This Star Wars: The Clone Wars review contains spoilers.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 7 Episode 1
The first entry in the seventh season of The Clone Wars, a show no one ever expected would make a comeback, has in fact been out since April 2015. The Bad Batch arc was first screened at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim as a nearly-completed work-in-progress that never saw the light of day. Its re-emergence as a finished product illustrates the unlikely story of The Clone Wars revival, and a boost in animation quality makes the arc perhaps better than it would ever have been five years ago.
You’ll find a bit of this familiarity throughout The Clone Wars‘ final season. While some of the stories cover brand new territory, others, like the Siege of Mandalore and the Bad Batch, have been circulating as concept art and quasi-canon stories for years. Making the Bad Batch arc the first arc of season seven is an interesting choice, and the show’s strengths and weaknesses are certainly on display in this first chapter. Jedi and clones banter and destroy droids in inventive ways, while the least interesting parts come from the new characters.
I watched the Bad Batch arc (four episodes in total when originally released) back in 2015 and was unhappy with the one-note, unfunny characters. Fortunately, season seven’s revised “The Bad Batch” is a much more palatable and enjoyable finished product.
The central push of “The Bad Batch” comes from the clone trooper Captain Rex, who is stationed with Anakin Skywalker at Fort Anaxes. He has reason to suspect that his old comrade-in-arms, Echo, who was thought dead, is still alive and being held captive by the Separatists for information on Republic strategy. That would explain how the droid army has been countering Rex’s moves so effectively.
In order to get to the bottom of this and infiltrate enemy lines in the most unpredictable way possible, Rex recruits — wait for it — the Bad Batch. They’re quirky clones, each with their own powers: superhuman strength, an uncanny sniper’s eye, etc. And they don’t get along very well with “regs,” aka baseline clones.
In true Prequel spirit, the stakes are somehow both extremely obscure and quite clear. Droids have taken the Republic’s main production facility, which could be a turning point in the Clone Wars if the Republic can’t get it back. Yet, Anaxes is just one arm of the galaxy-spanning war. This complexity throws the viewer right into the middle of the war, giving the sense that you’re coming in in the middle of the story in fine Star Wars fashion.
Anaxes itself previously appeared in Star Wars Rebels, the titular freedom fighters exploring the base long after the Old Republic had left it to rust. In “The Bad Batch,” the fort is bustling. A show that has always been good with color schemes is now positively painterly. The Clone Wars has received an animation makeover in general for its new season and nowhere is it more apparent than in the wealth of characters in the background of scenes. The clone and droid armies both look massive.
Another big highlight of the episode is the music. Booming timpani and bold brass propel the story along. It’s John Williams-like enough to evoke Star Wars and fresh enough not to fade into the background. The direction too is remarkable, especially during action scenes. The camera follows the characters in interesting, confident sweeps that show the new season’s emphasis on choreography.
The Bad Batch characters themselves are still my least favorite part of the episode. They introduce themselves with cracking knuckles and dramatic but stilted monologues. Each character is distinct, but they’re no Moff Gideon when it comes to stealing the scene. The heavy hitter of the squad, Wrecker, particularly feels significantly more cartoonish than anything else in this episode. But the Bad Batch server their purpose, delivering satisfying action scenes and giving us a new look into what clone society and rivalries within it are like.
At their best, the Bad Batch team feels like a roster of video game heroes. At one point, we see the battlefield through the eyes of another Bad Batch-er, Crosshair, as he zooms in on a droid with his sniper rifle and nails a droid right in the head. The scene is exactly as satisfying as playing a first-person shooter game. The sound effects complement the scene perfectly too, with clear, pinging blaster screams.
Overall, “The Bad Batch” is a strong start. Action remains a strong suit of The Clone Wars, with energetic battles and heroic moments that leave you rooting for the Republic. Other episodes of The Clone Wars go deeper into the shady politics of the Republic, and in “The Bad Batch,” a mention of clones “putting down an insurrection” is dropped in as a clue that not all is quite right about the Republic’s mission.
Both the script and Dee Bradley Baker’s voice acting make Rex’s attachment to Echo convincing and moving. The series as a whole is about how a years-long war changes the people fighting in it, and, more specifically, about the day-to-day of being a clone born bred fight and kill. “The Bad Batch” effectively reintroduces this narrative and demonstrates some of the reasons why fans find The Clone Wars so much fun in the first place.