“The Bad Batch” Episode 12 Review!

SPOILERS FOR THE BAD BATCH AHEAD!

Thanks to Black Widow and WitcherCon, I missed my chance to review last week’s episode of The Bad Batch – which would have been annoying regardless of how good the episode was, simply because it messed up my plan to review The Bad Batch‘s final episodes after taking a long break from reviewing the show. But it’s especially frustrating that I, as a hardcore Star Wars: Rebels fan, didn’t get to review the episode that brought back not one but two members of the Rebels crew in animation…well, “brought back” is slightly misleading because The Bad Batch is set before Rebels, so this is technically their debut, chronologically…it’s complicated, you know?

The Bad Batch
Hera Syndulla with The Bad Batch | starwars.com

But thankfully, last week’s episode only kicked off an epic two-parter – so I still get to rave about Rebels! But before we get into a discussion about today’s episode, let me preface this with a few stray thoughts on last week’s episode, since I feel bad about not reviewing it. Hearing Vanessa Marshall return to the voice-role of Hera Syndulla was delightful, and the fact that she still has her strong French accent because this is a young Hera who hasn’t yet grown estranged from her parents and planet…yeah, loved that. Hera is one of my favorite characters in the vast Star Wars legendarium, so seeing her take her first steps towards becoming the fearless, confident, high-flying heroine we knew from Rebels was something very personal to me…and I imagine Dave Filoni, the creator of both Rebels and The Bad Batch, felt the same; seeing as he centered last week’s episode around Hera’s POV, with our clone protagonists only popping up as cameos, basically.

This week, with Hera’s parents Cham Syndulla (Robin Atkin Downes) and Eleni Syndulla (Ferelith Young) captured by the Imperial occupation forces subjugating the planet of Ryloth and its Twi’lek population, the clones of The Bad Batch take center stage once again as Hera calls upon them to rescue her family before the Empire executes them for treason. Hunter (voiced, like almost all of the clones, by Dee Bradley Baker) is initially reluctant to answer Hera’s plea for help, wary of getting entangled in more Imperial power struggles – and the episode cleverly finds ways to use this as a source of conflict between Hunter and Omega (Michelle Ang), whose altruistic opinion on the matter is that as soldiers, the Bad Batch are duty-bound to help those in need rather than skulking around the galaxy as mercenaries.

Honestly, I agree with Omega. I know that mercenaries and bounty-hunters are all the rage in Star Wars, and morally-gray characters are always a lot of fun, but my biggest gripe with The Bad Batch is that the protagonists lack a driving purpose. Are they simply trying to keep Omega safe from the malevolent forces trying to mine her for genetic material from which to build new clone armies, and if so, then for how long? Are they trying to break their fellow clones free from the Empire’s brainwashing tactics, starting with their own former teammate, the sharpshooter Crosshair? Are they just trying to survive on their own in a galaxy that no longer has a place for clones? Helping those in need, and planting the seeds of Rebellion against the Empire, gives them a direction.

The Bad Batch
Omega and Hera Syndulla | denofgeek.com

And after today’s episode, the Bad Batch might as well help to form and organize the Rebellion – because between blowing up an Imperial refinery on Ryloth, hijacking Imperial ships, and breaking Twi’lek freedom fighters out of jail, their days of flying under the radar are over. Crosshair receives the order to hunt them down at the end of the episode, promising that there will be consequences for their bold and decisive actions. I can’t imagine that the Bad Batch won’t try to remove his Imperial-designed inhibitor chip, but by this point we’ve had so little time to know Crosshair as a good guy before his “turn” to the dark side that I don’t really care if they’re successful.

And also…just look at a clone like Howzer, who’s been assigned by the Empire to help maintain an uneasy peace on Ryloth by any means necessary. Howzer’s an ordinary clone; he was almost certainly affected by the inhibitor chip when it activated, just like Crosshair. But he still has a moral compass. He comes to the conclusion that the Empire is a reprehensible and unjust system entirely on his own, and in the end he chooses to stand with the freedom fighters, even though his act of defiance leads to him being promptly arrested by the Empire. Watching that act of courage transpire, I realized two things: first of all, with the purpose of the inhibitor chips fulfilled, the clones – and crucially, even clones who are apparently still chipped – are free to regain agency over themselves; second of all, does that mean Crosshair is entirely the victim of brainwashing, or is there a part of him that really is just sadistic?

Also also, I just find it infuriating that for a character who’s supposed to have literally mutated to become a better sharpshooter than humanly capable, Crosshair has yet to back that claim up with much hard proof. I know this is a nitpick, but there have been moments in the show where some of the other clones can hit moving targets with a precision I found extraordinary, but Crosshair fails to even land a single shot on the senatorial spacecraft which the Bad Batch uses to escape Ryloth in this episode.

A far more entertaining action sequence takes place at the aforementioned refinery, where it’s Hera who steals and pilots an Imperial ship with a little help from Omega and her trusty astromech droid Chopper. It’s the character’s first flight – a turbulent, dizzying first flight, mind you, but that only helps to make her journey to becoming one of the Galaxy’s greatest pilots more relatable. Hera’s strength comes from the confidence that allows her to think clearly and logically in situations where others might falter, not from her bloodline or any Force-related abilities, and that’s part of why I love her. I would still like to see her lead the live-action Rangers Of The New Republic series in place of Cara Dune, by the way. I know that show is currently “not in active development”, but come on, Lucasfilm. We deserve live-action Hera, with Vanessa Marshall playing the character!

The Bad Batch
Chopper | starwarsnewsnet.com

But even getting to spend a little more time with her in animation is a joy, and I hope The Bad Batch has more cool surprises like this one still in store for us as we come to the final handful of episodes in season one. I want to promise that I’ll review each new episode on Fridays when they drop, but after how well that went last time I made that promise…let’s, uh, let’s just play it by ear.

Episode Rating: 8/10

“The Bad Batch” Episode 10 Muses On Morality

SPOILERS FOR THE BAD BATCH AHEAD!

It’s been almost two months since The Bad Batch premiered on Disney+, and you may have noticed that in all that time I haven’t been reviewing episodes weekly. Make no mistake, I’ve kept up with the show, and now that it’s nearing the end of its first season I’m back with what I hope will prove to be consistent weekly reviews for the final seven episodes, but the slow-burn episodic nature of the story made it difficult for me to commit to a weekly format with my reviews. I don’t regret that decision, but I will say this: in the time that I haven’t been reviewing it, The Bad Batch has gotten progressively better and better.

The Bad Batch
The Bad Batch | denofgeek.com

Just as I had hoped, the series doesn’t shy away from exploring complicated and surprisingly mature topics – take, for example, today’s episode, which starts getting to the heart of the extraordinarily messy political situation left in the wake of the Clone Wars between the Old Republic and the recently defeated Confederacy of Independent Systems (or Separatists, as they were colloquially known during the Clone Wars). The Separatists were portrayed as the “bad guys” throughout the war, and with their armies of faceless droids and Sith Lord leadership, it wasn’t exactly hard to see why.

But only a handful of people in the Star Wars universe are aware at this time that Sheev Palpatine, whose Galactic Empire swiftly usurped the Old Republic after the defeat of the Separatists and the Jedi Purge, had not only engineered the conflict, but had been secretly puppeteering both sides – so only the audience gets to fully appreciate the irony of the Separatists remaining devoted to their cause after the war’s end and by default becoming “good guys”, leading to a brutal crackdown from the Emperor whose ascent to power is attributable to hijacking their cause in the first place…or the fact that Separatist tactics were later adopted by the Rebels who would go on to fight in the name of restoring the Old Republic.

Basically, the galaxy is in chaos. And when the Bad Batch are called in to rescue a former Separatist senator on the planet Raxus who has been arrested by Imperial forces, it starts an interesting conversation about who’s really “good” nowadays. Is anyone? Something I’ve always loved about Star Wars is the idea that Light and Dark co-exist in all of us, making it our responsibility to find balance in ourselves: because the Dark Side of the Force is not evil by nature, no more than the Light Side is inherently good – an important lesson that both Jedi and Sith failed to learn in their pride. It’s part of what makes the clear-cut “good triumphs over evil” ending of The Rise Of Skywalker so underwhelming in hindsight, because it reduces Light and Dark to being simply Good and Evil, without any nuance.

This episode of The Bad Batch begins to reverse some of the damage caused by The Rise Of Skywalker, highlighting both the humanity in characters our protagonists have always known as traitors and the moral gray zone in a character they’ve come to love – which is already a compelling enough concept as it is, but the real kicker is that the second character in question here is none other than sweet innocent Omega (voiced by Michelle Ang), who proves to be quite the shrewd businessperson and money-manager while racking up wins at dejarik (the hyper-aggressive holographic version of chess which has reappeared several times in Star Wars since its introduction). I mean, should we expect anything less of a character who was recently revealed to be Jango Fett’s exact genetic copy and the closest living relative of Boba Fett?

The Bad Batch
Hunter, Tech, GS-8, and Echo | starwars.com

As for the other character, our imprisoned Separatist senator Avi Singh (voiced by Alexander Siddig), he’s a humanist who stands up to the Empire, recognizing in their blatant suppression of free speech the same authoritarian qualities he condemned in the New Republic (very timely episode, this). It’s admirable that he chooses to stand up to the Empire during a ceremony in which he is being pressured (quite literally, with stormtrooper guns at his back) to declare the Separatist movement dead and hand control of Raxus over to Palpatine – but his action proves reckless, and ultimately requires the Bad Batch to save him and take him off-world to escape from the Empire’s vengeance.

Perhaps therein lies an interesting parallel between Omega and Singh. Omega uses her “darker” qualities for good, to help the Bad Batch pay off their debts to the criminal entrepreneur Cid (voiced by Rhea Perlman) and earn herself a full-time place on the team, where Hunter (voiced, like all the Clones, by Dee Bradley Baker) realizes that her uncanny strategizing skills can be put to good use. But Singh, an almost cartoonishly “good” character with no understanding of the decisive action required from him, lacks those very same skills and ends up blowing a chance to help his people on the ground where his help would matter most. Star Wars has a lot of characters like these in authority positions where they do about as much good as their equivalents in real life: the perpetually concerned moderate Republicans and the willfully ineffective moderate Democrats.

A character who does take bold action is Singh’s trusty assistant, an RA-7 protocol droid named GS-8 (voiced by Sian Clifford), who contacts the Bad Batch and helps to rescue the senator from the chamber where he’s being held captive, while taking efforts to protect his estate and belongings from wanton destruction. And when you put it that way, she sounds a lot like any of the incredibly brave staffers and interns who helped protect the U.S. Capitol earlier this year, rushing Senators and Representatives to hiding places while making sure classified information and electoral ballots didn’t fall into the hands of domestic terrorists. I doubt this parallel was intentional, if only because the timing probably wouldn’t line up, but it’s still worth noting.

The action scenes at the senator’s estate are very well-choreographed, making good use of the Bad Batch’s individual talents – although, interestingly, this is one of their first times fighting the Empire’s new legions of stormtroopers, and I noticed they had their guns set to stun for most of the battle. Clones are used to mowing down rows of droids, but aren’t quite as accustomed to turning on other sentient beings – with one notable exception. As the show quietly lays the groundwork for stormtroopers supplanting Clones (and continues to offer no valid explanation for why the Empire views this as a profitable exchange), I wonder if this will ever be touched on again.

The Bad Batch
Omega | cbr.com

Heading into next week, it’s pretty cool that Omega will finally get to join the Bad Batch on all their missions, although I’ll miss getting to check in with the endearingly practical Cid and her crew more regularly. Omega is this show’s true star and I appreciate that she’s easing into that role – not so abruptly that it feels like a heel-turn for her shy, reserved character, but not so slowly that it feels grating, either. Basically, Omega is doing in a single season of The Bad Batch what Baby Yoda still hasn’t done in two seasons of The Mandalorian, which is to become a reliable team-player. I’m gonna end this here before I start ranting about how Disney+ is exploiting Baby Yoda for cuteness without developing the character further, but you get the gist.

Episode Rating: 9/10

“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

Hera Syndulla May Be Star Wars’ Replacement For Cara Dune

I honestly couldn’t have been happier when this story popped up on my timeline last night: not only do I finally get an excuse to rave about Hera Syndulla, one of my favorite characters in the entire Star Wars universe (most of my favorite characters in Star Wars either originate in animation, or made the jump from live-action to animation and were improved in so doing), but I also get to address a deeply hilarious story that broke a few weeks ago, while I was on hiatus thanks to appendix surgery – the story of Gina Carano, and the string of wildly bad decisions that led her from Lucasfilm (and a paycheck of $25,000 to $50,000 per Mandalorian episode) to the Daily Wire, where she can now pursue her true calling as a figurehead for contrived right-wing outrage and an accomplice in Ben Shapiro’s attempt to get back at Hollywood for his own failure to make it big as a screenwriter.

Hera Syndulla
Hera Syndulla | syfy.com

Although Gina Carano long ago blocked me on Twitter, her history of harmful and downright hateful comments is well-documented public record – and in the past, I have tried to draw attention to this history, particularly her comments mocking people in the trans and nonbinary communities. For Disney, however, the final straw was a series of antisemitic images posted by Carano, followed by an Instagram story claiming that being a modern conservative is akin to being Jewish in Nazi Germany. Carano was dropped from her contract with Lucasfilm later that day (too late, in my opinion; though Disney had apparently given up on her back in November), and the atmosphere on Twitter late into the night was celebratory. The joy of watching accountability in action even helped me power through the next morning’s predictable influx of enraged trolls shedding crocodile tears over the same actress they had branded as an “SJW” before they found out she was a bigot like them.

Carano’s future post-Lucasfilm is unimportant, and honestly we’d be wise to pay her no attention. But here’s the thing – for a long time, Carano was set to lead the Rangers Of The New Republic series heading to Disney+ in the near future, reprising her role as Rebel mercenary Cara Dune from The Mandalorian. But by the time Rangers Of The New Republic was officially unveiled at Disney Investors Day in December, Disney had already basically scrapped that plan in light of the controversy surrounding Carano’s social media presence. This has apparently left Lucasfilm in a predicament, as Rangers Of The New Republic is supposed to be an integral element in a multi-series crossover event planned for the streaming service, and Disney doesn’t want to simply recast the character and move on (and honestly, while some fans would prefer that approach, there’s been such a concerted effort by the right-wing to “claim” Cara Dune that I wouldn’t wish that burden on any incoming actress).

Hera Syndulla
Cara Dune | polygon.com

Enter Hera Syndulla. A new rumor from LRM Online¬†claims that Disney is looking at their back-catalog of Star Wars characters for a potential Cara Dune replacement going forward, and is considering picking Hera, the wise-beyond-her-years Twi’lek pilot and military strategist introduced in the animated series Star Wars: Rebels and briefly glimpsed in the Star Wars: Squadrons video game. One reason for this, LRM Online notes, is time constraints: it’s easier to introduce a character with an established backstory and an existing fanbase than it is to write a wholly original protagonist. Hera Syndulla, who was a major character throughout the series’ four extraordinary seasons, certainly fits the bill in that regard.

But there’s another reason: Rebels‘ creator Dave Filoni is one of the key ingredients in Star Wars‘ string of recent successes on Disney+, and he is set to produce and direct many of their upcoming series’. Filoni has already done an admirable job of bringing several beloved animated characters into live-action, including Bo-Katan Kryze and Ahsoka Tano, and The Mandalorian season two revealed that other Rebels-exclusive characters are on their way to live-action too, such as Admiral Thrawn and – presumably – Ezra Bridger. Hera Syndulla was bound to show up at some point, and I’m honestly surprised this wasn’t considered sooner, given that an Andor series is coming up that will intersect with her time as a Rebel.

Rangers Of The New Republic, however, would deal with events after the original Star Wars trilogy – and by that point in the timeline, we know surprisingly little about Hera Syndulla’s whereabouts. She served in the New Republic as a general and earned her own flagship, hunting down ex-Imperial terrorists all while raising her son Jacen Syndulla on her own (because it’s not Star Wars unless there’s a single parent somewhere: not that I have any complaints about that). That’s pretty much the extent of our knowledge, leaving plenty of gaps for the Rangers Of The New Republic screenwriters to fill in with original content. As long as her character’s quiet nobility and fierce compassion remain intact, I would be hyped for this. Voice actress Vanessa Marshall could easily reprise the role in live-action, being the right age and already bearing some physical similarities to the character (minus the lekku and green skin).

Hera Syndulla
Hera Syndulla | starwars.com

As a big fan of Rebels, there’s nothing about this news that doesn’t excite me – Hera Syndulla is always a win, especially when her inclusion would make Rangers Of The New Republic my most-anticipated Star Wars series at the moment. For comparison, when Carano was supposedly attached to star, this series rested at the very bottom of my tier-ranking, and I was perfectly prepared to leave it there.

But what do you think? Would Hera Syndulla make a perfect protagonist? Is that even a question that needs to be asked? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!