The Bad Batch is back!
After a long hiatus that included several delays to the premiere date, the animated Star Wars series premiered it’s second season on Disney+ today with a two-episode debut, “Spoils of War” and “Ruins of War.”
The episodes combined to give a satisfying return for this lovable squad of clones, taking time to dive further into the characters and their interactions with each other. Let’s dive in to our review of these two episodes – and, as always, full spoilers are ahead!
The season begins with the squad already in the midst of a mission on a water planet, needing to escape from crab creatures with the aid of Omega. They bring the bounty back to Cid on Ord Mantell, where they meet Phee Genoa, who gave Cid intel on a big mission. The mission is to travel to Count Dooku’s old castle on Serenno to steal some of the bounties of war, which will be enough to buy their freedom. Cid knows the Empire’s grip will soon come to the planet, and she convinces Hunter that the mission is worthwhile so that they can get enough credits to disappear. Echo isn’t wanting to disappear, however, but to fight. He tells Hunter as much on their way to Serenno, but Hunter says that they can’t because they need to protect. Omega. Unbeknownst to them, she overhears their conversation.
On Serenno they find the Empire transporting shipments off-world, with clones standing guard. Hunter creates a diversion while the others begin stealing some loot, but the clones soon catch on. The transport takes off, trapping Echo, Tech, and Omega on-board while Hunter and Wrecker join forces on the ground. Omega figures out a way to escape the transport by jettisoning the cargo crates, which will have emergency boosters. They crash-land on the planet, and in the process, Tech’s leg is broken. They slowly make their way through the woods but are followed by Romar Adell, a local who has been surviving in hiding since the Empire’s orbital bombardment of the city. They take refuge in his home, but Omega wants to retrieve the treasure they left behind. She leaves without the others realizing it, and when they do, they head after her.
Meanwhile, Hunter and Wrecker infiltrate Dooku’s Castle looking for a way to escape the clones, and as a firefight rages they find a secret elevator that leads them out. At night, they sneak through the city as clones pursue them, and Wrecker fashions a hand-held canon to fight them off. They head for their ship, planning to pick up the others. The others, though, are in trouble. Echo finds Omega, but so do the clones. An injured Tech heroically fights them off, with an assist from Romar, and Echo finally convinces Omega to leave behind the treasure. She does, and they are soon rescued by Hunter and Wrecker. They leave the planet, saying goodbye to Romar, who gifts Omega a toy and reminds her that happiness is worth more than any treasure.
In the aftermath, Omega confesses to Echo that she was only trying to steal the treasure because she had overheard their conversation, and Echo assures her that they made the right choice in saving her and that he’d do it all over again. Back on Serenno, Admiral Rampart receives a report from the clone commander in charge, Wilco. Rampart insists that Wilco’s report was wrong, since Clone Force 99 perished on Kamino, and orders him to falsify a new report so that Tarkin won’t be upset. Wilco refuses, so Rampart kills him.
Season two of The Bad Batch is off to a very good start, and a large part of why is because of its focus on the characters and their interactions with one another. Echo was notoriously underdeveloped in season one, and he’s a major player here. Tech also wasn’t the top focus in the first season, but he’s the one who really shines the most here. And for the whole squad, splitting them apart and pitting them against tough odds worked splendidly for the development of these episodes.
For example, Wrecker typically isn’t the resourceful one, but he builds a tank to help them escape. Tech usually does all the hacking, but Hunter has to try to do it to escape Dooku’s castle. But together they make a great team, and they hold off the clones pursuing them. Elsewhere on the planet, Tech is injured (in a moment that seemed quite reminiscent of Nemik’s fatal injuries in Andor) and that forces Echo to take charge. It was great to see him step up, but it also led to a truly great moment from Tech as he took on the clones without really being able to move, drawing their attention and fire away from Echo and Omega. It was appropriate that Tech was the one who selflessly took a stand to help the others, and that Echo was the one who had to convince Omega to let the treasure go. Both were nice developments from season one.
But the whole mission centering around the treasure – literal spoils of war – set up the important thematic developments the characters played off of. It was cool seeing Dooku’s Castle again, but the treasure hit harder after Tales of the Jedi. Romar explains that Dooku didn’t just get wealthy by robbing from other systems during the war, but from taking from his own people. In Tales of the Jedi, it was that very corruption that Dooku glimpsed among Republic Senators that pushed him further and further away from the Jedi and the Republic. He was a noble man of principles, rightly angered by the corruption he saw from Senators who used their power to exploit their people and get wealthy, but as he stepped out to stop it he succumbed to the same darkness himself. He became the very thing he swore to destroy. He was consumed by his lust for power and for wealth, such that even this principled and respected former Jedi Master would fall into those same sins. There are powerful reminders here, when you contrast The Bad Batch with Tales of the Jedi, of the seductive danger of the dark side. It is one thing to rightly recognize faults in a side; it is quite another to seek to correct those faults by using their very same tools. The dark side, and the power and riches it promises, is easily seductive. These episodes are a poignant and tragic reminder of how Dooku fell into the same evil he sought to destroy.
Which, of course, means that there must be a better way to do it than by just becoming consumed with hatred. I mention this frequently, but at the heart of Star Wars is the idea that the truly heroic fight is one motivated by love and saving others, not hatred and defeating others (like Rose Tico said). That comes into play with Echo, Hunter, and Omega. Echo is growing frustrated that the squad isn’t doing more in the fight, and Hunter seems to imply that they would – if not for Omega. Because of the desire to protect her, Hunter’s desire is to get resources that would allow them to escape and disappear from the Empire’s gaze. A noble desire, to be sure, but a naive one. Cid is right – the Empire won’t just stop, and soon there will be nowhere left to hide. It’s the same thing Cassian Andor has to come to learn in Andor. Against an evil like this, you can’t run – not forever. Echo wants to see them doing more to help the fight, and it’s easy to see why. For it to be Echo who wants this seems most fitting, and I’m excited to see how that thread continues this season.
But it is also Echo who rightly understands why they’re fighting. Sure, the treasure might help to provide a lot of supplies, but it’s not worth the cost of Omega’s life. Omega might be the reason Hunter doesn’t want to fight, but Echo sees Omega as the one worth fighting for, so that she might have a better future in a better galaxy. What good is a fight if the one(s) you’re fighting for aren’t around to see it? So, at the end, Echo convinces Omega to leave the treasure behind (in a moment that evoked major Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade vibes). Romar had told her that happiness is worth more than any treasure, and Echo’s message to her is that she’s worth it. The Bad Batch made sacrifices for her, yes, but it was all worth it. She’s family. They’re in it together, and they’re going to look out for each other.
Which isn’t true of the Empire. Contrasted with Echo’s touching moment with Omega, we then cut to Rampart and Wilco. Rampart is worried about his own reputation and power should Tarkin learn of his failure on Kamino (so, as a side note, Crosshair hasn’t snitched on the Batch, which is a nice development). He’s so concerned, in fact, that he orders an illegal procedure, then kills Wilco for failing to comply. It shows Rampart’s ruthless thirst for power, but also shows how Wilco isn’t blindly following orders. Technically he’s following protocol, but it’s still a subtle indicator that these clones aren’t mindlessly controlled by their inhibitor chips. Perhaps these types of decisions happening will hasten the Empire’s decision to move on from the clones entirely.
In short, I enjoyed these episodes. I loved how the squad was split up and how that allowed us to focus more on the characters, and that’s something I hope continues this season. The animation and music were obviously fantastic, and the episode was exciting and heartwarming, as expected, but it was the focus on the characters that really made this enjoyable. It’s great to have clone force 99 back, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of this season has in store. A remarkable percentage of footage from the trailers was just from these two episodes alone, so there will surely be plenty of surprises along the way.