In a world where spin-offs, tie-ins and everything in between are rife within every streaming platform, it could be easy to dismiss The Bad Batch, the latest dive into the ever-expanding world of Star Wars. After all, there are bigger Star Wars stories on the horizon: the long-awaited Obi-Wan Kenobi show, featuring the return of Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christenson to a galaxy far, far away, as well as 9 projects, announced so far. Despite that, fans of the animated ventures of Lucasfilm will have an easy, fun romp with, at the very least, the first episode of The Bad Batch.
The Bad Batch follows the aftermath of Clone Wars, right at the final stages of Order 66. At the centre of the series is the aforementioned group, Clone Force 99 (or the Bad Batch), a team of Clone Troopers who are genetically different from the other clones serving the newly christened Galactic Empire. Each member of the team has a skill set that sets them apart from the others and despite their differences, makes for a successful group.
The ragtag group consists of 5 members: Hunter, Tech, Echo, Wrecker, Crosshair and Echo. Audiences will remember their meeting with Commander Rex at the end of the Clone Wars and Echo’s addition to the team. Although the five tend to fall into the trappings of stock characters (Wrecker is the classic aggressive dude, Tech is well, the techie smart one), the group dynamics alone are decent enough to carry even the most casual Star Wars fan to keep watching. The best moments in ‘Aftermath’ are when it’s focused on the team and the troubles, rather than the wider scope of the Galactic Empire and its politics.
However, when the team launches into action, it falls prey to a problem plaguing most action scenes in today’s world. It feels uninspired and unmotivated, oftentimes either too long, too fast, or too short. When it does shine though, is when the dynamics of the team are fleshed out during the sequences. Similar to how Rogue One played on the unique strengths and quirks of each of the characters’ fighting styles (see: the Battle of Jedha) , The Bad Batch does the same. It’s in those scenes that we see not only the full potential of the series’ motley crue in action, but also the fun that Star Wars can have when it’s not focused on cool shots or winks at the audience.
Veteran voice actor Dee Bradley Baker is at full force here. He voices all five members of Clone Force 99, as well as the rest of the Clone Troopers in the series. If anything, watch the series to simply get a sense of the masterclass of voice acting Baker brings to the table. If you were to close your eyes, you could still make the distinction between each character of the Bad Batch, a testament to Baker’s decades-long career.
Thematically, The Bad Batch echoes the same themes as other Star Wars’ movies, particularly the idea of autonomy within the grand scheme of bad versus good. So far, there is nothing to write home about what’s presented here. Despite the staggering, almost feature-film length of the opening episode, it’s too early to say whether this theme will take any other spin or follow the same framework as previous Star Wars installments. For the series to actually make waves for the casual or uninitiated Star Wars fan, it might need to lean into the story rather than the novelty of previous Star Wars characters to stake its claim in pop culture’s conscience. If not, it might be forgotten among the bigger name shows set to release in Disney+ in the months to come.
Admittedly, the ending of the pilot alone feels particularly Disney-esque, but in a way that feels apt for a Star Wars title. It is hopeful, bright and on the precipice of something exciting. Fingers crossed that The Bad Batch delivers on that promise.