THE CLONE WARS IS BACK!!!
Seven years after the show was cancelled, and six years after the previous season, the show made a triumphant return today with a seventh and final season of the beloved show.
The first arc of the season, which began today with episode one, is actually something we’ve seen before. Years ago this arc was released online via unfinished storyreels, and though some changes were made, the general plotline is the same. But seeing the episode finished was thrilling, and the animation is absolutely incredible.
Let’s dive in to our review of the first episode of the season, “The Bad Batch.”
The Republic fights on Anaxes, but struggles to gain control. Jedi Generals Mace Windu and Anakin Skywalker discuss the state of things in their command base on the planet, realizing things aren’t going well. That’s when Commander Cody and Captain Rex approach the Generals, and Rex divulges that the Separatists are using analytics to evaluate and react to Republic moves. Rex explains that the first time they use a move it is successful, but not so much after that. He concludes that the Separatists know his playbook, which worries Cody – since Rex is one of their best, if the Separatist army can detect his moves, they’re all in trouble. They propose taking a strike team to retrieve intel behind enemy lines, which Windu allows. Anakin suspiciously asks Rex if there’s anything else he’d like to add, and the Captain says there isn’t.
Back in his quarters, however, we find out that Rex actually suspects more. He sits reflecting on a picture showing Echo, Fives, and Hevy, lamenting the casualties of war. But then he tells Cody that he suspects Echo is actually alive! Rex says that he and Echo devised these tactics that the Separatists now seem to know so well. Cody brushes that off as impossible, and he explains that they’re going to be taking clone force 99 on their mission behind enemy lines.
Clone force 99, also called “the Bad Batch”, then arrives at the base, and Cody introduces the other clones to the Bad Batch, a squad of clone troopers with desirable genetic mutations: Hunter, Wrecker, Tech, and Crosshair. Together with Cody, Rex, Jesse, and Kix, the Bad Batch sets off on their mission. Not long into their trip, however, their gunship is shot down by the droid army. Cody is wounded, but Wrecker rescues him by lifting up the entire gunship and freeing the Commander. Soon the droids approach, and the Bad Batch springs into action. Rather than letting the droids come to them (like Rex recommends), the Bad Batch charges the droids, working together to take them all out.
That night at their camp, the regular clones (“regs”) and the Bad Batch get into a heated argument, but Hunter persuades the group that they’re all fighting for the same side and says that they’ll follow Rex. Kix stays behind with Cody waiting for an evac, while the others forge ahead. They soon come to an outpost and decide to take it by charging head-on (this time it was Rex’s idea), and they make quick work of the outpost. They detect droid reinforcements approaching, so they move on to their main target: the cyber center. The Bad Batch goes around back and infiltrates the center while Rex and Jesse battle out front, until Hunter and Wrecker come help them. They fend off the droids while Crosshair retrieves a transport. Echo and Rex, meanwhile, work on the computers to find out what’s going on. Rex’s suspicions are confirmed that it’s Echo’s algorithm in use… but he learns that it’s actually a live being, which shares its’ name as CT-1409, located on Skako Minor.
As the clones flee, Admiral Trench is informed that a contact was made with Skako Minor, which alarms him greatly. While the clones are on their way back, Crosshair asks Rex what it all meant. Rex tells him: Echo is alive.
While I was unconditionally excited about the return of The Clone Wars, I did wonder how much I would enjoy these first episodes after knowing the general storyline already. Well, if one episode is any indication, I’ll enjoy it a whole lot! I found myself simply enjoying the action and intrigue, and none of that was lost on me. It was an awesome episode.
And the first thing about it that I want to mention is that the animation and production quality is just so incredible. When we last saw The Clone Wars the production and animation was good, but this episode just took things to a whole new level. Everything about it, from the lighting to the camera work to the sounds to the music (and moments without it) to the staging, was perfect. I mean, seriously: this episode looks amazing.
We also should give credit to Dee Bradley Baker, who returns to voice the clone troopers – so basically, he voices almost every line in this episode. He provides the voice for all the clones, who garner almost all of the attention, but also provides the voice for Admiral Trench. So after that opening sequence with the opening narration and the meeting with Windu and Skywalker, for the entire rest of the episode the only other voice actor we hear is Matthew Wood, providing the voices for the battle droids. Dee Bradley Baker carries the weight in this episode, just like he did so much in the first six seasons, and provides tremendous characterization for the clones.
Ok, so with all of that out of the way, let’s talk about the story itself. I thought it was very interesting (and a deviation from the original unfinished episodes) that Rex kept his suspicions from Anakin, and that he suspected all along that Echo could be alive. It seemed that Anakin knew Rex wasn’t telling him something, so I’ll be interested to see whether that’s picked up later or not. Also, I really liked how the “regs” and the Bad Batch didn’t really trust each other, and that Cody was the one holding it all together. Rex had never heard of the Bad Batch before, but Cody explains it all. I thought the rivalry and banter and distrust between the sides worked well, making it satisfying when they came together to fight for a common cause.
As far as plot goes, this episode was full of intrigue about this mystery of how the Separatists know Republic tactics, and that’s highlighted by Admiral Trench appearing via hologram a couple of times as the droids continue to hunt down the clone strike team. And though the episode leaves us with questions, we know enough to know that Admiral Trench is alarmed the Republic made contact with Skako Minor – and that Rex believes Echo is alive. I can’t wait to see next week’s episode!
The action sequences in this episode were absolutely stellar and thrilling, and everything about this show feels better, but also the same old The Clone Wars we grew to love. Dave Filoni and his team re-captured the magic, and it feels almost like we never left – right up to the credits beginning with, “Created by George Lucas.”
Welcome back, The Clone Wars. The first episode was a success, and I can’t wait for next week!
My grade: 9.0/10