I have to admit, when Clone Force 99 (aka The Bad Batch) were introduced in Season 7 of “The Clone Wars” I thought they were cool but somewhat of a novelty. Five soldiers, each with their own military specialties and each with their own unique personalities. Nothing especially new there. For that reason I had some reservations about giving them their own series. Was there enough to fill a 16-episode season much less a full series?
Well if there’s one thing Star Wars fans have learned it’s to have faith in Dave Filoni. It only took one episode for the creator and showrunner to erase any doubt or hesitation I had. “The Bad Batch” Season One not only proved that the titular group is more than a novelty, it also earned this series a firm spot withing the vast and wonderful Star Wars canon. Fans should be pleased.
From the very start “The Bad Batch” places itself in a fascinating and underexplored segment of the Star Wars timeline. Order 66 has been executed killing most of the Jedi and giving control to the Galactic Empire. Clone Force 66 (Hunter, Tech, Crosshair and Wrecker and Echo) are genetically enhanced clones with unique mutations. Originally created by George Lucas himself, Clone Force 66 were given special abilities but weren’t super powered. More importantly, their mutations kept them from uncontrollably following Order 66. At least all but one of them.
As the episodes unfold, Filoni, his head writer Jennifer Corbett and supervising director Brad Rau not only build an impressive premise, but they do a great job defining each individual team member – Hunter’s by-the-book leadership, Tech’s dry and elusive sarcasm, the soft-hearted straight-shooting Wrecker, Crosshairs and his cold cynicism. The one member who feels undercooked is Echo. He’s a bit of an outsider by design, but the show rarely gives him any big defining moments of his own.
The one wildcard is also one of the show’s biggest treats – Omega, wonderfully voiced by Michelle Ang. Omega is a young female clone genetically altered on Kamino much like Clone Force 66 which creates a kind of kinship between the group. It only grows when the Bad Batch and Omega find themselves wanted by the Empire. Suddenly this unconventional team of elite troopers and one spunky little girl are on the run against a galactic army, bounty hunters, smugglers and even one of their own.
One of the biggest treats is watching how the series fills in a lot of information about people and most notably places left in the gap between the prequel trilogy and the original trilogy. Several familiar faces pop up not only filling us in on where they’ve been, but also setting up potential storylines that should keep the series interesting for seasons to come.
And you can’t talk about “The Bad Batch” without mentioning how great it looks. Lucasfilm Animation has taken the same style as “The Clone Wars” but added more polish and detail. It shines most in the incredible vistas and jaw-dropping environments. Season 7 on “The Clone Wars” gave us a good sense of what this series would look like, but the animation team exceeded every expectation.
“The Bad Batch” continues the tradition of strong animated entries into the sprawling Star Wars universe. Like any series some episodes are stronger than others. But you won’t find a single bad one and plenty of great ones. More importantly, it does a great job building and growing its central characters to the point that we genuinely care about their plight. And it’s hard not to be affected by its central theme – the loss of innocence. Omega is the centerpiece; a young girl witnessing and forced to reckon with the ugliness of the galaxy. Her eye-opening journey with her four father-figures has shown to be both harrowing and heart-warming. I can’t wait to see where it goes from here. Season one of “The Bad Batch” is streaming now on Disney+.