Star Wars: The Bad Batch Season One Review
As the far far away galaxy’s longest-running series came to an end, there was no doubt that Star Wars: The Clone Wars was going to get some sort of animated spin-off after its finale premiered. With unfinished stories and characters in the pipeline, it did not take long for Lucasfilm and Disney to put George Lucas’ acclaimed pupil Dave Filoni back at the helm of another animated project. Star Wars: The Bad Batch may not have proven itself yet to be a perfect replacement for The Clone Wars, however, it is an intriguing continuation that is just getting started. Star Wars: The Bad Batch’s premiere season is as elegant and entertaining as it is frustrating.
“Embrace other for who they are, for that makes you whole.”Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Season 7 Episode 1
Picking up a few months after the opening arc from the final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, The Bad Batch follows Clone Force 99 as the galaxy is about to be hit by its greatest turning point: the fall of the Republic and rise of the Galactic Empire. As Hunter, Wrecker, Tech, Echo, and Crosshair come to terms with the changes to their universe, the genetically mutated party of clones falls in contact with a mysterious girl named Omega who they must protect. Like Dave Filoni’s earliest Star Wars content, The Bad Batch bounces between being episodic and providing multi-part arcs as it treads a fine line between being enjoyable and appropriate enough for kids yet deep and sophisticated for adults.
On the surface, casual Star Wars viewers may look at The Bad Batch and question whether or not they want to watch a show without the likes of the Jedi, Sith, or even bounty hunters, but anyone who has seen The Clone Wars already knows what the animated army is capable of. They may all have come from the genetics of Jango Fett, but the clone army Lucas and Filoni previously established in their animated television series all are flowing with individuality. Inspired by Delta Squad from 2005’s Star Wars: Republic Commando, the Bad Batch is not just some normal group of clones. Clone Force 99 means business as they traverse the galaxy in search of a new beginning.
Each mutated clone is perpetually flaunting their specific quirks as they all work in tandem. Between Hunter, Wrecker, Tech, and almost the entire cast, the show is bursting with charisma and heart as both the heroes and villains fight through themes of brotherhood and purpose. When the show is pushing forward with building upon the past, present, and future of its cast, it is doing your typical Star Wars wonders: creating lovable characters, heartfelt relationships, and memorable scenes on a beat. Despite its winning players though, season one of The Bad Batch comes with one massive caveat: a lack of equal distribution between focusing on its narrative, providing subquests, and having the occasional sidequest.
“The series juggles admirably a lot, but the focus should have been on progressing Clone Force 99 further.”
The biggest issue with Star Wars: The Bad Batch is its divide between a focus on the overarching main narrative, subquests, and sidequests. A subquest is something that ties into the overarching narrative while a side quest is a portion of time that pays no real impact on the cast or the plot. When The Bad Batch is diving deep into its core story and pushing onwards with its battle against the Empire’s regime, the show is doing wonders. However, when it is not doing that it is simply building relationships between characters or being pure entertainment. The majority of season one is not a complete canon of filler, but it is a shame how the show skimps from focusing on its core narrative piece in the larger picture.
The majority of The Bad Batch’s episodes are sidequests rather than subquests — but really this is also because of the show’s placement in its larger universe. Oftentimes, the series as a whole can feel as if it is trying to be a bridge between Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars: Rebels, and even The Mandalorian. The result is it tends to forget about its true heart; developing Clone Force 99 and its own original characters. While this is not inherently a severe fault, the team behind the series should have cherry-picked what they wanted to include. The Bad Batch does not have too much to carry to the point where it falls apart, yet it clearly is juggling more than it can possibly handle.
Expanding upon a universe and adding more depth to it is always needed, but considering the title of the show and its episode selection, you would think that the clones and Omega would especially get more development time. The series is constantly introducing both old or new players as it attempts to fill in the missing Star Wars gap of how the Empire exactly transitioned from using a clone army made by Kaminoans to everyday volunteer recruits. The result is an execution admirable for long-time followers of Dave Filoni’s work, but something that is equally as frustrating for veterans and new viewers.
That being said, the connections The Bad Batch establishes to its predecessor shows and movies are indeed phenomenal — and quite frankly needed. It really does add another layer to Star Wars lore that has never been explored before. Not only that, but The Bad Batch adds a surprising amount of interconnectivity to its world that many other pieces of Star Wars media tend to mess up on executing. The connections are not just there for fans to point at. They actually build upon Clone Force 99 and their world that has continued to devolve into a two-sided battle between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire. Even when they are exploring the younger days of familiar characters, the connections feel welcoming.
“From a technical standpoint, The Bad Batch continues to thrive from what The Clone Wars did tremendously with.”
Of course, the highlights to mention about The Bad Batch that return from The Clone Wars and Rebels are Kevin Kiner’s high-sounding score that continues to take notes from all across the franchise’s history, the stellar voice cast, and the overall cinematography. Like all the other Star Wars soundtracks the composer has worked on, everything from the warlike drum opening during the title to the recurring usage of synths and Imperial March excerpts for the villains all culminates into another memorable soundtrack from Kiner. Each episode’s score will be stuck in any fan’s head well after they have finished watching an episode.
On top of Kiner’s work though is the spectacular voice cast that provides the show with its true heart and soul. As to be expected, Dee Bradley Baker is giving the Bad Batch his absolute all as he also multitasks an incomprehensible amount of roles. Unsurprisingly, Baker does not just voice the main cast of this show. The man is doing admirable work as he bounces between side characters, other known clones such as Cut and Rex, and even the occasional space animal or two. There are also some notable special guests such as Tom Taylorson and Corey Burton that do a great job even when their characters do not contribute much or make one-time appearances. Not to mention Michelle Ang as Omega is the cherry on top.
Additionally, while the show looks gorgeous, its direction is what really makes it cinematically peak at times. Anyone who has seen The Mandalorian or The Clone Wars knows this but Dave Filoni has always been a storyteller through both words and visuals. When it comes to the latter though, he absolutely always nails bringing eye-popping cinematics to viewers. Whether it’s a lot of detail seeping from the environments, visual keys that help enhance what is going on, or just knowing when to focus on specific character traits and actions, The Bad Batch is always pleasing to look at as it pays careful attention and yearns to make its computer-generated world feel more alive. The animation team has continued to improve the visual style that The Clone Wars attempted to perfect, and The Bad Batch excels with it.
“As frustrating as the storytelling can be, the latest Star Wars series is no doubt off to a great start.”
Star Wars: The Bad Batch may not be as fantastical and well-paced as the later seasons of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, but it still always manages to come off as a show filled with heart and charisma. It is continually entertaining to watch even when it slips from progressing towards its overarching goal. While the series definitely thrives most when it is razor tight on flaunting the rebellion of its genetically mutated clones and their journey to find salvation, it never falls short of being fun to just sit down and watch with every new episode. Even as frustrating as it is due to its abundance of filler, Star Wars: The Bad Batch never fails to provide a great time. After the first season’s finale, hopefully, its sophomore year in 2022 will evolve with a massive jump forward like The Clone Wars and Rebels once did.