The Clone Wars sequel series and the Rebels prequel series is back with another episode this week!
And by that I of course refer to The Bad Batch, and I don’t mean it as a negative. This week’s episode felt like it fit in with the larger Star Wars animation story, and it also left us with a cliffhanger ending.
Let’s dive in to our review of this week’s episode, “Devil’s Deal,” and as always, full spoilers are ahead!
Admiral Rampart and the Empire has struck a deal with Senator Orn Free Taa of Ryloth to bring peace, and General Cham Syndulla tries to convince the people that it’s worth it. They’ve been fighting so long, and the clone troopers – including Captain Howzer – aided them in doing so; now, they can enjoy the peace they fought for. The Empire orders them to hand over their weapons, since the war is over. Meanwhile, the daughter of Cham and Eleni Syndulla, Hera, spends time spying on the new Imperial refinery with her droid Chopper, at the behest of her uncle Gobi. She is caught and brought back to her father, where Howzer lets her off the hook but tells Cham it can’t happen again.
Hera shares a heart-to-heart conversation with her father, and then Cham and Eleni receive a tour of the new Imperial facility from Rampart. The Empire is mining doonium, and Eleni wonders why it needs to be so heavily fortified. Later, Gobi convinces Hera to come along with him for a supply run by letting her fly the ship. They head to one of Ryloth’s moons, but unbeknownst to them their ship is tagged by Crosshair as they take off and they are tracked. On the moon, they meet with Clone Force 99, who were sent by Cid to supply Gobi and the people of Ryloth with weapons. Hera befriends Omega, who shows her around the ship as they discuss flying.
But as the Twi’leks head back to the planet, they are shot down by Crosshair and crash land in a canyon. The Empire moves in, taking them captive. Some of Cham’s men, as well as Chopper, report back to Cham and Eleni about what has happened, and they learn that Hera is being charged with treason and not even receiving a trial. They realize they must spring into action and intercept the transport before it reaches the city. Cham and Eleni lead a covert mission at night to intercept the transport. They take out the clone troopers accompanying the ship on bikes, and then they commandeer the transport, rescuing Hera and the others and holding Rampart, Howzer, and Orn Free Taa captive. Cham, knowing of Senator Taa’s self-centeredness and betrayal, threatens to kill him right there, but Eleni convinces him otherwise. It is then that Rampart gives the signal to Crosshair, perched above the canyon, to fire on Taa, hitting him in the head and presumably killing him. The Twi’leks are then arrested for the attempted assassination of Senator Taa, but not before Eleni orders Chopper to get Hera to safety. As the other Twi’leks are taken away, Rampart orders Howzer to find Hera.
This episode was a noticeable and drastic break from the previous ten in the season so far, and that’s mainly because it barely focuses on the Bad Batch at all. That was true of episode nine as well, but there the focus was on Omega – who herself is one of the team. This week, we saw Omega and the rest of Clone Force 99 only once: when they supply weapons to the Twi’leks and Omega and Hera bond – which was a beautiful moment. So that was definitely an unexpected development, but it also feels pretty clear that this is meant as a two-part episode (at least). I fully expect that the Bad Batch will come much more into focus next week, coming to the aid of the Syndullas (more on that in a moment).
So because of all of that, this episode felt a lot more like one from The Clone Wars or Rebels than The Bad Batch. Once we knew we were heading to Ryloth I wondered if we’d get a cameo of Hera, but I didn’t expect her to become the focal character of the episode! But I really enjoyed it. I love Hera, and seeing her here as a kid on Ryloth, with her family, was great (and Vanessa Marshall was back to voice her, with the distinctive Twi’lek accent that she’s mostly dropped by the time of Rebels but that does return at key moments). And, of course, the real star is once again Chopper (who is again listed as being voiced by himself, but is still presumably played by Dave Filoni). It was cool to see Hera talk about her longing to become a pilot, knowing what we do of where she will wind up: as one of the galaxy’s best pilots and a key leader in the Rebellion.
And speaking of rebellion, one of the things I really appreciated about this episode was how it gave the characters time to voice their thoughts about the Imperial occupation of Ryloth. This was Star Wars allowed to slow down, breathe, and process, which I love – and which is why I’m glad that they decided to break up the Ryloth story across multiple episodes and didn’t feel the need to rush things. The Bad Batch is showing us howt he galaxy is processing the transition to the Empire, and I think that’s important. For example, last week we saw what happened with a key Separatist world in Raxus, and we saw how a Separatist Senator like Avi Singh wanted what was best for his people. This week, we see what happened with a key Republic world in Ryloth, and we see how a Republic Senator like Orn Free Taa wanted what was best for himself.
Furthermore, we see a surprising development: Cham Syndulla is actually the one calling for them to stop fighting. He’s the freedom fighter who is the hero of the Twi’leks, fighting for their freedom from the Separatists in The Clone Wars and, later, for their freedom from the Empire in Rebels. But here, he maintains that they have to enjoy the peace they fought for – while others challenge him on what kind of peace that actually is. It’s a very interesting discussion because it’s easy to see why Cham feels like he does. We of course know that the Empire is inherently evil, but as the story is playing out in ‘real time’ that’s harder to figure out for many of the people across the galaxy. The War is over and peace is being offered – it’s easy to see why Cham would seize that chance, wanting what is best for his daughter. It’s the same thing that Hunter did a few episodes ago when declining to join Rex in the fight, wanting to do what is best for Omega. And it’s the same thing that the New Republic would do decades later. It’s easy to see why people weary from war would want peace, even if it means Imperial oversight.
But we know the truth about the Empire, and Cham will soon learn it too. In this episode it’s Gobi who is the more militant one, and Eleni also grows curious about the Empire’s need for such a heavily armed base. It’s noted that the Empire is mining doomium, which was used for the Death Star weapon, so that helps explain why they are so interested in the planet. But returning to Eleni, this is the first time we’ve seen her show up! So that was great… but also ominous, and leaves me with a bad feeling about next week. She’s not around by the time of Rebels, and we know that she was killed during Cham’s fight against the Empire, which drove Cham and Hera apart. I think we might be heading toward that moment very soon, and that’s heartbreaking.
Regarding the Empire, I have two final notes to make. First, Senator Orn Free Taa was shot in the head by Crosshair, which seemingly killed him. That’s certainly the impression we’re supposed to get here. But it’s called only an “attempted assassination,” which is strange if he’s actually dead, and the book Lords of the Sith features Taa, still alive, after the events of this episode. So I’m guessing that he’s not quite dead and will survive, but probably won’t show up again in The Bad Batch next episode. We’re left to think he’s dead, but for Star Wars fans who read the books, we can just put the pieces together and realized he survived. I don’t think that’s unreasonable.
Second, Captain Howzer is very interesting to me, because he still has the colored markings and his own personality! That’s something we haven’t seen of the other clones in this series so far, which leads me to wonder if he’s one of those few clones Rex mentioned that resisted Order 66? He’s clearly still friendly to Cham and has conflicted loyalties, and I’m guessing he’s going to aid Hera and the Bad Batch next week rather than fight against them. I’m really curious and excited to see what happens with him.
Overall, I enjoyed this episode. It’s a bit hard to evaluate it since it’s clearly going to be continued next week, but it was a good episode. The visuals (as always) are stunning, it was great to see Hera and Chopper and Cham and so many familiar faces, and there was some really great moments and storytelling here. But the Bad Batch was mostly absent, which was strange, and that’s why I’m sure they’ll feature heavily next week.
My grade: 8.8/10