This Star Wars article contains spoilers for The Bad Batch.
To paraphrase the exasperated words of Resistance pilot Poe Dameron, somehow the Palpatine cloning plot from The Rise of Skywalker has returned. The latest episode of The Bad Batch, “Metamorphosis,” introduces Imperial scientist Dr. Hemlock (Jimmi Simpson), whom we meet in top-secret Imperial laboratory on the planet Weyland, as he interrogates a captive Nala-Se (Gwendoline Yeo) and sends Imperial forces after a rogue Zillo Beast that has escaped captivity. While these things may seem unrelated, it turns out that both the Zillo Beast and Nala-Se are key to Palpatine’s larger cloning plans.
Originally thought to be extinct, Zillo Beasts were first introduced in season 2 of Star Wars: The Clone Wars when Anakin Skywalker and Mace Windu accidentally awaken the last living beast on the planet Malastare. Zillo Beasts are semi-sentient predators that feed on electricity and have nearly impenetrable skin, but Anakin discovered that the creature could be stunned and knocked out by shooting at gaps in the creature’s armored plates. At the urging of then Chancellor Palpatine (voiced in this season by Ian Abercrombie), the creature was taken to Coruscant to be studied under the guise of replicating the Zillo Beast’s armor plating for use in the war.
The beast eventually escapes and is killed by a poisonous gas as a means to stop it from destroying Coruscant. But even though many mourn the loss of this creature and the fact that greed caused its apparent extinction, Palpatine has other plans. He secretly orders the cloning of the Zillo Beast, which is how this species makes a surprise return on The Bad Batch.
Fast forward to “Metamorphosis.” Learning that the Empire is experimenting with the Zillo Beast as part of their cloning program, Clone Force 99 realize the Empire didn’t destroy Kamino in season 1 to stop cloning but to control who and what was cloned. But how does cloning a nearly indestructible creature tie into Palpatine’s overall schemes? How exactly will this help the Emperor resurrect himself in The Rise of Skywalker? That’s harder to say.
Perhaps he wants to create a clone vessel for himself that’s nearly impossible to destroy? That would have certainly come in handy during the final battle with Rey. What we do know for sure is that the Emperor’s scientists began working on a contingency plan to resurrect him years before his eventual (first) death in Return of the Jedi, and that all of these efforts with cloning were in service of a singular goal: for the Emperor to rule over the galaxy forever. It’s true that the Emperor explored several different avenues to create a perfect clone of himself, as revealed in The Rise of Skywalker, and these Zillo Beast experiments may have been one such attempt that ultimately failed.
While it makes sense that Palpatine would want to create the strongest form possible for himself, Zillo Beasts are nearly impossible to control or manipulate, and according to Dr. Boll (Cara Pifko) in The Clone Wars, studying its armor requires putting the creature through an immense amount of pain or just straight up killing it. Of course, Palpatine would be willing to do that, but as we saw in the episode of The Bad Batch, it seems like it would be very difficult to keep this a secret for decades when the test subject is strong enough to fight back and can grow to 97 meters tall in a matter of hours.
For better or worse, The Bad Batch has connected itself to the controversial Palpatine clone reveal from The Rise of Skywalker. And it’s not the first Star Wars show to tie back to that Sequel Trilogy twist. The Mandalorian has alluded the Empire’s cloning experiments throughout its run, from Dr. Pershing stealing Grogu’s blood for the midi-chlorians to the possible “strand-casts” Mando, Greef Karga, and Cara Dune encounter in the lab on Nevarro in season 2. All these clues seem to lead back to The Rise of Skywalker. Somehow.
Hopefully, The Bad Batch will provide insight into what exactly Palpatine hopes to get out of cloning the Zillo Beasts, whether through Dr. Hemlock’s research or Clone Force 99. Now that Hemlock knows that Omega is the key to getting Nala-Se to cooperate, and given that the Bad Batch sent the research they uncovered to Rex and Echo, this likely won’t be the last time we see the doctor or hear about Palpatine’s convoluted plans to clone one thing or another for the glory of his Empire.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch season 2 is streaming now on Disney+.