Star Wars: The Bad Batch: “The Solitary Clone” review!

The Bad Batch was back today, and while it only featured one member of the titular squad, it also starred another very familiar face.

And it all amounted to another fantastic episode of the series, one that might actually be my favorite of all of them (whether in season one or in season two). More on why in a bit. But first, let’s jump into a brief summary of the episode, followed by my review. And, as always, full spoilers are ahead for “The Solitary Clone.”

SUMMARY:

An Imperial convoy arrives on Desix to establish a new governor under Imperial rule, but they are met by resistance from Separatist droids, as the planet’s current governor, Tawni Ames, refuses it and takes the new “governor” captive. This leads Admiral Rampart, back on Coruscant, to send a squad to the planet, and he recruits Crosshair as part of the team – his first mission since being left for dead on Kamino for 32 rotations. But Crosshair is not the squad leader; Commander Cody is. The two share a brief reunion, in which Cody expresses some faint skepticism about whether the Jedi and clones who denied Order 66 were truly traitors. But, with a half-smile, he tells Crosshair, “good soldiers follow orders.”

Upon descent to the planet’s surface their transport is ambushed and shot down. Cody, Crosshair, and their surviving men spring into action, and they launch an attack to take the city. First up, Crosshair takes out a Separatist tank. Then the squad infiltrates the city and fights off waves of droids, starting with B1 droids, then moving to droidekas, then culminating with commando droids protecting the tactical droid. Cody and Crosshair fight to take the command center and kill the tactical droid, but are pinned down in a stairwell – when Crosshair makes an impossible shot and kills the tactical droid.

They then find Tawni holding the Imperial governor at gunpoint. Her offer is simple: she’ll let him go free if the Empire lets their planet remain free. Cody insists that the Empire is just trying to bring peace and justice, but Tawni explains that Dooku was right about the Republic’s corruption. Cody removes his helmet and orders Crosshair to stand down, and he tells Tawni that they can start over and truly bring peace. His negotiation convinces her, and she frees the governor… who then orders her executed. Cody protests, but Crosshair kills Tawni. Cody is shaken by this, and he looks on as the Empire begins to occupy the planet.

Upon returning to Coruscant, he asks Crosshair if the Empire is really making things better. Crosshair says that they just follow orders, and Cody tells him that’s the same thing the battle droids do. What makes them different is their ability to choose their choices – but also having to live with those choices they’ve made. Later, Crosshair is summoned again by Rampart and given another mission, this time under a different commander… because Cody has gone AWOL.

REVIEW:

This is probably my favorite episode to date of The Bad Batch, and it would actually rank pretty high on my list of favorite animated Star Wars episodes, period. A large part of that is because it’s standing on the shoulders of other shows that have come before, not just in the first season of this show but the seven season run of The Clone Wars as well.

Because make no mistake: this felt so much like an episode of The Clone Wars. It starts with a mission being assigned, then a clone squadron heading to this Separatist-controlled planet to fight against a droid army to try to complete the objective. We even hear Kevin Kiner’s clone theme from the other series show up throughout, and as viewers we’re right back in the thrall of the beloved series, rooting for the clones to win against the bad guys.

Until we’re reminded that, now, these clones are fighting for the bad guys. It makes the climactic scene in the command room all the more powerful, and it was the best scene from the episode (more on that in a moment). And it reminds us that, throughout, for as much as this feels like another episode of The Clone Wars it’s far more grim and far darker. The clones do their job, and do it well, and it makes for some epic action moments. Crosshair standing his ground when a tank’s about to fire on him so that he can get a clear shot down the barrel of the gun was awesome. The droidekas in this episode were as menacing as they’ve ever been, with the slow build-up as you hear them arriving before seeing them, to them bursting into the fight and killing some clones. And then there was the fight in a stairwell that would make even Marvel proud, with Cody resorting to fighting with a knife and Crosshair using pucks to make some incredible shots – including the killing blow on the tactical droid, set up by Cody. This was Star Wars animation at its finest, as all episode the entire team – from the writers to actors to animators to sound designers to musical composers to lighting effects and more – fired on all cylinders. Part of the thrill was how fresh and creative the fight scenes felt, with the clones resorting to many different tactics, methods, and weapons to fight their enemy. It wasn’t just a “stand and shoot” battle, but one that saw this squad take all sorts of different approaches.

Crosshair really got a chance to shine in this way, which was great, but it was the inclusion of Cody that was the real highlight, and the element that made this episode work so well. This is a clone we’ve come to know and love throughout The Clone Wars, and the writers managed to pull off the feel that he’s still that same guy. He still has his personality, even though the Empire has wiped the clones of any semblance of it (so Cody’s familiar orange markings are gone. He’s devoted to this Empire because he believes they’ll bring peace and justice, but he’s not blindly loyal to them such that he thinks defecting clones are traitors. From the start, it’s clear that Cody feels some of this tension, but not enough to get him to leave the Empire. Not yet.

So, in the command center, Cody resorts to negotiating – just like Obi-Wan Kenobi used to do. These moments are very evocative of Kenobi, who of course was Cody’s commanding general as he led the 224th attack battalion during the war, which was a terrific choice. And Cody’s negotiations work! It reveals to us that he truly believes the Empire will bring peace, which sheds a sympathetic light on him. He’s not staying with this fascist government because he is one of them, but because he’s bought their lie that they’re really going to do what they claim. Crosshair continues to commit atrocities, but Cody is doing what he believes to be right for the galaxy. It seems to work, until he realizes that he overestimated the Empire’s real desire for peace. It’s followed by a haunting montage of Cody observing the Imperial occupation, with no dialogue but simply ominous music.

Tawni was right. They were a Separatist world and therefore not governed by the Republic, but the Empire lays a claim on their planet anyway. It’s exactly the thing that Dooku saw coming in the Republic and fought against, and while that doesn’t make Dooku a hero, it does complicate the post-war period immensely. Dooku was right. Desix should remain independent. And for as much as Cody thinks he’s doing the right thing by negotiating peace, he quickly learns the Empire’s real motives aren’t peace but terror. They want to rule with an iron grip, which doesn’t lead to freedom and peace but oppression and fear. So, he asks Crosshair, is the Empire really making the galaxy better?

It’s the culmination of so many things rumbling in Cody’s heart and mind, and he expresses them to Crosshair. But Crosshair simply muses that they follow orders. Cody’s response to him is that, if true, that makes him no different than the droids. Earlier in the episode Crosshair’s disgust with the droids was apparent, saying that the weakness of the Separatist tanks are the droids that operate them. He thinks very little of them and their abilities, so it’s a stinging rebuke when Cody implies that he’s acting just like them. But Cody is on to something profound, and it’s that the thing that separates the clone army from the droid army is that the clones have a sense of morality, an ability to make their own choices, an opportunity to freely act. If they simply follow whatever orders they’re given, without thinking and without processing, they might as well be droids. I’d bet that by this point Cody doesn’t know about the inhibitor chips or anything like that, but he isn’t sold on how some clones offer blind loyalty to a government that, he’s increasingly seeing, doesn’t deserve it.

That doesn’t erase the fact that he’s fought for them. And that’s why he tells Crosshair that not only can the clones choose, but they also have to live with the choices they make. He walks off, and that’s the last we see of him in the episode. But Crosshair is left to process that, because Crosshair’s whole life at the moment is a result of the choices he’s made. He left his old squad and has continued to fight for the Empire, even when they exhibit no loyalty back. And because of that Crosshair is incredibly lonely. The beginning and ending of this episode are staged the same way, with Crosshair waking up alone in his quarters, eating alone in the mess hall, then being summoned for a mission. The other clones want nothing to do with him. He’s all alone despite being surrounded by others. And Rampart will only refer to clones by their designation rather than their name, a sign that he thinks nothing of them. Crosshair’s family, his team, is off in the galaxy without him – because of his choice. And now, Crosshair’s only other ally (at least that we know of) in the Empire, Cody, is gone.

We don’t know what happened to him. Rampart simply mentions that he’s gone AWOL, and I like to think that means Cody has deserted and that we’ll see him pop up again. What might a reunion with Rex look like? What might it look like for Cody to learn that he didn’t actually kill Kenobi? What might Cody’s next moves be? So I’m hoping – and assuming – that he just deserted, but it’s always possible that Rampart had him executed for treason. If that were the case, Cody’s final statement being an acknowledgement that they have to live with the choices they made becomes tragic rather than noble. But while possible, I doubt that’s the case, and hope it isn’t. Regardless, the point is to have an emotional affect on Crosshair, with him realizing that another ally is gone. Crosshair is, truly, the solitary clone. He’s all alone, serving an Empire that doesn’t care about him.

This is all exactly the kind of stuff I’ve been hoping The Bad Batch leans more and more into: where are the clones at in this post-Order 66 galaxy? How are they processing what’s happening? To have that happen with a clone we know and love like Cody is perfect, and to pair him with Crosshair equally so. It amounts to one of the most thrilling and action-packed episodes of the series, but also one with an incredible amount of heart, emotion, and thoughtfulness. This is Star Wars animation at its best.

One thought on “Star Wars: The Bad Batch: “The Solitary Clone” review!

  1. This was an absolutely stunning episode, and I agree, the best of the TBB series so far, and one of the best of all animated Star Wars. If this was live action, it could easily compare with Andor for its emotional intensity and the complexity of the themes being explored. Crosshair has been characterized as the villain throughout the series but with this episode, one can’t help but feel sorry for him (how did he survive 32 days stranded on Kamino?!). The loneliness and isolation of his position was really underscored, yet still at this point, it’s hard to tell why he is so invested in the Empire. Is it a case of “sunk-cost fallacy”, where he’s made a choice and he refuses to turn back, even if there’s mounting evidence that it was the wrong choice? (I see it all the time in the medical/scientific community!) The final time we see Crosshair in his quarters, it’s apparent that he is awake before the alarm, suggesting he couldn’t sleep that night after what Cody has said about personal choices and having to live with them. It’s reminiscent of The Mandalorian S2 Ep 7 “The Believer”, where Migs Mayfeld says, “As far as I’m concerned, if you can make it through your day and still sleep at night, you’re doin’ better than most.” The suggestion that Crosshair can’t sleep through the night because of his actions is a tantalizing one, and I hope the storywriters continue to explore his development.

    Liked by 1 person

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