In the penultimate episode of The Bad Batch‘s first season, Crosshair made a rather stunning reveal: his inhibitor chip was removed.
That meant that he was loyal to the Empire because of his own personal choice rather than a chip controlling him, which obviously casts his actions in a much different light and makes things feel a lot more hopeless for the Bad Batch – since, after all, if it were just the inhibitor chip they could just remove it and have their friend back. But some fans wondered if Crosshair might be lying, since he continued to rub his head as he had a headache. Was he lying? Or had the Empire lied to him?
No, what he said was true. His inhibitor chip was removed.
That comes from the showrunners of The Bad Batch, who did an interview with StarWars.com talking about the first season of the show. In the wide-ranging interview, one of the things they were asked about was this very theory amongst some fans that Crosshair actually didn’t have his chip removed, and perhaps a bit surprisingly, they actually addressed it and answered the questions.
“I think we can say that he had his chip removed,” head writer and executive producer Jennifer Corbett said. Brad Rau, the supervising director and executive producer, added to that by laughing and saying, “Yeah. Have you seen the side of that guy’s head?”
So there we have it: confirmation that Crosshair was telling the truth and that his inhibitor chip has been removed. And like I said earlier, that is a twist that makes things all the more interesting. It was clear in the premiere that he was acting this way because of the chip, repeating the line “good soldiers follow orders” (which may as well just be the tagline for the inhibitor chip), and so for the rest of the season we’re led to believe that he can be saved simply by removing the chip. But along the way we see other clones – like Howzer – stand up to the Empire despite having their chip, and things became a bit more complex. So when Crosshair said this, it changed the stakes both for the viewer and for the Bad Batch, because it meant that Crosshair wasn’t the bad guy because of some foreign control agent in his head but because of his own actions and choices. I thought it was a fantastic development, and I’m glad that we’ll probably get to explore it more in the second season.
But Jennifer Corbett also said something very interesting in connection to all of this: “The eagle-eyed fan will rewatch the season and notice a shift in his character, and when that is. They’ll probably have seen it all along.” So with that in mind, let’s do some speculating, shall we?
The midseason episode “Reunion” is a major moment for Crosshair. It’s the first time he confronts his old squad since the premiere, when he tried to stop them from leaving Kamino, and here he tracks them down to Bracca and faces off with them, seemingly knowing their every move. That leads to him cornering them in the thrusters of an old Republic cruiser, about to be burnt to their deaths. His cruelty and brutality is on full display, the same one who murdered civilians and committed war crimes in an earlier episode, all after killing one of the men under his command. But the Bad Batch manages to escape, using explosives to blow up the engine, which begins to fall – and in the process, Crosshair is caught in the blast. He suffers significant injuries to his face and is heavily bandaged.
When we next really see him, in “Devil’s Deal,” his head is very scarred. Notably, that’s what Brad Rau was referring to in his comment, which is a key clue for us. In that episode and the one that follows, “Rescue on Ryloth,” Crosshair seems a bit more mild – though he’s still willing to shoot Senator Orn Free Taa in the head, at the command of Admiral Rampart. And then he’s still ready to arrest his old squad (or worse), once again predicting their moves. Up to that point, there’s not a ton to make us think that he’s any different.
But then comes a very significant moment. It’s one of my very favorites from the entire season, and it’s when Captain Howzer walks out to face the other clones. Here’s a clone who hasn’t had his inhibitor chip removed yet who sees the evils of the Empire and decides to stay behind (rather than leave with the Bad Batch) to try to get through to his squad. So he walks out to try to persuade them, and he successfully does convince several of his men (which, again, is significant since they still have their inhibitor chips). And while all of this happens, Crosshair is perched from his sniper’s spot far away, ready to shoot. The whole time, I was terrified that he was going to kill Howzer… but he didn’t. Despite having Howzer in his sights, ready to fire at any point, he never does. He orders Howzer’s arrest, but he refrains from killing him. That did seem a bit different from the Crosshair we’d seen so far.
So in other words, my best guess is that Crosshair had his inhibitor chip removed in-between these stories, which would coincide with having it removed following his injuries on Bracca. And since Brad Rau mentioned those injuries as seeming proof that this has happened, it makes all the more sense. But the biggest clue, in my opinion, is him not killing Howzer.
And now, looking back at all of this, I see his request at the end of “Rescue on Ryloth” in a different light. He asks Rampart for permission to go after the Bad Batch, which is granted. At the time I thought it was bad news for the squad that Crosshair was on their tail, but now I think he wanted to go after them to try to convince them to join him. That’s why he wants them all together in “Return to Kamino,” after all. And so I really do think the key turning point for Crosshair (if I can use that language about a character who remains the villain through the whole season) comes after his injuries on Bracca. I think it’s after that when his inhibitor chip is removed, which changes his focus a bit: while still being loyal to the Empire, he’s now wanting to reunite with his old squad. He just wants them to join him, rather than the other way around.
In putting all of this together, I think it happening this way has made Crosshair an even more compelling character and this story a more interesting one. He’s now doing this because he thinks it’s right, and because he thinks being with the Empire is being with the winning side. While that might be true at the time, it’s still wrong – but he doesn’t see it like that. His decisions, however, are his own, and not the result of some chip. And I think we’re seeing that the chips don’t make the clones robots, and we’re seeing how they can still choose good or evil in light of all of that.
So with this foundation laid, I think there are some very interesting avenues to explore in season two as the show continues to focus on the clones in the era after the Clone War. And I can’t wait for it!