Welcome to my first episode review for The Bad Batch. Though this is a new series, my reviews will follow my usual format: an overview of the plot (so be aware, there will be spoilers!), my review of the show, then a few “Moments in canon” – references that link to other media and the galaxy as a whole. Today, we’ll be looking at the 70 minute pilot episode: “Aftermath“.
In the waning days of the Clone Wars, following the Battle of Coruscant, Jedi Master Depa Billaba and her clone troopers find themselves pinned down under heavy fire from droid forces on the planet Kaller. Billaba’s padawan, Caleb Dume, soon arrives back, reporting that he has brought reinforcements, who turn out to be Clone Force 99. The Bad Batch make short work of the droids and – at their advisement – Billaba orders her clones to launch a counter-attack. Hunter explains that they are the only reinforcements Billaba is getting as the rest have been re-routed to the capital, but Tech takes a view that they may not be needed as he has picked up encrypted comm chatter that General Obi-Wan Kenobi has engaged General Grievous.
Just after the Bad Batch go to join the action – with Dume joining them – Billaba’s troops receive Order 66 and begin to fire upon her. Dume and the Bad Batch are still close enough to have their attention drawn by the blaster shots and Dume begins to run back to his master, only for her to yell at him to “run” as she is gunned down, and he flees into the nearby forest. Cnfused as to what is going on and with the only comm chatter Tech is able to pick up being the message “Execute Order 66”, Hunter sends Tech, Echo and Wrecker to find out what is going on while he and Crosshair go after Dume.
“What just happened?”
“The comm channel is repeating one directive, “Execute Order 66.””
Finding the padawan, Hunter tries to convince him to come out of hiding as they are there to help, but Crosshair tries to shoot him, which causes him to flee. As they chase after him, Hunter receives word from Tech that all the regs have received the order to execute all Jedi, as the Order has committed treason. Crosshair again spots Dume and opens fire, and the padawan is forced to fight him, leaving him unconscious. Hunter continues to chase the padawan and they reach a ravine. Hunter tries to convince Caleb to come with him as he is just as confused as the padawan, but Caleb hears other troopers approaching and uses the Force to jump across the ravine and escape. When Crosshair arrives, Hunter says that he stunned Dume, who fell down the ravine and waterfall below to his death.
The Bad Batch return to Kamino, though they quickly begin to notice differences as they are forced to supply their clearance code as they get close, before finding a number of clone shock troopers in Tipoca City, and a Level 5 lockdown in place. One of the shock troopers stops to inform them that the war is over as General Grievous and the Separatist Leadership have been defeated. As they talk, a covered body is carried past on a stretcher, and a lightsaber falls out from under the cover.
In their barracks, Crosshair accuses Hunter of letting Dume escape, and Echo is confused as to why the clones all turned on the Jedi after years of fighting together. Tech gives a theory that the regs all have some form of inhibition in their programming to make them follow orders without questions. Tech further hypothesises that the Bad Batch’s mutations have likely rendered the inhibitions useless, while Echo’s mind was so badly damaged during his time as a prisoner on Skako Minor that any behavioural modifications were removed.
“Galactic Empire? We’re soldiers of the Republic.”
“Republic, Empire… What’s the difference?”
“The systematic termination of the Jedi is a big one for me.”
Following an order over the intercom, Clone Force 99 and all other clones gather in a staging area to witness a hologram recording of Palpatine addressing the Senate and announcing the restructuring of the Republic into the Galactic Empire. Many of the Bad Batch appear uneasy at the situation on their way back to the barracks, but they are interrupted by the arrival of a girl, who Hunter had noticed with the Kaminoans during Palpatine’s announcement. The girl introduces herself as Omega, but she is quickly ushered away by Nala Se.
Admiral Tarkin soon arrives at Tipoca City for a meeting with Prime Minister Lama Su, where he informs the Kaminoans that the Empire is planning to end their contract with the Kaminoans and replace the clone army with conscripts, who could do the job at half the cost. Lama Su notes that conscripts would not be as skilful, but Tarkin says that he will judge this.
The next time Clone Force 99 are in the mess hall, hey are surprised to be joined at their table by Omega, who says that she likes them as she is also a misfit. A passing reg makes a joke about Clone Force 99, calling them “Defect Squad” and “The Sad Batch”, which leads to Omega throwing her food at the reg. Hunter appears to diffuse the situation, until Wrecker chooses to escalate things, causing a full-on fight in the mess hall between the Regs and the Bad Batch. During the fight, Echo is knocked out as he is distracted by the sight of Tarkin watching over the fight.
“The same Tarkin from the Citadel rescue when you, uh… How shall I put this?”
“And turned into that.”
When Echo comes round, he warns the rest of the Bad Batch that it is Tarkin evaluating the clones, which is bad news as he is not a big fan of clones. Hunter informs the group that they have been summoned by Lama Su, and they believe that they are about to be punished for the mess hall fight, only for a chance comment from a passing trooper to make them realise they are actually to take part in a battle simulation for assessment by Tarkin.
The Bad Batch beat the simulation with ease, which leads to Tarkin upping the difficulty by sending new droids into the simulation with live rounds, while the Bad Batch are left with weapons designed for training only. Despite the danger – and Wrecker taking a shot – the Bad Batch emerge victorious, surprising Tarkin with their competence.
Visiting a clone incubation chamber with Lama Su, Nala Se and Omega, Tarkin asks about Clone Force 99 and Nala Se explains that they are genetically defective clones whose cellular mutations enhance traits desirable in a soldier. When asked how many of these defective clones remain, Nala Se replies that there are only 5. Tarkin is concerned their record shows a history of disobedience, and the reports that only Depa Billaba was killed and her padawan unaccounted for does not help his thoughts.
Tarkin visits Clone Force 99 in their barracks and informs them that he has a new mission for them: dealing with a group of insurgents – described as “Separatist forces seeking to keep the galaxy at war” – with the promise of a favourable report upon success. As the Bad Batch prepare to leave, Omega speaks to Hunter, warning him that Tarkin has it out for the group. Omega asks to come with them, but Hunter says that it is too dangerous, to which Omega says that Kamino is too dangerous. Hunter brushes this off as Omega needing to get used to the changes going on and boards their ship, the Havoc Marauder, and Omega watches them fly away.
“Something’s not right.”
Arriving on Onderon, Clone Force 99 track down the insurgents, but are shocked to find that instead of droids they are people, including women and children. Crosshair prepares to continue with the mission regardless, but Hunter stops him, and the group son realise that they are surrounded, so surrender. They are taken to the leader of the “insurgents”: Saw Gerrera. Gerrera explains that they are a mixture of deposed people and Republic fighters, and tries to tell the Bad Batch that they need to fight back to stop the Empire taking over. The Clone Wars may be over, but now is the start of a Civil War. Hunter does not act as Gerrera and his people leave, unaware that they are being watched by an Imperial probe droid.
As they return to the Havoc Marauder, Crosshair argues with Hunter about how he is not following orders and going through with the mission. As they argue, Hunter notices the probe droid and destroys it. The group realises that by not going through with the mission they will be in danger by returning to Kamino, however Tech’s revelation that Omega is the 5ᵗʰ remaining defective clone – something he didn’t realise that the others hadn’t worked out, as Echo was a reg – leads to Hunter decision they must go back for her.
The group land at Tipoca City and try to sneak in, however they are promptly ambushed and arrested for treason, finding themselves put in the same cell as Omega, who had been arrested after being found in Clne Force 99’s barracks. Crosshair argues with Hunter, saying that he has been putting the group in danger by not following orders and making poor decisions ever since Kaller. Omega goes over to Crosshair, and quietly says that she understands what is wrong with him and does not blame him for what he is about to do.
Shock troopers come and take Crosshair for a medical evaluation, where Nala Se deduces that though his mutation has affected his inhibitor chip, it has not made him entirely immune, leading to his attempts to still follow orders. Hearing this, Tarkin has her amplify the effect of Crosshair’s chip.
“You never could see the bigger picture. Now surrender.”
“Is that an order?”
“Heh. I guess it is.”
“Well, I guess I’m disobeying that one too.”
Back in the cell, Tech formulates a plan of escape utilising the fact that the area they are being imprisoned was not designed as a prison. He manages to find a weak spot for Wrecker to hit, opening up a gap large enough for Omega to squeeze through to enter the air ducts and get to the cell controls to free the rest of the Bad Batch. The group sneak to the hangar, where Omega had seen their gear being moved, and they find their armour and weapons, however they are found by a group of shock troopers being led by Crosshair.
In a tense firefight, the Bad Batch and Omega manage to get onto the Havoc Marauder and escape – with Crosshair’s order to close the hangar doors being surreptitiously foiled by Nala Se. While the group decide where to go, Hunter thinks of an old friend and Omega watches from the co-pilot’s chair as she watches a ship make the jump to lightspeed for the first time.
Wow! While I’ve been looking forward to this show’s release, a little bit of me was nervous as to how invested I would be in this story. That worry is already gone!
This really did feel like a continuation of The Clone Wars, but with a new point of view, and so I think that the decision to start with The Clone Wars‘ logo burning away to reveal The Bad Batch‘s title card, followed by the Tom Kane narration to open the episode was a wonderful touch. With so many familiar assets and an animation style we are already used to, combined with a time we already know well, it made it really easy to just jump into the show without having to get used to anything.
Similarly, the introduction of Clone Force 99 in season 7 of The Clone Wars meant that we didn’t have to spend the first act getting to know who the characters are. The initial battle scene immediately showed us how the team works and their specialties (eg, Hunter the Leader, Wrecker the muscle, Crosshair the Sniper), with a quick reminder of their names, and their backstory as defective clones able to be covered later in the episode in bitesize chunks that felt natural to the story.
The reveal of Depa Billaba and padawan Caleb Dume was a massive shock for me, though in hindsight it makes sense that they wouldn’t have just created an asset for Caleb for a 1 second shot in The Clone Wars. I must admit though, that I have mixed feelings about this first act on Kaller. It was great to hear Freddie Prinze Jr again, but the voice sounded a little old for the character and I think could have used some more manipulation in post-production. Narratively, it made sense to bring in Caleb Dume as it would mean that Rebels fans would be invested in Caleb’s feelings as Order 66 begins, however, the story of Caleb escaping Order 66 has been available for years in the comic book series Kanan: The Last Padawan. When Disney made the Expanded Universe “Legends”, hey said that everything moving forward would be canon, and yet this is the second time that a notable event has been shown in publishing and then overridden years later by the events of an animated series, the other notable occasion being the events of the Siege of Mandalore and Order 66 happening differently in The Clone Wars to what was described in the novel Ahsoka. It’s a small gripe that would not have any effect on the majority of fans who will only watch the movies and series, but for someone like me who is trying to experience the full canon story, these conflicts are disappointing given that one of the biggest arguments in favour of wiping the old Expanded Universe from canon was that stories would contradict each other. It would have been easy enough to create a new character or use one of the younglings we were introduced to during The Clone Wars, who could have now become a padawan under a master, and I think that this could have worked even better as we would not have already known the padawan’s fate.
Beyond that, though, I really enjoyed how the Bad Batch found out about what was going on, along with the hints that Crosshair’s chip as affecting him with season 6’s familiar phrase that “Good soldiers follow orders”. Along with the revelations on their return to Kamino. And this is a good point to discuss everyone’s characters. Crosshair was my favourite of the original foursome, so while I am gutted that it looks like he will be the villain, I do really appreciate how we are seeing that it is not his choice, but the impact of the chip, and it also makes some sense as it is easy enough to believe that his sharpshooting ability would need the least modification from that of the regs. Wrecker was as silly and over the top as before, and it is clear that he will provide much of the show’s comedy, which I enjoy. Echo feels very much more like a reg who still has his mental freedom. The big revelation here is Hunter, whose character was hampered in The Clone Wars as he was a leader who was following orders, whereas here we are already seeing him have to make big decisions in the moment and look for the necessary information to make the morally right call, making him a much more rounded character already in just 1 long episode. The character that intrigues me at the moment is Omega, as we still know so little about her. She is said to be the final defective clone, out why is she so different to the others? Why is she a female? Why des Nala Se keep her is close? Why does she look nothing like Boba and Jango? Is she perhaps a clone of someone else? I’m making an early prediction here, but from the way that she appeared to sense the troopers entering the hangar before they arrived and also the way that she appeared to know that Crosshair’s chip was affecting him and about to make him betray his team, I feel that she is Force-sensitive, which will certainly make for an interesting story.
While it feels like the overall story proceeded at a good pace, I can’t help think that some of the specifics happened too fast, like Imperials already using Viper probe droids, which had been shown as being used by the Separatists using the Clone Wars, while apparently Saw Gerrera has already had time to create an insurgency and gain followers. I wonder if it would have worked better if the reveal of The Bad Batch not completing the mission had come from Crosshair’s forced betrayal, with the mission instead being to take out a Jedi and anyone who assisted them, leaving them in a position to have to kill innocents.
A few final thoughts from the episode:
- Kevin Kiner kills it with the score! The Bad Batch’s main theme is so catchy and recognisable, while he also did a great job of using other familiar themes from the movies in moments that felt appropriate
- Dee Bradley Baker deserves maximum respect when you consider just how much of the episodes script was basically him talking to himself, and his ability to make every notable clone sound a little different is incredible
- I loved just how uniform the regs appeared after Order 66, as they are now being affected by the chip so individuality means nothing to them
Moments in Canon
- Echo is treated by AZI-3, who is the droid who helped Echo’s former Domino Squad graduate Fives during his investigations into the inhibitor chips
- As part of his attempts to hide from the Empire, Caleb Dume changed his name to Kanan Jarrus
- A discussion between Clone Force 99 references Echo’s supposed death at the Citadel and his imprisonment on Skako Minor, both of which are shown in The Clone Wars
What did you think of the episode?
Thanks for reading. Good soldiers follow orders….