“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

“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