This Star Wars article contains spoilers for The Bad Batch.
Eleven movies later, Revenge of the Sith remains the darkest chapter in the Star Wars film saga: the Jedi are all but decimated, the Dark Lord of the Sith becomes Emperor of the galaxy, Anakin Skywalker is transformed into an evil cyborg monstrosity named Darth Vader, and Luke and Leia are orphaned after Padme’s death. Back in 2005, fans already knew most of these things were coming. After all, everything established in 1977 about the Empire, Vader, Luke, and Obi-Wan had to be set up in the final Prequel film.
But even if these heartbreaking twists did feel inevitable in the mid-aughts, that’s not stopped Star Wars fans from debating and theorizing about the choices made by certain characters in the decades since. Even more than Anakin’s decision to turn on his friends and family, or the weird storytelling choice to have Padme die of heartbreak, there was one twist that until recently was more heavily debated than all the rest: why did the Clone Army so easily turn on the Jedi during Order 66?
Indeed, it’s perhaps the biggest shock of the movie. Clone commanders across the galaxy answer the Emperor’s call and immediately set their sights on the Jedi generals fighting alongside them on the battlefield. One by one, each Jedi Master fighting in the Clone Wars is eliminated, shot in the back or blown to pieces before they even know what’s coming.
While it was easy enough to assume back then that this villainous turn by the troopers was Lucas’ way of transitioning the Grand Army of the Republic into the Imperial stormtroopers we first met in the Original Trilogy, one clone trooper’s actions stood out as particularly surprising due to the friendship he seemed to share with his Jedi prey. We’re of course talking about Commander Cody shooting down Obi-Wan on Utapau mere seconds after working together to take down General Grievous and his Separatist forces in Revenge of the Sith. All because Palpatine rang.
It’s true that the clones were created to serve the Republic and the Supreme Chancellor first and foremost, and that they were following orders, but in 2005 it was still difficult to stomach that they could kill the Jedi without a second thought. And unlike all the other faceless clones in the film, we actually spend time with Cody and Obi-Wan in Revenge and get a sense of what their relationship is like in between battle sequences, making it harder accept Cody’s actions.
Of course, years of follow up Star Wars TV shows, comics, and books have gone a long way to explain what was really behind Order 66 and the Clone Army’s merciless eradication of the Jedi Order. In The Clone Wars animated series, and later in The Bad Batch, we learn that a secret biochip implanted in the head of every single clone trooper was triggered when Palpatine broadcast the order, forcing the army to comply whether they wanted to or not. This completely changed fans’ understanding of those scenes in Revenge of the Sith, to say the least. In most cases, the clones had no choice but to turn on their Jedi generals.
The final episodes of The Clone Wars explored this more intimately, showing us how Captain Rex initially attempted to resist his biochip’s programming because he didn’t want to kill Ahsoka Tano, a Jedi he’d grown very close to throughout the series. Eventually, Ahsoka found a way to remove Rex’s biochip and escape Order 66 with her clone friend. Later, in The Bad Batch season 1, Rex in turn helped Clone Force 99 remove their own chips.
But while Prequel fans were given an answer at last as to Order 66, they were still left to wonder what became of Commander Cody after the events of Revenge of the Sith. Fortunately, The Bad Batch season 2 has turned its attention to the clones who executed the order and were then transitioned into the Empire. We learn in this week’s episode, “The Solitary Clone,” that Cody has remained at his post in the aftermath of the Clone Wars, even as other troopers have followed Clone Force 99 and gone AWOL rather than commit further Imperial atrocities. But Cody’s allegiance isn’t quite as clear cut as it was when he ordered the assassination of Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Sent on a mission with former Bad Batch member Crosshair to Desix — once a Separatist-allied planet now rejecting Imperial rule — Cody is starting to have his own doubts about the new galactic order he serves. He’s learned in the months after the end of the Clone Wars that the Empire isn’t really what it claims to be. Are the clones working to topple independent governments and take over peaceful planets really the good guys anymore? It’s clear early in the episode that Cody will eventually have to decide that for himself.
It all comes to a head when a cowardly Imperial officer orders Cody to execute the planet’s governor, Tawni Ames. When Cody hesitates, it’s Crosshair who pulls the trigger, eliminating the “enemy” who they both know was just trying to protect her people from Imperial invaders. While they accomplish their mission, “restoring peace and prosperity” to the planet, Cody’s belief in the Empire as a force for good has been irrevocably shaken.
At the end of the episode, Crosshair learns that Cody has defected from the Empire, his whereabouts unknown. It’s a decision that at the very least begins to redeem a character who was originally best known for turning his back on his friend. The episode makes clear that while the biochip may have robbed him and his fellow clones of a choice in Revenge of the Sith, the life they choose to lead under the Empire is still up to them.
It’s unclear what’s next for Commander Cody in Star Wars, whether he chooses to live in hiding somewhere in the far reaches of the galaxy or joins up with the Bad Batch or Rex in a future mission, but his story is likely far from over now that he’s set out on a new path.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch season 2 airs weekly on Wednesdays on Disney+.