The Bad Batch
Animated Star Wars shows always escalate slowly. They tend to start out a bit tame and lighthearted, slowly but surely growing until they reach a thrilling and mature finale. This makes comparing a new show to the old ones a very foolish endeavor because people tend to remember where the cartoons ended, not where they started. We all know how great the Siege of Mandalore arc of the final season of The Clone Wars was and how emotional the ending of Rebels was.
The Bad Batch may be set in a dark, complicated time period, but it hasn’t reached the complexity of those two shows. Still, this current season is definitely better and more focused than the first, and it is offering some small but significant variations on stories we’ve seen before, focusing on a new perspective that makes this world feel more lived-in.
Case in point? Other Star Wars titles have dealt with Jedi survivors of Order 66 before, including Obi-Wan Kenobi, Rebels, and even Jedi: Fallen Order. The thing is, these all focused on the perspective of the Jedi themselves, showing them in hiding or being persecuted. And that is what makes this episode of The Bad Batch crucial to showing why this show is worth watching. Unfortunately, it also makes it kind of frustrating.
“Tribe” starts with the Batch doing a trade with the Vanguard Axis clan, a group of all-droid pirates and smugglers. After the riot-racing episode gave us the biggest droid jerk we’ve ever seen, this episode makes me want a whole spinoff about the Vanguard Axis. If Lucasfilm wants to do something completely different, why not give us a show about a band of droid smugglers who kill and trade in organics but actually treat other droids with respect?
Unsurprisingly, the deal goes wrong when Omega hears a wookiee whimper, and she decides to help set him free, which starts a fight with the droids. Turns out this is no mere wookiee, but a Jedi. And not just any Jedi, mind you: This is Gungi — whom we first met on The Clone Wars as a youngling. After the Batch escapes with Gungi onboard, he immediately hides from the clones, staying quiet and untrusting in a corner. When asked by Omega, Tech says he too would be cautious if facing the very clones who were given the order to execute the Jedi.
What makes this plotline work so well is that this isn’t an A-list — or even B- or C-list — Jedi master, a known, powerful figure who can take care of themself. Instead, we get a youngling, and one who cannot perfectly communicate with the Batch. Gungi never attacks or even blames the Batch for the role the clones played in exterminating the Jedi, yet the clones feel all that pain and guilt nonetheless. We’ve seen Order 66 flashbacks, and we’ve seen the effects it had on the Jedi, but now we’re seeing it play out from the very people who ended the Jedi. Except the Batch didn’t actually participate in Order 66, and therein lies part of the problem.
As much as The Bad Batch plays with the idea of the trauma the clones have gone through and continue to go through during the early days of the Empire, the show argued over and over again that the Batch see themselves as different from the “regular” clones. Sure, they looked a bit shocked when they saw other clones carry out Order 66 (which they were immune to), but they never really felt like they were a part of that travesty. Nor did they feel much sympathy for their brothers who were forced against their will to commit such an atrocity. Granted, it is entirely possible — and rather likely, given the first episode of this season — that The Bad Batch will explore this narrative potential as the show goes on. Hopefully the Batch encountering a living Jedi and fighting to save him will ignite more conversations about whether they should be doing more to save their brothers and redeem the clones.
This episode also explores (albeit briefly) a fascinating idea that was also only touched in The Clone Wars — the Jedi literally are kidnapped children. When the Batch brings Gungi to his home of Kashyyyk, they see how shockingly little the wookiee remembers about his home world and his people, having been taken away as a mere child. Sadly, we don’t have enough time to explore this in the episode, but it is yet another indictment of the Jedi.
When the Batch and Gungi arrive in Kashyyyk, they fear a few Imperial outposts, but what they find is a mostly desolate planet. Many of its giant forests have been burnt down and Trandoshans are hunting wookiees and setting fire to their homes. The Imperial occupation of the wookiee home world is a huge part of the Star Wars story, but we’ve only seen bits and pieces of it in the canon. We saw some enslaved wookiees in Solo: A Star Wars Story, and the Imperial mining posts on the planet in Jedi: Fallen Order. This episode shines a light on this dark part of the timeline by showing how few wookiee villages are left, how cruel and senseless the Imperial attacks on the planet are, and the tragedy of their enslavement.
Knowing the Empire is going to be mighty interested in the Jedi they’re hiding, the Batch and the wookiee tribe fight back. But first, they pray to the trees of Kashyyyk for help — and like the mighty Eywa, the trees respond and enact a foolproof plan. As for the actual battle, it continues to show that The Bad Batch has some of the best cinematography in an American cartoon, showing you can never go wrong with the sight of a lightsaber and blaster fire in the fog. Between the Trandoshans’ tanks and flamethrowers, the wookiees and the clones fighting together, and a Jedi, the battle feels like classic Clone Wars. And as if praying to the trees for help doesn’t give you enough Pandora vibes, the fight ends with some spider creatures we saw earlier in the episode coming to the rescue and killing the Trandoshan leader, as if sent by Eywa herself.
We end the episode with Hunter seemingly finding a new purpose — he wants to make sure Omega is able to live a normal childhood far away from war. This may prove to be a pivotal moment for the Batch, where they realize that just because they are not like the other clones, it doesn’t mean they aren’t equally complicit in the rise of the Empire. And if they don’t do something to fight back, there won’t be anywhere where Omega will be safe. In conclusion, wookiees rule and the franchise is always better when they’re around.
The Mission Report
• I haven’t really taken the time to explicitly praise Kevin Kiner’s soundtrack in these recaps so far, but it remains spectacular. The use of “Anakin’s Betrayal” from Revenge of the Sith is particularly inspiring, instantly evoking memories of Order 66 without the need for a flashback.
• Watching this episode and realizing how important the canon has given to the occupation of Kashyyyk, it makes me sad to think we almost could have got wookiees fighting the Empire in Return of the Jedi.