In 2014, there was a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. Those voices belonged to Star Wars fans everywhere and the terror they felt was at the prospect of having no more Clone Wars episodes to watch. Season 6 of the beloved animated show had ended and the story was to be left unfinished. However, come 2020, there was an awakening. The Clone Wars returned with a final season, bringing the story and its characters right up to the events of Revenge of the Sith. But with this ray of light, came an impending darkness, after this, there was again, to be no more…
Thank Filoni this wasn’t the case! The last season of The Clone Wars introduced us to a new team of ‘defective’ clones, each with unique skills and an equally unique method of waging war against the Clankers, The Bad Batch aka Clone Force 99. Not ones to waste genetic material, the Kaminoans built on these ‘defects’, creating a formidable yet unpredictable Special Ops team. Hunter, the leader with enhanced senses, Wrecker, the muscle, Crosshair, the Sniper, Tech. the…er…tech guy and Echo, former ‘Reg’ clone with cybernetic abilities. Think of all the crazy and heroic feats various clones have performed throughout the previous series and condense them into a single team. They were an instant hit with fans so it was no surprise that a spin-off series was announced. The time has arrived to discover what a group of clones, who are already seen as outsiders, will do in the aftermath of the Clone War.
WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD!
Settle in for a long one, with a 75-minute run time, the first episode has a lot going on. Things get off to a running start and the warm “this is Clone Wars” feeling comes flooding back as soon as Tom Kane’s introductory ‘War correspondent’ narration chimes in, setting the scene for the audience. We see a familiar sight of a Jedi, and her Padawan, flanked by some Clone Troopers, but there is something a little bit special about these scenes. The Jedi is Depa Billaba, and her young student, none other than Caleb Dune, who fans will know, grows up to be Kanan Jarrus, star of the Rebels TV show. Already we are being spoiled, especially as Freddie Prinze Jr returns to voice young Caleb. The group are being overwhelmed by Separatist forces but never fear, Clone Force 99 are the reinforcements! Hunter, Wrecker, Crosshair, Tech and the new team member Echo absolutely decimate the enemy forces and all seems well.
Readers of Star Wars comics may start to get a bad feeling at this point, what happens next is ripped straight from the pages of Kanan: The Last Padawan. Order 66 hits, the Clones turn and Master Billaba attempts to fend them off long enough for Caleb to escape. Just as devastating as the parallel scenes seen in ROTS, it hits hard, but we know Caleb is going to be ok. But what of Clone Force 99? The Order doesn’t appear to have affected them, at least for the most part. Hunter and Crosshair chase Caleb into the forest to try and figure out what’s going on, but as is typical for a Jedi on the run, things keep getting worse. Crosshair, following orders for once, tries to shoot Caleb on more than one occasion, only failing due to Hunter’s interference. Ultimately, Hunter allows the Padawan to escape, telling his teammate that he fell to his death. Already within the first few minutes of the episode we have a galaxy spanning disaster, cracks appearing in the team and more questions than answers. And breathe!
The pace of the episode slows for a while as the team return home to Kamino. There is a general sense of unease as they encounter beefed up security, new clearance procedures and seeing the body of a Jedi being carried through the corridor is undoubtedly going to set off alarm bells. The cracks in the team start to widen as they talk about what just occurred. Hunter is suspicious of everything, Crosshair has no qualms about killing the Jedi, Wrecker refuses to believe he has been programmed and Tech has very quickly surmises that the Clones have been programmed to respond to a certain order against the Jedi but because of their own ‘defects’ it didn’t trigger a response in them. The extent of Echo’s injuries must have had a similar nullifying effect.
This for me is where the episode gets really good, there isn’t much action, bar a brief mess hall scuffle, but we see these characters struggling to adapt to a new galaxy, they were built for war and now that war has ended. Where do they fit in this new regime? What do you do when the world you know drastically changes and nothing makes sense anymore? We get introduced to a mysterious new character; a young girl called Omega. She is just a medical assistant apparently, but will undoubtedly be more important as the season moves on. Things are further complicated by the arrival of Admiral Tarkin, come to evaluate the clones and ultimately decide whether to shut down production entirely in favour of conscription from the wider galaxy. The presence of Tarkin is always a bad omen! The team get to show what they’re made of in their ‘evaluation’, even in the face of live-fire, they defy the odds, finishing their droid opponents with an incredibly awesome move which I won’t spoil here!
Ultimately, it’s clear that Clone Force 99 days are numbered. Tarkin knows Hunter let Caleb escape so giving them an opportunity to prove themselves useful, Tarkin sends them off to eliminate some insurgents. Despite the warnings of Omega, who has overheard Tarkin’s dislike of Clones, the team follow their orders only to discover they have been sent to kill a group of Republic loyalists led by another Clone Wars alumnus, Saw Gerrera! Not wanting to spill the blood of innocents, Hunter lets them go which of course lands them in the brig when they return to Kamino. After a slow meandering middle, the episode comes to a close rather swiftly. Omega helps the team escape their cell, Crosshair betrays the team and sides with the Empire and after a brief fight they get away, with Omega in tow. Oh yeah, and Omega is confirmed to be another defective clone. Is she the only female clone in existence? The Bad Batch now need to find a safe haven and some friends, but don’t worry, Hunter knows a guy!
Bad Batch or Bad Watch?
It feels like a classic Clone Wars episode and that will always be a good thing. One of the best things about the previous series were the episodes that showed the perspective of the clones, instead of just focusing on the swashbuckling Jedi. This show looks to continue that theme and is bringing the relationships between the main characters to forefront. Clone Force 99 are by their nature ‘outcasts’ and could only ever trust themselves. The betrayal of one of their own has shaken them to their core and may result in further conflict in the future. However, the polarising presence of the young, naive Omega may be what the team desperately needs.
Will this be more of a family adventure show as the group bond with the new addition? What is so special about Omega? Who can the team trust? Why does Hunter look like John Rambo? Will Filoni and co manage to maintain the balance between character development and pew pew pew? I have no doubt we are in for something special. The only downside to this episode that I was conscious of was how long it is. This could quite easily have been split into two and the flow would have been maintained.
That said, if you liked The Clone Wars, watch this, you will not be disappointed, and remember “A good solider follows orders”.