The Bad Batch
This is a rather frustrating episode of The Bad Batch, because it showcases the best and the worst of the series. “Metamorphosis” teases some big changes to the status quo — changes that the show has been hinting at all season and that make sense for the story being told — and pushes all that aside, which is both a shame and not out of the ordinary for the series. And yet, though the episode punts on the big-picture stuff, the adventure of the week is so effective at doing something different (yet similar) in the Star Wars universe that it’s hard not to simply enjoy the ride for what it is.
We start onboard a broken Imperial ship that has crash landed on an unknown planet. A lone clone commando (without a doubt the coolest clone-armor design, from the video game Republic Commando) is inside a dark alleyway before he’s killed by an unseen alien creature. We then cut to our new Imperial bad guy, Dr. Hemlock, who seems to be taking over for Rampart after Palpatine threw him under the bus. Hemlock is overseeing some special cloning research for good old Emperor Palpatine, and he wants the help of a familiar face — Nala Se, the main Kaminoan scientist in charge of the cloning program. Except the doctor is not so eager to help the Empire after they destroyed her home and her civilization. It doesn’t matter what Hemlock says to convince her; Nala Se knows what Palpatine wants with cloning, and she won’t help.
Meanwhile, Cid contacts the Batch — who are not happy about how she left them stranded with no ship. Omega feels betrayed, and she lets Cid know in a scene that’s been two seasons in the making. Sadly, as Tech later explains, they can’t simply sever ties with her because she knows too much about the Batch. Instead, they agree to do one last job, which they force Cid into paying them more for — a simple scavenging of a lost crash-landed ship.
What follows is a fantastic horror-centric episode, one aided by the always great Kevin Kiner, who delivers a fantastic atmospheric score that helps build dread as the Batch slowly makes its way through the eerie corridors of the abandoned ship. Not that Star Wars hadn’t done horror before (The Clone Wars had a zombie episode and an H.R. Giger–inspired episode), but this is a full-on Alien homage, and it rules. Honestly, it is kind of infuriating, because I cannot be mad at a show that keeps promising it is about to be done with adventures of the week if it also delivers a spooky episode with a Xenomorph-looking alien with big teeth and seemingly no eyes sneaking around a spaceship.
Turns out this is no Xenomorph but a familiar creature, one that Tech reminds us already wreaked havoc in Coruscant when it attacked the city-planet’s power grid — the Zillo Beast! What makes this behemoth scary is that it not only looks and acts like a Xenomorph but feeds off energy. And the more it consumes the bigger it grows, as it evolves like a Pokémon. As Tech discovers, the Empire cloned it in order to experiment with the creature’s DNA, hoping to make weapons and armor that have the Zillo Beast’s strong resistance to blaster fire.
The moment they realize this is a fight they can’t win, Hunter orders a retreat. Sadly, they also blow open a hole in the ship trying to escape and let the Zillo Beast free near a town, where it drains their power and grows larger and larger. That’s right, this is not just an Alien homage but also a kaiju episode, and that rules. For a hot second, the episode even makes it look like a good and triumphant moment when the Empire battalions show up, until they start chasing after the Batch and rounding up every resident of the village because they saw the Zillo Beast. It is a simple yet incredibly dark moment later on when a commando says the citizens will be “dealt with.”
It turns out Palpatine himself ordered the cloning of the Zillo, but way before he became the Emperor. This was during the Clone Wars, and Tech speculates Palpatine knew of the potential of turning the beast into a weapon if they got the right scientist for the job. This means the Empire did not destroy Kamino to get rid of cloning — they did it so they could become the only ones with cloning equipment.
At the end of the episode, Hunter decides to deliver all data to Rex and Echo to see what they find, but will they really stay on the sideline? Probably not, but not for the reasons we might have hoped. We cut back to Dr. Hemlock as he receives another guest from Kamino — the former prime minister, Lama Su. He agrees to help the Empire convince Nala Se to join the research in exchange for his own freedom. His suggestion? Seek out a female clone, the key to controlling Nala Se.
Having the bad guys be obsessed with capturing Omega yet again is kind of the weakest possible way to bring the Batch into the larger story. But who knows? Maybe that won’t matter because we’ll still get standalone episodes. Hopefully they are as thrilling as this one.
The Mission Report
• Time to speculate what Palpatine wants from the cloning research. Is this another Death Star thing? Or perhaps the first tease of his attempts at cloning himself, tying into the plot of The Rise of Skywalker?