Star Wars: The Bad Batch: “War-Mantle” review!

The Bad Batch has entered its endgame.

As we approach the end of first season, a new episode dropped today that appears to set in motion the events that will be explored over the final two episodes, and today’s chapter was one of my very favorites of the season so far.

Let’s dive into the review of this week’s episode, “War-Mantle,” and as always full spoilers are ahead!

SUMMARY:

On the planet Daro, a clone trooper tries to flee from other troopers in pursuit. He’s captured, but not before hiding a tracking beacon and calling for help. The call was placed to Captain Rex, who contacts the Bad Batch asking if they can extract this clone from his imprisonment, as Rex is tied up at the moment. The members of Clone Force 99 debate whether to help or to stick to the mission they’re on for Cid, but they decide to head to Daro to see what they can do.

Upon arriving, Hunter realizes that there is something inside the mountain, and he takes Tech and Echo with him to scout it out while Wrecker and Omega stay behind at the ship. The three discover that it’s a hidden Imperial compound, and Echo convinces the others that they have to try to rescue the imprisoned clone, like they had previously rescued him from Skako Minor. So the three of them secretly infiltrate the base and rescue the clone, who reveals himself to be Gregor. As they try to escape, however, the entire station is alerted to their presence, and they learn that the pursuing squads are led by Clone Commandos but made up of enlisted recruits.

One of the Clone Commandos, Scorch, proves particularly hard to take down, but the fleeing clones continue to survive. They infiltrate the exhaust vent and prepare for Wrecker and Omega to pick them up on the ledge outside the base – but they are pinned back by the enemy forces. Omega gets the ship close enough for Tech and Gregor to board, but enemy fighters pursue them, forcing the ship to break off and Tech to take over the controls. Hunter and Echo remain pinned back and try to survive long enough for Tech to make a second pass. He eventually does, and Echo boards the ship, but the ship begins to fall away and Hunter leaps after it… just missing the ramp and falling to the planet surface far below.

The others, aboard the ship, try to evade enemy fire and are in trouble, and Hunter orders them to leave. Ignoring Omega’s frantic pleading, Hunter insists on the order, and Tech reluctantly obeys – leaving Hunter behind. He’s taken prisoner, and as the episode ends, Crosshair arrives to meet him.

Meanwhile, throughout the episode we cut back to Kamino a few times, and we see that the Empire is loading up all the clones to move their operations off-world. Lama Su tells Nala Se that he doesn’t think the Empire will let them survive to continue their cloning operations, so he tells her to prepare to move off-world as well. But Admiral Rampart catches on to this and takes Nala Se prisoner, saying that the Empire will have use for a scientist – but says that he has no use for Lama Su, who is apparently killed off-screen (though it’s never mentioned, it’s implied).

REVIEW:

This was one of my very favorite episodes of the season so far, and it certainly feels like we’re in the endgame now of this season, as there are just two episodes left.

With that, let’s actually start at the end here: Hunter is in Imperial custody, and Crosshair has come to meet him. This sets up what will surely be the story of the final two episodes of this season, as I’m assuming the rest of the Bad Batch crew will launch an effort to rescue him. Perhaps that will mean enlisting the help of others they’ve met along the way this season – like, say, Rex? It would be awesome to see him show up again to come to Hunter’s aid. This feels a bit like the ending of the first season of Rebels too, when Kanan was taken captive by the Empire and the rest of the crew had to go rescue him. But even with that similarity, there’s one very significant difference here: Crosshair. In the very first episode he betrayed the squad and stayed loyal to the Empire (thanks in large part to his inhibitor chip), and he’s been pursuing them on-and-off ever since. But now he’s got Hunter in his grasp, and I wonder where that will lead. Will the Empire try to get Hunter under their control with an inhibitor chip? If so, that could lead them back to Kamino! Or will the Empire use Hunter to try to lure the others into a trap? On a different side, will Hunter manage to get through to Crosshair and help him actually see the error of his ways? There’s a lot of ways this could go.

But what is becoming more and more obvious is that the Empire is phasing the clone troopers out, and fast. This episode was named “War-Mantle,” and very aptly so. That’s the name of the Imperial project to move to enlisted recruits, and here we see a secret base where that’s happening. Most of the troopers are actually recruits, wearing prototype armor that looks like a mix between the clones and stormtroopers (and which resembles some Ralph McQuarrie concept art, which is cool). And they’re being trained by Clone Commandos – one of whom is Scorch! A member of the elite Delta Squad, Scorch gets his time to shine here, as he manages to take on Hunter, Echo, Tech, and Gregor and still put up a fight, taking a number of blasts before the stuns catch up to him. He seems to still be alive, so he could show up again.

One of the other Commandos training the recruits is Gregor. We don’t get any information about how he survived to this point, but we already knew that he did since he’s in Rebels. He reveals the Empire’s plans, but also hints that he didn’t reveal all of his secrets. So it seems that the clones don’t fully want to cooperate with this plan to phase them out, but so far Gregor is the only one at this facility to rebel against it. I think we can already see the impact this process is having though, as the troopers miss some shots and even wind up accidentally killing one of their own Clone Commandos.

On a related note to all of this, it’s very interesting to see what the future is for Kamino. The Empire is moving all the clones off-world, and Lama Su is smart enough to realize that the Empire won’t just let them survive to clone another day. The implication is that the Empire will destroy the cloning facilities and the Kaminoans with it, so the preparations are put in place to move off-world as well. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons we were shown an abandoned Kaminoan facility earlier this season, on another planet? But it also seems that Lama Su was killed – though in Star Wars, when a death is implied to have happened off-screen, it’s safe to assume it didn’t actually happen. I also wonder if the Empire wants Nala Se to help their own cloning projects… maybe even at the request of the Emperor himself? I’m mainly wondering what all of this means for Kamino and the clones moving forward; are we going to get a clone rebellion at all? Will Kamino have a future? We don’t know, but I’m guessing it’ll come into play in a significant way in the next two episodes.

I also want to mention, since I wrote an article a few days ago questioning Echo’s lack of focus, that this episode did do a better job, and I appreciated it. I felt like I should point that out, since I pointed out when it wasn’t great. Here, Echo is one of the more vocal ones wanting to help this clone, and at first it’s because of his trust in Rex, which is great. But as Hunter and Tech contemplate returning to the ship and not trying to rescue Gregor, Echo speaks up, saying that they rescued him from Skako Minor and now have a chance to do it for another clone. We haven’t really had much talk about that this season, but for Echo to bring it up here was perfect.

Taking a step back from the plot details, I just want to point out that this show looks FANTASTIC. That’s been clear all season, but I really think this might have been the most beautiful episode yet. Daro looks great, and shot after shot is stunningly good. It looks like it’s live-action quite a bit, and it’s breathtaking what these animators are able to do. So that was great, and the music in this episode was a particular highlight as well. Kevin Kiner brought out tons of Imperial motifs from A New Hope as the Bad Batch snuck through the Imperial facility, and it fit so well. This is the transition to the Empire, and we’re hearing that in the music too.

So in this episode the animation and the music – both of which have been great all season – were at their best. The plot was extremely interesting and exciting, and it sets up the endgame of this first season. I loved everything about it.

My grade: 10/10

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