Star Wars: The Clone Wars Revisited – Part 48: The Bad Batch Pilot Episode

We’re on the final stretch now. The final season of Clone Wars and the one that came back after the long hiatus. And it’s immediately obvious the time did wonders for the visuals of the series. Everything looks like it’s been built from the ground up, including the character models which all look fantastic.

And we start this season with one of the two things I’ve found I enjoy the most throughout the Clone Wars: A clone episode.

Season 7, Episode 01: The Bad Batch

This episode is a lot of fun. Dropping us right into the middle of a battle. This time the Republic is arbitrarily losing, as their success or failure really does seem to swing back and forth like a pendulum based on the needs of the plot. It seems that the Separatists are using some kind of algorithm to perfectly predict the battle strategies of the Clone Army. With predictability being their problem, Cody suggests bringing in a squad of clones who defy all logic: The Bad Batch.

Akin to Delta Squad of the Republic Commando video game, Clone Force 99 are a foursome of clones with very distinct personalities, skills and even appearances. All born with a variety of mutations, the Kaminoians made the uncharacteristic decision to form them into a squad together. Given that their mutations are all actually beneficial, ranging from super strength to superhuman senses.

Seeing this unorthodox team delighting in their work is a ton of fun, as we get several sequences where the camera lazily follows them through a firefight, watching them take platoons of droids apart. Much of the episode comes from the conflict between the Bad Batch and the regular clones, or “Regs” as they call them. While Rex always did take a few points from Anakin in being a bit of a maverick the Bad Batch put even him to shame and seem to enjoy pushing the other clone’s buttons.

The episode ends with Rex learning that the algorithm the Separatists are using might not be an algorithm at all, but his former comrade Echo. Who I knew wasn’t dead after the season 3 episode; The Citadel.

Season 7, Episode 02: A Distant Echo

Following the revelation of the previous episode Anakin, Rex and the Bad Batch launch a mission to Skako Minor, chasing the source of the signal that Rex believes is coming from a still alive Echo. Before that though, we get a pause in the relentless action. Which is unusual for this series. In what has been a very plot driven series, getting the quieter character moments hasn’t happened very often.

Rex covers for Anakin while he has a secret zoom call with a Padme who I am convinced is already pregnant. Just the way the camera shows her in profile and her hand constantly hovering around her stomach. He confides in her about being worried about Rex, to which she points out that Rex never hesitates to help Anakin whenever he is dealing with personal bullshit, and that he should return the favour.

And her point is proven when Obi-Wan shows up and Rex tried to stall him, very poorly might I add. Which is kind of pointless considering Obi-Wan knows full well who Anakin was speaking with. Which follows on from a few episodes ago where Obi-Wan all but admitted that he knew exactly what kind of relationship Anakin had with Padme.

The rest of the episode details the liberation of Echo from the Techno Union base, with the Bad Batch rileing Rex up all along the way. The big moment from this episode for me is the reveal of what has happened to Echo when he is discovered, In a bit of a body horror moment he has been in a cryo pod and has some very slapped together mechanical parts all over him. It’s a grim situation.

Season 7, Episode 03: On Wings of Keeradaks

This episode details the escape from the base holding Echo on Skako Minor and the subsequent battle against the droids that attack the indigenous population in an attempt to recapture their vital asset.

There isn’t a lot to say about this one outside of the Bad Batch being fun to watch again. Echo seems to be in relatively good spirits, despite having the appearance of a cyborg nightmare now. Looking like he’d just been ejected out of the Matrix and having his legs and one of his arms replaced with mechanical prosthesis. He also reveals that while the Techno Union were probing his brain for Republic secrets, the link was a two way street, and now he has a pretty expansive knowledge of their own bank of data.

There isn’t much else to say here.

Season 7, Episode 04: Unfinished Business

In this final episode of the storyline, we see ourselves back to where we were at the start. Mace, Obi-Wan and Anakin are discussing the fact that they’re losing battles on all fronts and this time Echo comes forward with this idea of using the implants the Separatists forced on him against them. Personally, I think it’s a wildly risky move to allow Echo back onto the battlefield this soon after being liberated from his ordeal. But if the situation really is that bad then I guess they really did have no other option.

The Bad Batch along with Echo, Rex and Anakin all infiltrate Trench’s flagship using Echo’s knowledge of droid systems to mask their arrival. Oh yeah, Trench is back again. Although he doesn’t last past the end of this episode. Meanwhile, Mace and Obi-Wan assault a key target on the planet.

Most of the drama of this episode comes from the Bad Batch questioning whether Echo can be trusted, and if the mechanical implants in his brain might have brainwashed him into working against the Republic. There’s a very half-hearted red herring where it seems like Echo might be double-crossing, but it doesn’t carry any weight. There was never any doubt in my mind that Echo was going to pull through.

The result is that the drama and tensions behind the content of these third and forth episodes lacks any real substance. Whether Echo was saveable or not was up for debate. Now they’ve brought him back into the fold, they were never going to turn him bad. And the Republic victory was all but inevitable.

The episode ends with Rex giving Echo his blessing to go and join Clone Squad 99, seeing as how he too is “defective” to some degree compared to the other regular clones in the army. It’s a move that seems difficult for Rex having just reunited with his friend only to have to say goodbye again.

These episodes were fun. The first two definitely carrying more weight and drama than the back end couple. Like I said at the top; in the time since the sixth season ended, the technology and budget behind this series is noticeably larger and the character models look fantastic. We get to see a lot of subtle facial acting from Anakin specifically and it looks real good. The best thing about this episode where the Bad Batch themselves.

Once again, as with certain episodes of The Mandalorian, my watching these episodes seems to be very well timed. As the trailer for the Bad Batch series just dropped the other day. And I am very much looking forard to it.

The Bad Batch are distinct enough from regular clones while also still falling into the cliche tropes of 70s and 80s action movies. There’s the tracker leader who looks like Rambo, the enthusiastic heavy, the standoffish sharpshooter and the nerdy tech guy. Now they’ve got a former PoW cyborg along with them too.

I almost feel like there had to be plans for this spinoff series as soon as this episode was conceived of way back in the years between the 6th and 7th season. It’ll be interesting to see a continuation of this animated Clone Wars world in a setting shortly after the Republic become the Empire.

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