“Kenobi” 1st Teaser Trailer Takes The Hermit Hero On One Last Joyride

SPOILERS FOR STAR WARS: REBELS AND JEDI: FALLEN ORDER AHEAD!

An intergalactic manhunt is afoot in the first teaser trailer for Lucasfilm’s long-awaited Kenobi series, coming to Disney+ this May on the 45th anniversary of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s very first appearance in Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope (at the time just Star Wars). Kenobi himself is one of the two primary targets of this manhunt, but the series looks to be so broad in scope from the trailer alone that I wouldn’t be at all surprised if several other Jedi show up – hiding in various far-flung corners of the galaxy, but leaving in their wake a “trail of compassion” that corrupted Jedi named Inquisitors know how to follow to its source.

Kenobi
Obi-Wan Kenobi | theverge.com

This teaser trailer, with its heavy focus on the characters around Kenobi and their actions, gives me the distinct feeling that Obi-Wan Kenobi isn’t the driving force behind most of the main events in this series, which doesn’t surprise me all that much. I mean, his name is in the title, so I have to assume he’s at least somewhat integral to the story Lucasfilm has chosen to tell through his unique viewpoint, but (a) they also marketed The Book Of Boba Fett as a Boba Fett show, and…that was a lie, and (b) it’s not like Kenobi is a character who can freely move around the galaxy the same way Din Djarin can in The Mandalorian.

I mean that literally (for Kenobi to leave Tatooine even briefly gives the Inquisitors so many opportunities to track him that it’s a risk he can surely only afford to take once or twice), but I also mean it in the sense that Kenobi’s place in the Star Wars canon is fixed, whereas Din Djarin’s is fluid. No matter what actions Kenobi takes, he will still need to end up back on Tatooine in hiding because…that’s where we meet him in A New Hope. Wherever his journey takes him, he’s tethered to Tatooine – as is the Star Wars franchise as a whole, but that’s a different conversation.

When the source material doesn’t provide a solution to this problem (and in this case there’s very little source material, and even less of it is still canon), the answer is always to create original characters who can move freely, and who aren’t quite as limited in what they can say or do. Kenobi gives us the Inquisitor Reva, seemingly an antagonist but one with her own point-of-view and a large role that transcends the action on Tatooine and at the Citadel Inquisitorius. That also puts her in a position where she could bridge the gap between Obi-Wan Kenobi and his nemesis Darth Vader without the two ever needing to interact onscreen.

I fear that the temptation to just go full fan-service will prove too strong for Star Wars to resist, and that Kenobi and Vader will actually clash in a lightsaber battle that might be epic to witness, but will be robbed of any stakes by the knowledge that both these characters walk away unscathed, physically and emotionally – because by the time of A New Hope, when Vader tells Kenobi that “when I left you, I was but the learner, now I am the master”, he’s explicitly referring to their duel in Revenge Of The Sith, and Kenobi doesn’t rebut that statement (well, he does, but only to tell Vader that he’s become a “master of evil”, not to remind him that they actually had some other duel the Sith lord has forgotten about).

So any fight scene inserted between the two films must ultimately make so little impact on the characters involved that they fail to even remember it a mere fifteen years later, which makes it unnecessary filler – worse than a retcon, as it literally adds nothing to their dynamic and would instead strip away a layer of what was already there. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always down for a lightsaber battle, but if Kenobi has to fight anyone, I’d prefer it to be Reva or another Inquisitor – perhaps even the Grand Inquisitor.

Set to make his live-action debut in Kenobi after first appearing in the animated series Star Wars: Rebels, the Grand Inquisitor was a Pau’an Jedi Knight who turned to the Dark Side and assisted Darth Vader in hunting Jedi during the twenty years between Revenge Of The Sith and A New Hope. He ultimately killed himself after failing to capture the Jedi Kanan Jarrus, deeming that Vader’s wrath would be worse than death, but Kenobi catches up with him at the height of his reign of terror.

Kenobi
The Grand Inquisitor | polygon.com

As Rebels fans have been quick to point out, he looks a bit…different. Not worse, necessarily, just…different. His head is more round than it is elongated, which has led to a lot of (probably unfair) comparisons to the live-action Pau’ans who appeared in Revenge Of The Sith with elongated heads and looked more like the Grand Inquisitor than Kenobi‘s version of the character. But what’s important to remember is that those Pau’ans were side characters who never did any fighting. I’m not a stunt choreographer, but I have a sneaking suspicion that top-heavy Pau’an heads, much like Togruta tendrils, aren’t exactly conducive to jumping and twirling and stunts in general.

Ultimately, as long as the Grand Inquisitor is appropriately terrifying in live-action, that’s all that really matters. On the flip-side, Kenobi has an opportunity to flesh out the Grand Inquisitor’s character – and all the Inquisitors, for that matter – in a way that Rebels never did. The Jedi: Fallen Order video game franchise has done slightly more in that regard, even featuring a morally conflicted Inquisitor named Trilla Suduri, but we still know surprisingly little about these former Jedi who chose to devote themselves to the task of hunting and killing people who used to be their friends, mentors, and apprentices.

The Grand Inquisitor, for instance, was a Jedi Temple Guard who fell to the dark side after witnessing the Jedi Order’s harsh treatment of Ahsoka Tano during the Clone Wars. His real name, the name of his Jedi master, and all details regarding his training are a mystery. Rebels‘ Seventh Sister and Fifth Brother, the latter of whom will reappear in Kenobi, are even more enigmatic. But the fact that Reva even has a name attached to her character, a name that represents a tangible attachment to her past life (one she’s perhaps unwilling to sever?), gives me hope that, like Trilla Suduri, she’ll be a three-dimensional character in stark contrast to her uniform Brothers and Sisters.

Pulling the strings behind all the Inquisitors is the shadowy figure of Darth Vader, whose true identity is still a mystery at this point in the timeline – one to which audiences already know the answer, mind you, but watching characters in-universe come to the same realization on their own never fails to make me emotional. And if Ahsoka’s reaction when she found out was devastating, then the mixture of guilt, anger, and heartbreak that Obi-Wan Kenobi is sure to feel when he first hears of the reappearance of Darth Vader and starts connecting dots is going to be…a lot.

Interestingly, the question of when and how Kenobi discovered that Anakin Skywalker was still alive following the events of Revenge Of The Sith has never properly been answered – not by the current Star Wars canon, at least. That offers the Kenobi series at least one key plot-point around which to construct an early episode, leaving several more in which the character can grapple with the ramifications of his discovery and ultimately make up his mind to seek out Darth Vader, who at this point in the timeline is still the stuff of rumors; the full extent of his power having not yet been revealed to the galaxy.

I know everyone is gearing up for the rematch of the century between Kenobi and Vader, and I also know that the discourse around this show will be unbearable because the two characters will either never meet, leading a certain demographic of fans to complain that their demands aren’t being met and that Star Wars (but like, especially Kathleen Kennedy) hates the fans, or they will meet, and it will create a whole bunch of weird plot-holes, or they’ll fight in some kind of vision and fans will be split down the middle on whether they’re satisfied by it. It’s gonna be a mess regardless.

Kenobi
Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker | wall.alphacoders.com

But hey, I love a good mess. And frankly, without Jon Favreau attached in any capacity, I actually have higher hopes for Kenobi than for most of Lucasfilm’s other Disney+ series’, which have recently begun to suffer from their monotonous stylistic consistency and obsession with Tatooine, as evidenced by The Book Of Boba Fett‘s failure to hold audiences’ interest (including mine). Kenobi, ironically, is the one series that arguably ought to stick to a Tatooine setting but is instead choosing to take its famously cloistered protagonist on one last spin around the galaxy – and we’ll just have to wait and see whether this approach pays off.

Trailer Review: 8/10

“The Book Of Boba Fett” 1st Trailer Promises My Kind Of Star Wars

Two seasons in and with a third already in the works, I’m still not sure if I actually like The Mandalorian. It’s a slow-moving series that I find to be generally lacking in direction or purpose, and Baby Yoda’s cuteness factor is starting to wear off, but it has its moments of greatness. And one of those moments was the season two finale post-credits stinger that unexpectedly set up a spinoff for the season’s biggest guest star, a legendary villainous bounty hunter long believed dead, who rose from the sands of Tatooine with a new lease on life.

Fennec Shand.

Boba Fett
Fennec Shand | denofgeek.com

And Boba Fett. Okay, so technically, the spinoff series is actually called The Book Of Boba Fett, and technically yes, he’s the star and Fennec Shand is his costar…but Fennec Shand is played by one of my long-time idols, Ming-Na Wen; the unmistakable voice behind the original Mulan and the incredible physical performance behind Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s Melinda May. I am thrilled to see her in another leading role now that Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has wrapped up its seven-season run, and the first trailer for The Book Of Boba Fett indicates that she and Temuera Morrison’s Fett will share almost equal screentime.

Both actors are honestly phenomenal and although I’m a Fennec Shand stan first and foremost, I think Morrison is doing a great job of bringing depth and nuance to a character that for the longest time was a one-dimensional baddie who happened to have a really cool spaceship. We’re finally being given a good look at the man behind Boba Fett’s iconic helmet, and he’s profound, insightful, deeply philosophical, and still just as awesome as ever. Probably more awesome now, in fact, because The Mandalorian made it canon that he fought his way out of the Sarlacc pit after the events of Return Of The Jedi.

In the aftermath of Boba Fett and Fennec Shand storming Jabba the Hutt’s old palace and unceremoniously disposing of his gelatinous right-hand man Bib Fortuna, The Book Of Boba Fett picks up with the duo as they attempt to build a new criminal enterprise out of the ruins of what Jabba left behind. Every mercenary, bounty hunter, warlord, and villain in the galaxy wants a piece of the profit, and you know what that means: palace intrigue, one of my favorite tropes in fantasy and sci-fi. The trailer introduces us to a host of new characters, each shadier and more suspicious than the last, who will all be vying for a place in Boba Fett’s good graces.

These characters are also, for the most part, aliens – a nice change of pace from the human-centric stories found in other Star Wars properties. I’m not sure if this is an unpopular opinion or if I’m just weird, but the arachnid B’omarr monks are pretty high on my list of coolest character designs of all time, so I want to give a round of applause to the trailer editors who chose to open this trailer with a sequence of a B’omarr monk scurrying across the desert on business of its own. I want the B’omarr monks to be important in this show, but even if they just skitter by in the background every now and again I’ll be happy.

Boba Fett
The Book Of Boba Fett | gameinformer.com

That being said, if The Mandalorian found a way to squeeze in cameos from Bo-Katan, Ahsoka Tano, Luke Skywalker, and Boba Fett himself, then I can’t imagine The Book Of Boba Fett will feature any fewer guest appearances. I’m thinking Bossk, IG-88B, Cad Bane, Hondo Ohnaka, Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes, and any number of characters who showed up for all of two seconds in the Mos Eisley cantina and yet somehow have thirty pages of elaborate semi-canonical backstory. If Emilia Clarke isn’t too busy with Secret Invasion and other projects, I’d love to know what crime boss Qi’ra has been up to ever since the events of Solo. Basically, I just want a smorgasbord of bad guys.

Hey, what can I say; there’s a reason Jabba’s palace was (and, based on the sound I made when I saw it onscreen again in The Mandalorian, still is) my favorite location in Star Wars. I love villains, especially well-designed alien villains. Seeing them all together under one roof, scheming and plotting and being fabulously evil, is extremely my jam. I can’t excuse the cringeworthy musical number that George Lucas inserted into the re-release of Return Of The Jedi, but it doesn’t detract from my enjoyment of the Jabba’s palace sequence nearly as much as it probably should.

Boba Fett, for his part, claims that he wants to lead with respect rather than fear. Will his palace still be full of corruption, bribery, backstabbing, and deceit? Undoubtedly. But I imagine Disney would prefer if the star of one of their most hotly-anticipated series’ wasn’t willingly engaging in such immoral activities, at the very least not without balancing out his crimes with some selfless or noble deeds, and anyway it makes sense that Boba Fett has grown as a person since his brush with death, so I think we can all excuse it. He’s still morally gray, and he’s got Fennec Shand to do his really dirty work for him.

Boba Fett
Jabba’s Palace | starwars.com

This kind of storytelling, somewhat evocative of Game Of Thrones (the early seasons at least) with its layers upon layers of treachery and complex webs of intrigue, is something truly different for Star Wars. The franchise continually finds new ways to expand across multiple genres and mediums, and that’s what keeps it ahead of the competition. We saw it with Star Wars: Visions, and I think we’re seeing it again with The Book Of Boba Fett. This trailer is brief, but it’s giving me all the vibes I want from a series that takes place in my favorite Star Wars location and combines some of my favorite Star Wars characters. December 29th can’t come soon enough!

Trailer Rating: 9/10

“Visions” Is Exactly What Star Wars Needs To Be In 2021

SPOILERS FOR STAR WARS: VISIONS AHEAD!

Every live-action franchise should consider experimenting with the medium of animation. It’s worked out extremely well for DC Comics (one of their most popular characters, Harley Quinn, originated in Batman: The Animated Series), and the MCU is starting to get into the business too, with What If…?, but Star Wars really redefined the ways in which animation could support and enrich a live-action franchise. And with the release of all nine episodes of Star Wars: Visions, Star Wars displays a willingness to think outside the box that shows why the franchise is still at the forefront when it comes to bridging that gap between live-action and animation.

Star Wars: Visions is an anthology series like Marvel’s What If…?, but whereas the various storylines in What If…? will eventually converge, the stories told in Star Wars: Visions are wholly unconnected – there’s no overarching plot, no framing device like What If…?‘s narrator, and no single animation style. Visions is also not intended to be viewed as canon, and most of the stories seem to exist outside of the Star Wars timeline, either unimaginably far into the franchise’s past or even further into its future. That’s not to say they couldn’t be integrated into canon, and there are several characters I’d love to see more of, but it’s not constantly in the back of your mind the way it is with What If…?

Because all of the episodes have been released already (robbing me of the chance to review them weekly), and they are all so different, I’ve decided to structure this review as a kind of episode ranking – moving from my least-favorites to my favorites.

Tatooine Rhapsody

Star Wars: Visions
Boba Fett | gamerevolution.com

The only episode of Visions that I found myself tempted to fast-forward through at multiple points, Studio Colorido’s Tatooine Rhapsody is a bland and uninspiring genre mash-up that feels like it was originally intended to be the pilot of an Apple TV original sci-fi series, and then got awkwardly reworked into a Star Wars story at the last minute. It’s the only episode that goes a little too heavy on the callbacks and nostalgia, with cameos from Boba Fett (voiced by Temuera Morrison), Jabba the Hutt, and Bib Fortuna, as if the writers realized that their main storyline about a garage band looking for work on Tatooine felt nothing like Star Wars, so they tried to force in a whole bunch of iconic characters to make it more natural.

Unfortunately, I didn’t like the writing, and I didn’t like the animation style here either. Some of the character designs were pretty cute, like tiny little Boba Fett with his big bobble-head helmet and even Bib Fortuna, but not enough to save the episode from looking like a low-budget Cartoon Network show devoid of charm or whimsy.

Episode Rating: 1/10

T0-B1

Star Wars: Visions
T0-B1 | theverge.com

There’s so many words to describe this episode…the most flattering of which is perhaps “quaint”. A vaguely disturbing twist on the story of Pinocchio, seemingly styled after that and other Disney cartoons from the 1940’s, T0-B1 plays out like the plot of the 1993 video game Putt-Putt Goes To The Moon…which is to say, there really isn’t all that much of a plot. T0-B1 (voiced by Jaden Waldman), a clumsy little droid who wants to be a Jedi, searches around his home planet for a hidden kyber crystal, and at any moment you expect him to turn to the audience and ask for you to click on objects on the screen. Occasionally he’ll report back to a zany old professor who teaches him valuable life-lessons about the Force.

If this were supposed to act as a lighthearted diversion from some of the heavier episodes, it would be one thing. But that’s very much not the case, as the zany old professor ends up being killed by a Sith Inquisitor and T0-B1 gets impaled (he’s a droid so he survives, but it’s still quite brutal). The hauntingly beautiful animation by Science SARU makes this an interesting watch, I suppose, but not a particularly fulfilling or even exciting one.

Episode Rating: 3.9/10

Akakiri

Star Wars: Visions
Masago | cbr.com

I’m still sorting out my thoughts on this macabre tale of horror and suspense, which plays with some very intriguing concepts about fate and destiny while also reusing the whole story (down to some awfully specific plot-beats) of Anakin Skywalker’s fall to the dark side. Tsubaki (voiced by Henry Golding) is our Anakin stand-in, a rugged young Jedi knight who falls in love with a princess in a political crisis and becomes her guardian, all while suffering from visions of her death (although in this case, he doesn’t realize it’s her in the visions, or that he’s the one killing her). He ultimately joins the Sith in a desperate effort to save her life, after accidentally killing her in a rage.

Regardless of the episode’s quality, I would not have chosen it to close out the first season of Visions. It’s a deeply morbid and depressing story of people stripped of their agency by invisible forces, and the eerie (yet strikingly beautiful) animation by Science SARU only heightens the feelings of dread that the episode inspires. I enjoyed it, and this episode had some of the best voice-acting in Visions (particularly Golding, Jamie Chung channeling Padmé Amidala in her character Misa, Lorraine Toussaint as Sith warlord Masago, and George Takei as a much-needed comedic relief character), but it’s not a fun watch.

Episode Rating: 4.9/10

The Twins

Star Wars: Visions
Am and Karre | avcaesar.com

Fast-paced, well-acted, and stunningly animated by Studio Trigger with a clean-cut futuristic aesthetic, this lean and mean story was right on the edge of greatness. With its tale of twin siblings bred and birthed by the dark side of the Force, one breaking free from their appointed destiny and the other bound to it, The Twins acts as good counter-programming to the hopeless messages of Akakiri, but it’s weighed down by a lot of exposition, and the action isn’t as thrilling as you’d probably expect, possibly because it’s so heavily stylized that it sometimes feels like a lightshow instead of an actual fight.

That said, there are some very cool elements here too: Karre (Neil Patrick Harris)’s multi-colored lightsaber gave me serious She-Ra vibes, and Am (Alison Brie)’s six robot appendages and lightsaber-whips make for some striking visuals. I also enjoyed seeing Karre employ the controversial Holdo maneuver from The Last Jedi, although seeing it recreated in a series of almost identical shots felt a tad unimaginative. And the ending lends itself to continuation, whether in animation or in live-action.

Episode Rating: 5.9/10

The Duel

Star Wars: Visions
The Bandit Leader | cbr.com

Of all the Visions episodes, each beautiful in their own right (except for Tatooine Rhapsody), Kamikaze Douga’s The Duel is surely the most striking from an artistic standpoint. Designed to resemble grainy black-and-white film, the animation style pays homage to Akira Kurosawa, the Japanese director whose work inspired George Lucas’ original vision for Star Wars. The story is a sci-fi twist on a classic scenario from the samurai genre: a war-weary sword-fighter, usually a rogue samurai (rōnin) comes to town and helps the local people in a conflict with another great sword-fighter, typically the leader of a band of raiders who’ve been pillaging the area’s natural resources.

Because it features such an archetypal setting and cast of characters, the outcome of the titular lightsaber duel between the subtly-named Ronin (Brian Tee) and the umbrella-wielding Sith Bandit Leader (Lucy Liu) is never in question, but there’s something comforting about that, as well as the gracefulness with which Ronin conducts himself in battle. The real subversion of expectations is that Ronin isn’t a former Jedi as you’re initially led to believe, but a former Sith repenting for his evil deeds, which is ten times cooler. In short I loved this, and I hope to see more of Ronin in the future.

Episode Rating: 8/10

Lop And Ochō

Star Wars: Visions
Lop | denofgeek.com

This episode would likely have cracked into my top three if the story hadn’t ended quite so abruptly. Even more so than the beautiful and richly-detailed animation by Geno Studio or the incredible score by Yoshiaka Dewa, what really stands out to me about this story is the character work. Set sometime during the reign of the Galactic Empire, we follow the disintegration of an ancient clan as its patriarch, Yasaburo (Paul Nakauchi), and his biological daughter Ochō (Hiromi Dames) fall to fighting over whether to side with the Empire in the best interests of their family, or fight back and try to protect their planet. Standing between them is Yasaburo’s adopted daughter, Lop (Anna Cathcart), a leporine alien who feels like an outsider in her own house.

The episode delivers a great message about found family as Lop emerges as the true successor of the Yasaburo clan, and even inherits their most precious heirloom: a green-bladed lightsaber that is probably one of the most beautiful in all of Star Wars history. I was perfectly prepared for this to become my favorite episode – and then it just ends, having not only not resolved the conflict at hand, but with the situation even more dire than before. If this story ever continues, I think the relatively small scope of the story, the beautiful backgrounds, and Lop’s ability to leap long distances and glide around via umbrella are all good reasons to make a Lop And Ochō video game.

Episode Rating: 8.5/10

The Ninth Jedi

Star Wars: Visions
Kara | theverge.com

Coming in at third place, I have The Ninth Jedi – which, of all the Visions stories, screams out for some kind of continuation. This gripping tale of mystery, suspense, and political intrigue, filled with extraordinary action and instantly endearing characters, comes to us from the mind of writer/director Kenji Kamiyama at Production I.G, who will also direct War Of The Rohirrim, an upcoming anime film based on The Lord Of The Rings. I was already excited for that, but now I can’t wait to see what Kamiyama will do with characters and stories I know like the back of my hand.

In this story, set hundreds of years after The Rise Of Skywalker during a new conflict between the Jedi and an emboldened faction of Sith, Kamiyama devises a whole new set of rules regarding lightsabers (specifically their colors) that honestly makes more sense than the established canon. Here, a lightsaber’s color is a visual indicator of the wielder’s personality as well as their strength in the Force, which is why as the heroine Kara (Kimiko Glenn)’s confidence increases, her blade goes from transparent to green. And the color can change even after that, based on the wielder’s actions. These changes have made some fans mad (of course), but this is the kind of expansive creativity I hope Kamiyama brings to Middle-earth.

Episode Rating: 9/10

The Elder

Star Wars: Visions
Dan and The Elder | starwars.com

Visions is quite a scary series, and Studio Trigger’s The Elder is a perfect example of how the most effective horror is almost always subtle, shocking our senses but more importantly affecting us on a psychological level. We can close our eyes to avoid a jump-scare, but there are things that lurk in the corners of our minds that are much harder to shake. Good horror plays on that, and gets into our heads. With a powerful message about accepting the inevitability of death, The Elder is able to do just that.

The episode is anchored by three characters at different stages in their lives – The Elder (James Hong), a mysterious Sith lord clinging to his frail mortal body, Tajin (David Harbour), a world-weary middle-aged Jedi knight, and Dan (Jordan Fisher), Tajin’s reckless young padawan who tries to defeat The Elder in combat and is soundly defeated, just barely escaping with his life. It’s Tajin who must ultimately defeat The Elder, and conquer his own fear that his best days are behind him. Their duel is appropriately mythic in proportions, and the episode ends with a tantalizing mystery about The Elder’s true identity that could easily support future chapters of this story.

Episode Rating: 9.5/10

The Village Bride

Star Wars: Visions
F | imdb.com

I had a hard time deciding my favorite between The Elder and The Village Bride, but there’s just so much to love about this story, from the way it masterfully interweaves elements of Shinto philosophy with Star Wars’ concept of the Force, to the ethereal score by Kevin Penkin, and the fascinating new character of F (Karen Fukuhara), all wrapped up in a vibrant, colorful package courtesy of the delightfully named Kinema Citrus. The Village Bride is the episode I would have chosen to close out Visions: it sums up everything the series is, and everything that Star Wars can be in good hands.

The story is similar to that of The Duel, with the crucial difference being that the cynical former Jedi F is inspired and her faith in the Force restored by the local townspeople when she learns how the titular village bride Haru (Nichole Sakura) is actively trying to save her people from their enemies. It acts as a wake-up call for her, reminding her that a Jedi’s first and foremost duty must always be to help those in need. And when she joins the townspeople in their fight, it made me respect the Jedi again in a way I haven’t felt as a viewer for a while now.

The episode has something for everybody, from amazing action (let’s just say, you do not want to get on F’s bad side while she’s wearing heels) to a genuinely happy ending that feels so rare for Star Wars sometimes that I had to mention it. This is my favorite Visions episode, and it’s the kind of hopeful story that I need to see more of from the franchise.

Episode Rating: 10/10

“The Bad Batch” Episode 16 – Clear Skies On Kamino

SPOILERS FOR THE BAD BATCH AHEAD!

I feel like I ought to apologize for how inconsistent and unreliable I’ve been when it comes to reviewing The Bad Batch. I’ve enjoyed almost the entire first season – there was a long stretch in the middle where it was slagging a bit, but to be honest the show has been very well-written, blessed with truly stunning animation and great voice-acting, and filled to the brim with the kind of obscure Star Wars lore that I love. And yet I’ve reviewed only a handful of episodes out of sixteen, in no particular order, and with barely any rhyme or reason. I am genuinely sorry about that, and I hope that the recently-announced second season of The Bad Batch will allow me a chance to make it up to my readers properly, with weekly reviews.

The Bad Batch
Crosshair | slashfilm.com

No promises, though. The biggest difficulty about reviewing any Star Wars animated show – be it The Bad Batch, The Clone Wars, or even sometimes Rebels – is when you get into the adventure-of-the-week episodes that are all…fine. Not great, not bad, just fine. And as much as I loved Rhea Perlman’s sassy crime-lord Cid, a lot of the episodes that involved the Bad Batch going on missions for her tended to lean towards being fine.

But as is so often the case with Star Wars animated series’, The Bad Batch gradually started planting seeds for big plot twists and major character choices down the line as it moved into the back-half of its first season. The two-part finale, which started with last week’s episode and concluded today, builds off those little things sprinkled throughout the season to give us something emotionally satisfying, epic, and consequential…and surprisingly dark and intense, as a bonus. Nobody even died in today’s episode, but that didn’t stop me from feeling terrified on behalf of all of my favorite characters.

Before we jump into the action, just a quick refresher on what’s going on since I didn’t actually review last week’s episode (again, sorry about that). The rain-battered ocean planet of Kamino, once home to the galaxy’s great clone armies, has been abandoned by the last of its cloning personnel, its conniving prime-minister has been executed by the Empire, and an Imperial fleet led by the vicious Admiral Rampart (voiced by Noshir Dalal) is currently unleashing hellfire on the planet’s cloning facilities from the stormy skies. Only the members of the Bad Batch are still stuck on the planet’s swiftly-disintegrating surface, scrambling to find a way back to their starship before everything is submerged in the abyss.

That was a great note on which to end last week’s episode and open today’s – wiping such an iconic Star Wars location off the map entirely, and simply because the Empire has no further plans for the clones but still can’t afford to have cloning technology fall into the hands of other buyers, is cruel, callous, and heartbreaking. Thanks to The Clone Wars‘ frequent use of the setting, we’ve grown attached to Kamino over the years, and we can all feel the clones’ pain at seeing the closest thing most of them have ever had to a home thoroughly destroyed. A brilliant touch is having a clone trooper deliver the news of Kamino’s destruction to Rampart, and hearing his voice crack slightly.

Meanwhile, down in the cloning facilities, that overwhelming pain – mingled with the fear of being crushed to death by the encroaching ocean – leads to some raw confessions from the members of the Bad Batch, who have to work alongside their treacherous former teammate, Crosshair (voiced, like most clones, by Dee Bradley Baker), to survive. Crosshair’s claim that he removed his inhibitor chip long ago but still willingly chose to side with the Empire despite the atrocities he’s witnessed them commit (and which he’s now engaged in himself), is horrifying to the Bad Batch, but it helped me finally realize why the Empire would deem human stormtroopers preferable to clones.

The Bad Batch
The Bad Batch | denofgeek.com

Because humans can be brainwashed, and unlike with clones, that brainwashing isn’t achieved via a piece of technology implanted in one’s head. Real brainwashing, the kind of brainwashing that is very much still utilized by fascists and far-right ideologies in the modern day to obtain an aggressive, twisted form of loyalty, can’t be surgically removed like an inhibitor chip, and the effects don’t just wear off on their own. Real brainwashing changes a person from the inside out, and unlearning it requires active participation from that person. That last part is crucial.

And it’s what Omega (voiced by Michelle Ang) realizes, during several powerful encounters and conversations with Crosshair throughout this episode. Omega’s driving motivation throughout the show has been her own fierce and seemingly unconditional loyalty, so it might be strange to some viewers that she doesn’t try to force Crosshair to return to the Bad Batch at the end of the finale, or even force Hunter and the team to go back for him. But that’s what makes Omega’s loyalty so inspiring – because at the end of the day, she realizes that ultimately Crosshair has to take the first step. His issue isn’t an inhibitor chip that they can physically remove from his head; it’s something he needs to work on. She can’t do that for him.

And when Crosshair’s ready, if he still wants to rejoin the Bad Batch, Omega will be waiting for him. I think that’s a pretty awesome message to send. Most importantly, it doesn’t put the onus on Omega to fix Crosshair or save his soul. There was a lot of discourse about this topic in Raya And The Last Dragon, where the solution to a similar problem seemed to be that if you just keep putting your unconditional faith in a person who has repeatedly and unapologetically hurt you, they’ll eventually change. That’s…untrue, and while I enjoyed that movie, I much prefer The Bad Batch‘s approach to this particular topic. That’s why Crosshair and the Bad Batch splitting up will (hopefully) be healthy for both of them in season two.

The strong focus on Omega and Crosshair in this episode does mean that everybody else gets a little sidelined, with the possible exception of the Kaminoan medical service droid AZI-3 (voiced by Ben Diskin). This isn’t the first time AZI-3 has been integral to the story – in The Clone Wars, he and the clone trooper Fives came within a hair’s breadth of foiling the Empire’s plan with the inhibitor chips – but here he proves that he’s downright heroic, sacrificing himself to save Omega from drowning. Crosshair is able to save both Omega and the droid’s body, but it remains to be seen if AZI-3 will get powered up again in season two.

He’s the only character who “dies” in the finale, but as I mentioned, there’s still a lot of suspense. The episode leans heavily into elements and tropes of the survival genre, and at points feels very evocative of the Subnautica video games – which also involve swimming around alien oceans, evading fearsome sea-monsters and exploring subterranean ruins. As someone with a severe fear of the darkest depths of the ocean, I’m (naturally) obsessed with that premise, and seeing it brought to life in today’s episode of The Bad Batch was unexpected, but thrilling. And, yes, a little terrifying. I was glad when they arrived at the surface to discover clear skies on Kamino for the first time ever, but weirdly that and the black smoke still rising from the sea also felt very Subnautica to me.

The Bad Batch
Kamino | thedirect.com

Luckily, Kamino’s wealth of cloning knowledge will live on through the scientist Nala Se (Gwendoline Yeo), Omega’s mother figure, whom we see being transported on an Imperial shuttle to a forested planet at the end of the episode. If/when we rejoin her in season two, I wouldn’t be surprised if her top-secret cloning work with the Empire is directly linked to the events of The Mandalorian. Remember that Dr. Pershing, who was messing about with Grogu’s midi-chlorians in The Mandalorian, was himself a Kaminoan scientist – which means he had to have been one of the medical personnel evacuated from the planet along with Nala Se, which means we might see him in animated form next year when The Bad Batch returns for season two. Keep an eye out!

Episode Rating: 8.5/10