This Star Wars: The Bad Batch review contains spoilers.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch Episode 9
It sounds over-the-top, but it’s true: revelations and surprises propelled this week’s round of clone adventure stories. “Bounty Lost” features excellent bounty hunter action and a pleasant focus on Omega (not just what she is, but what choices she makes when she’s on her own). Sure, some revelations feel more like duds, but overall, it’s an episode that certainly isn’t afraid to move the plot forward, and returning characters and a real sense of threat keep it exciting.
Cad Bane has captured Omega. While the rest of the Bad Batch tries to catch up, she offers to help Bane’s hassled droid, Todo 360, as a way to escape her cell, but she’s too late. Bane delivers Omega to an abandoned floating installation on the planet Bora Vio, where he’s supposed to meet up with Taun We (the Kaminoan aide who ushered Obi-Wan Kenobi into the cloning labs in Attack of the Clones).
Interestingly, there’s a bit of a schism between the Kaminoans: finally Nala Se has done what she seemed likely to do and thrown in her lot with Omega, openly defying Prime Minister Lama Su’s orders to recover the girl dead or alive. Fennec Shand is also in the mix to recover “the asset.” While she and Bane clash, Omega makes her escape, rescuing herself and returning to the clones to learn what they already know: the Kaminoans want her because she’s an unmodified clone of Jango Fett, like Boba, and therefore just what the cloners need to get their share of Imperial credits.
Let’s talk about that Omega reveal first. There are two angles here: is this surprising, engaging storytelling? And, is this a good look for a show that has faced criticism throughout for minimizing the fact that Jango Fett, the original clone template, was modeled on a Maori man with darker skin than most of the animated clones? The answer to the latter is a resounding no. Why does Omega look like she does, with fair hair and fair skin? Sure, it wouldn’t have been much of a surprise if a girl who looks exactly like Jango Fett turned out to be a clone of Jango Fett. But referring to a blonde girl as the “pure” version of a brown man doesn’t seem like a great social message.
As far as a dramatic beat goes, the reveal that the Kaminoans want Omega because she’s pure Fett DNA (like Rex, the “generation one” she spotted right away) is a puzzle piece gently slotting in. No hanging off the side of a seemingly endless drop for this parental revelation; instead, it’s delivered to both the clones and Omega in quiet conversation.
A lot of things in this episode felt like confirmations of hints that make the the story more solid. Now we know Omega’s origins, who’s on which side in the Kaminoan infighting (RIP Taun We), who sent Fennec, and a little more about how the cloners do business. (Those vats looked a bit like they could hold Palpatine clones, but on closer inspection appear to be a variety of aliens, including the obvious Kaminoan.) And that’s okay; the show seems more focused now. Funny that it happened in an episode without most of the main cast.
Yes, this is the Omega episode. It’s neat that her mouse-and-lion story doesn’t really end in the “help your enemies” lesson. Omega’s kindness doesn’t sway the droid Todo 360; instead, she tackles him to get where she needs to go. Her positive view of the world, while a nice part of the character I wouldn’t want to see completely removed, doesn’t always guarantee the people around her will reciprocate. She takes control of her own situation, and I’m impressed with the way the show balances her capability (she’s a child!) with letting her make her own choices. She does the job herself, and the range of emotions she shows here, from her anger at Cad to her confusion at the answer to her parentage, makes her feel more like a complete character. The little bit we get of the other clones is pretty nice, too, with Hunter doing his job as leader clearly under the heavy burden of knowing how much he cares about the girl. But Wrecker being the one to reunite with her first was a delight.
That brings us to the other stars of the show, Cad Bane and Fennec Shand. In a series where some of the best bounty hunters gain their longevity in the fandom by simply looking cool, it’s great to see a scene with visually arresting characters who also do things. Both Bane and Shand hit hard and ooze personality, from Bane’s Western stylings to Shand’s steely focus. The sound effects in that fight were great, from punches hitting to blasters firing, as were the way blaster bolts left visible scars on the walls. The variety of weapons and tactics they used kept up the energy of the scene so well.
I also really believed the show might kill Cad Bane, whose plot armor exists only in the form of unproduced The Clone Wars scripts. He was supposed to appear in a story where he would team up with and then battle Boba Fett, leading to a duel that seemingly resulted in the metal plate now on Bane’s head. The episode has real stakes, both physical (the bounty hunters, Omega) and emotional (Omega’s attempt to appeal to Todo 360’s good nature), but Cad Bane survives to continue the hunt.
I do wish Fennec had a bit more characterization, even with the fact that Star Wars bounty hunters are usually like this. Ming-Na Wen has tried gamely to give the character more dimension in a bevy of interviews, but we still don’t even know what planet she’s from.
“Bounty Lost” intersects with Star Wars canon (Fennec, Taun We) nicely without feeling overstuffed with cameos, and gives Omega a chance to shine. Everything is coming together, the show feeling more cohesive. Interesting that it does so in an episode without many of the main characters, and with Omega’s backstory a gentle conversation instead of a major revelation.