This Star Wars: The Bad Batch review contains spoilers.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch Episode 16
The Bad Batch has answered its central question: “What happened to the clones during the Empire?” As with many things in Star Wars, the answer is that a lot ended in fire. Like most of the show, it’s fun but inconsequential, a bingeable, cinematic adventure that is lovely to watch on a big screen the first time and starts to get stale on the second.
Part 1 of the finale saw the Batchers return to their former home, and the Empire open fire. “Kamino Lost,” directed by Saul Ruiz and written by Jennifer Corbett, returns to them in an even worse spot. Now, they need to escape a crumbling city that has fallen all the way to the ocean floor (or at least an outcropping of the underwater tunnels). As they make their tense way toward the surface, they’re forced into close proximity to team traitor Crosshair, who tries to convince them of his righteousness while the team wonders whether he’s still under the influence of the chip that made Order 66 work.
Kamino is the clones’ homeworld, and its loss signals another one of the many ends of the Prequel era. This is the place where they all were born and trained, where they made friends. It’s not a bad choice for a finale that maybe knows some of Star Wars‘ best lately (The Clone Wars, Rogue One) ended in tragedy. But I wish we saw a bit more of the clones reacting here initially instead of the show using music and distant views to rather artificially create that sense of loss. Sure, they don’t have a lot of time. But this show has always been good at gesture, which here is spare. (I do love the image of Hunter ending Crosshair’s fall with his foot, trying to save his brother but not being excessively nice about it.)
Overall, the animation is gorgeous, explosions of water, glass and debris like a demo reel of just what the art teams can do now. Omega’s hair alone is a marvel, as is the clutter and texture of the clones’ surroundings.
And later, when they find their own quarters, the pathos ramps up, as does the action. As much as I love a creature feature, and the water keeps the pressure on, it’s all not particularly memorable. It’s certainly claustrophobic and tense, though, especially the clones nearly drowning in pods never meant to be rescue ships. While heavily telegraphed, AZI-3’s contribution was especially frightening.
Although she’s not exactly complicated, I do love that Omega’s motivations are so selfless and heroic. She just wants to help people, and that means everyone, from AZI to Crosshair. At best, she reminds me of Star Wars Rebels‘ Ezra Bridger; she has her own quirky weapon, her own affiliation (clones instead of Jedi and animals), and a good-hearted energy that’s just fun to watch. The show has done it right in giving her her own relationships, beliefs and agency, while also making her connection to her brothers clear. Still, she might have to grow up a bit before she can truly arrive on a list of the best Star Wars heroes.
As for Crosshair, his motivations finally become a bit clearer. “All those missions together, and you threw it away,” Crosshair accuses. “We made a choice. And so did you,” Hunter replies. Hunter argues for independent thought, while Crosshair believes following orders keeps soldiers alive. Crosshair’s ambiguity in the first episode bothered me, and still weakens the plot: did he remove his chip or not? Whether or not a character made a choice on their own is really important, and in my opinion doesn’t work as a twist to be withheld. We do get more of his motivation here, and I like the idea that at the core he does want to protect people (and himself) in his own way. A clever coward, he thinks the Empire will protect him. It’s neat how everything else about the episode shows that it won’t.
Some of my favorite dialogue in the episode addresses this. “Crosshair has always been severe and unyielding,” Tech says. The team computer guy then remains one of my favorite characters with the line “Understanding you does not mean I agree with you.” Like any good villain, Crosshair has a twisted version of the truth: he sees the Empire as the future.
He also doesn’t like Omega. There’s an interesting parallel between them: while her first major act on the show was to try to find her “brothers,” Crosshair never really felt attached to anyone: not to his brothers, not to Kamino. His rootlessness has made him cold. This rings true in a way that helps both of them feel both more like real people and like a more coherent moral underpinning for the show.
AZI is a delightful addition, and I’m glad he became a major part of the crew for the finale. What can I say? He’s a chipper little droid who’s good at welding his way out of problems.
Ultimately, I think The Bad Batch failed to engage with questions about the clones in a lot of ways. What harm did the Republic also do to them? How does Echo being a “reg” change how he develops? What future do the Batchers really want for themselves? The ethics of cloning people for war, the optics of a show about brown men voiced by a white actor … it’s just not interested. At the same time, a show about mostly men has done a great job making its lone female character complex and capable. It’s still possible to address deeper questions in a secondary-world cartoon, even as The Bad Batch functions pretty much as a sequel to the equally self-contained The Clone Wars.
Already renewed for a second season, it’s perhaps too early to say how The Bad Batch will age. But it makes me think of Star Wars Resistance, a show with some passionate fans and accomplished animation experiments that nevertheless doesn’t go down in history as the best Star Wars has to offer. Even if The Bad Batch does fill in a major hole in the clones’ stories.