First look Disney+ TV review: Star Wars: The Bad Batch
Charlie Brigden | On 07, May 2021
This review is based on the opening episodes of Season 1. Season 2 premieres on 4th January 2023, with new episodes arriving weekly on Wednesdays.
Star Wars has always been about family, so it’s no surprise Lucasfilm’s new animated TV show, The Bad Batch, continues to explore that dynamic. In this case, the family is a group of clone troopers whose services are no longer needed in a time of transition for the galaxy, but who are determined to stay together and defend themselves using their unique skills and attributes. While blowing lots of things up along the way.
As the feature-length opening episode Aftermath begins, we are thrown into the chaos of Order 66, which, if you’ll remember, was Emperor Palpatine’s secret plan to have the clone troopers turn on their Jedi masters as seen in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Here, we have the Bad Batch serving alongside a group of “regs” – standard clones – in service of Jedi Master Depa Billaba and her padawan. Suddenly, the regs open fire on the pair and the Bad Batch are wondering what’s going on, which, along with their personalised armour, is the first clue that there’s something different about these clones.
The Bad Batch were first introduced in Season 7 of The Clone Wars, which this show spins off from. They are a group of clones who came together because they were born with genetic mutations as a result of them being experiments. As a byproduct, they each have enhancements that help them be a better soldier; Hunter, the leader, has magnified senses that help him track better, Tech is an engineering genius, Crosshair is a killer sniper, and Wrecker is the tank of the group. And then there’s Echo, a clone trooper who had been kidnapped by the separatists and turned into a cyborg, and whose keen strategic insights and robotic arm make him into a cross between General Patton and R2-D2.
The problem is that, while they’re top-class with a 100% success rate, the Empire is phasing out clones so they can conscript people to be stormtroopers. A familiar face in the guise of Tarkin shows up on the rainy world of Kamino to oversee the transitional process, and despite an impressive test where an unarmed Bad Batch defeats a bunch of droids using live fire, they’re thrown in the brig together with Omega, a young girl who has been following the group around. You can see where this is going.
The squad escape, with Omega in tow, but at a price: Crosshair, who is the only one who still has an inhibitor chip in his head, is employed by Tarkin to turn against his brothers. This is an interesting development, as you can see him being a regular nemesis for the Bad Batch throughout however long the show lasts – Lucasfilm and Disney haven’t yet given us an idea of how long the first season is.
While there may be hesitation at the inclusion of Omega, she’s actually an interesting prospect, and she does well helping them escape with some well-aimed blaster shots at Crosshair. It’ll be interesting to see her grow and to see what her enhancements bring, and how she and the rest of the squad deal with them, especially Hunter, who has become a kind of father figure. She’s also never been outside Kamino, so is incredulous and wide-eyed when she sees space for the first time, and even more when they jump to lightspeed.
The second episode, Cut and Run, features more children and also picks up another thread from The Clone Wars as the squad visit Saleucami and Cut and Suu from the second season episode The Deserter. This gives Omega a chance to experience playing with other children and get into trouble with a vicious nexu, the lion-type monster that caused Padme’s strategically ripped outfit in Attack of the Clones, as well as allowing Hunter to find out about where to lay low, with a mention of the indomitable Captain Rex passing through recently. This also shows the galaxy-wide effects of the Empire taking over, with ships being impounded and civilians needing special codes to leave, which of course comes into play when Cut, Suu, and family want to jump off-world.
The animation style is as it was in The Clone Wars, just a bit tighter and more refined, so it looks excellent and sounds great, with Kevin Kiner’s score particularly powerful. Your mileage may vary on some of the antics, particularly Wrecker, and you have to remember that this is a family show – a very good one.
The Bad Batch has a bright future, but one of the best things about it is the way it invites you to look back at previous episodes to catch more of the back-story. However, the show is in no way inaccessible due to this and makes sure that it’s as enjoyable as possible even if this is the first time you’ve seen any of it. They may be called the Bad Batch, but based on the first two episodes, the show is anything but.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch is available on Disney+ UK, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription or a £79.99 yearly subscription.