dark Side predecessors are the highlight of the entire Special and culminate in a dramatic shake-up of the Sith power structure – and some fabulous one-liners and sight gags. Fans of the Reylo romantic pairing, however, might be disappointed that Rey and Kylo don’t share many scenes – and when they do, the Holiday Special makes some…interesting choices regarding their dynamic, that are sure to have Star Wars Twitter in a bit of a frenzy. No spoilers here, though.

Lego Holiday Special
inverse.com

All in all, the Lego Holiday Special basically achieves what the original Special probably intended – and failed – to accomplish: which is to just be harmless fun for the whole family. It’s ironic, then, that the original’s failure to do that has given it a staying power it never should have had, but will continue to enjoy – probably until Disney releases it on Disney+ eventually, and it becomes that week’s most popular hate-watch before finally being allowed to rest in peace.

Rating: 7/10