This Star Wars: The Bad Batch review contains spoilers.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch Episode 10
This week’s Disney+ blurb offers a promising subject for an episode that mostly lives up to it: “The Bad Batch has their ideology challenged.”
The Clone Wars, The Bad Batch‘s spiritual predecessor, often tried to explore a key element of the Prequel era: there were heroes on both sides of the war. Whether or not that show succeeded isn’t the subject of this review, but The Bad Batch does effectively argue for why the citizens of the Separatist systems are more than their Sidious-adjacent mustache-twirling leaders.
We don’t see humans in the Separatist forces much in general, and the aliens at its head are often portrayed as greedy, corrupt, or bloodthirsty. But it has always been canon that there is a Separatist public somewhere, with average people who have legitimate grievances against the Republic. Padmé was even friends with one of them, Mina Bonteri, a senator who demonstrated some of the concerns of the Separatist civilians in The Clone Wars. But the actual people affected by this war have remained in the background. Even the way the Separatist Senate has been referred to has been inconsistent, with the name sometimes being Separatist Parliament or Separatist Congress until very recently.
The Bad Batch offers some clarity on all of that as the Empire comes to wipe away the distinct identity of Raxus, the capital of the Confederacy of Independent Systems (CIS). Senator Avi Singh (played by Star Trek‘s Alexander Siddig) speaks out against the Empire and is imprisoned and tortured for it, while his trusty protocol droid GS-8 (Fleabag‘s Sian Clifford) reaches out to Cid for help. Meanwhile, Omega, already a veteran at her young age, uses her tactical skills to play strategy games against Cid’s clientele for a hefty pot of money.
The show’s foray into Separatist territory makes for some interesting world-building, albeit quite late in the saga compared to when the CIS was actually a force to be reckoned with. Imperials are definitely using clones as stormtroopers now, and while the Batch are resigned to this, there are still some left-over Clone Wars pains. Echo suspects his fellow clone troopers will care that he’s using a Separatist code to pass the planet’s guards — but they don’t.
Echo is the most skeptical of helping a Separatist, the most convinced the war will go on in some shape or form the way it used to be instead of all of it being rewritten by the Empire. He is still clashing with the rest of the Batch a little bit. Echo’s also the one who reacts the strongest to their client actually being the droid, although the others are also surprised. While I wish some of this had been voiced more clearly instead of being left as subtext, it makes a ton of sense that Echo would be the one most judgmental of their new client. Not only was he a “reg,” but he was used as a living algorithm by the Separatists, his body fitted with the cybernetic jacks he still wears.
The planet Raxus isn’t explored much beyond the government complex, the aforementioned public mostly voiceless. It’s still a pleasure to watch scenes on the planet because it’s so gorgeous though, the buildings washed in soft sunlight. Both the flowers and vines in the streets and the composition of the shots were beautiful. The animation overall remains stellar, and it’s worth watching what characters do in the background: see Echo peering confusedly at Omega’s snacks, or Wrecker being the first to greet Omega on their return to the bar.
This episode both feels distinct from the long sequence on the junk planet but also isn’t filler. Sure, the Batch are still doing this essentially to get paid, and without Omega, there isn’t as much of an emotional center to this episode. But a clash between Echo and the rest of the Batch adds something of a replacement for that.
The major way in which the episode doesn’t live up to its lofty description is with the role of the senator. Siddig plays Avi Singh as soft spoken and polite even in battle. But that’s a matter of affect, not action. He says “you’re going to have to trust me” in a moment of battle, but never gets time to talk about what the experience of any of this has been like for him. What were his grievances against the Republic? Does he believe the Empire is just the same, merely a continuation of the Republic? How does he feel about the defeat of the Separatists? About working with clones? We never really learn any of this, except for the implication that Singh is grateful to have been saved from torture. Instead of a confrontation between Singh and Echo, the two simply have a gentle moment of decision, when Echo convinces Singh he needs to leave his people to live to fight another day.
In the end, the promise of the crew having their “ideology changed” still doesn’t quite pan out. No one gets the chance to voice what their ideology even is, and Echo’s grievance and change of heart are both subtle. But despite that, this feels like a complete episode, albeit as complete as we can expect from the legacy of The Clone Wars. It even serves to move the larger plot along, with Omega paying off the Batch’s debt to Cid. Despite wanting the script to dig in more, this episode was a pleasure to watch.