This Star Wars: The Bad Batch review contains spoilers.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch Episode 8
One of the most creative episodes of Star Wars Rebels was “Through Imperial Eyes,” which did exactly what the title says. Using a first-person point of view, it opens with Rebel spy Kallus contemplating his day behind enemy lines. “Reunion,” written by Steward Lee and directed by Christian Taylor, ends a somber episode with a similar switch of point of view. It feels right. While the cast still feels too large for the story they’re trying to tell, the tone and visuals shine in “Reunion.”
Throughout, the episode commits to a rewarding seriousness. The Bad Batch are still in the starship graveyard, and so are Crosshair’s stormtroopers. (Admiral Rampart, the proto-Imperial with almost no characterization, also makes a brief appearance.) The stormtroopers chase the clones through the ruined ship, cornering them inside one of the engines until Tech and Wrecker blast the entire nozzle off the ship. But in the end, the bounty hunter Cad Bane gets the upper hand, wounding Hunter and snatching Omega away. It turns out he’s the Kaminoans’ backup plan to get their asset back, and it’s working better than clones or the stormtroopers.
The flare of the first-person camera adds a lot to the tense finale, while the action also benefits from the mix of chaos and echoing beats that come from both Crosshair and the Bad Batch giving orders in the same cadence. In fact, it’s a good episode overall for tense standoffs. The action doesn’t feel like a yarn or even particularly like a cartoon. The sequences are staccato and dramatic, things happening in unexpected bursts. (The exception is Wrecker throwing some stormtroopers off a ledge, a satisfying and funny payoff to his fear of heights.)
The episode takes itself quite seriously. But does that actually translate to content fans can dig into, or to high-flying Star Wars adventure and charm? So-so.
Watching The Bad Batch has been a bit like listening to an acquaintance explain to you what’s happening in their Dungeons & Dragons game. Now, there’s a time and place for this, and I check in on some good friends’ D&D characters once in a while quite happily. But if it’s someone you don’t know well? It’s a story without any emotional investment. It’s a story someone clearly loves, but they’re also inside of it, invested in it in quite a literal way, in a way you’re just not. To get back to the Batch, there is no B plot in “Reunion,” which makes it feel a little bit empty. The characters move from point A to point B with aplomb, but the characters still lack the camaraderie of Rebels to me, or the universal, archetypal feeling of the Original Trilogy (and to a lesser extent, Anakin’s and Rey’s stories).
Last episode I mentioned wanting more from Hunter (to set me up for heartbreak when he’s inevitably separated from Omega) and from Echo (the other newcomer to the group). Unfortunately, Hunter didn’t have time to really feel enough like a person. Omega still has more in common with Wrecker, and the one moment of connection between them in “Reunion” isn’t quite enough to make the father-daughter dynamic pop.
Omega herself gets some more careful interiority. I really enjoy her looking glumly out over the starship graveyard, clearly thinking about the overwhelming number of losses and achievements it represents, and asking Tech what the war was like. Because he’s Tech, his answer is cold. They’re walking a fine line with Tech, making him neither too literal nor too socially inept, neither too comedic nor too dark. He’s the doubter, not undermining the rest of the group but not sugar-coating things either. (And unlike Wrecker, I’m interested in his info-dumping about the novel coating on that ion engine.)
Omega also continues to believe Crosshair can be saved, but the rest of the squad not so much. The silence after she asks whether Crosshair would really try to burn his old comrades to death is telling.
As for Echo, he finally differentiates himself a little. As a regular clone (and one who just received a fresh reminder of his origins from Rex), he’s more wedded to the idea of duty to an ideal than the rest of the Batch are. He’s more invested in the meaning of being a soldier. I like how that contrasts with Hunter’s willingness to salvage Republic ordinance to pay off their debt to Cid.
While Wrecker and Omega continue to steal the show character-wise, both the sound and color reach a next level of polish. I’ve been watching these episodes on a computer screen lately, but made a note to see this one on the TV later just for the pleasure of looking at the backgrounds. They’re dark, dull colors, but they pop and are very readable, and bristle with detail. Especially the scale of the decommissioned engine the Batch slide down into deserves to be seen on a larger screen. The artists are really using the wideness and complexity of the setting to their advantage.
The appearance of quickdraw bounty hunter Cad Bane near the end of the episode solidifies The Bad Batch as The Clone Wars 2: but at least this time they know how to tell long-running stories. While there was a lot of speculation among fans about who would cameo this week, the title was a bit of a bait-and-switch. The Batch has never encountered Bane before, and so the “Reunion” of the title refers to Crosshair. Bane is, however, as cool as you thought he was before, his gurgling voice and Western swagger (complete with music) catapulting The Bad Batch for a moment into a different genre. He’s thoroughly fine, a bounty hunter doing bounty hunter things.
In fact, all the villains so far are just okay, whether that’s cookie cutter Imperial Rampart, nasal-voiced Crosshair, or Cad Bane and his accompanying guitars. Half a season later, The Bad Batch continues to be a sometimes short-sighted spectacle.