Whenever The Bad Batch focuses on the clones, and Crosshair, you know it’s going to be a great episode. And “The Outpost”, the latest episode from the series, is no exception.
In fact, I think it’s one of the very strongest episodes yet for a show that really seems to be hitting its stride. It’s an extremely powerful character exploration, touching on some important themes while also developing some very important moments for what presumes to be an epic final few episodes of this second season.
Let’s dive in to the review of The Bad Batch episode, “The Outpost.” And, of course, full spoilers are ahead.
Led by Lieutenant Nolan, the Empire dispatches a group of clones, including Crosshair, to a remote snowy planet to guard some valuable cargo until it’s extracted. There they meet Clone Commander Mayday and the two surviving men from his squad, with the rest having been killed defending the cargo. Nolan shows zero care or concern with the clones and doesn’t hide his disgust toward the soldiers, viewing them as expendable.
Mayday and Crosshair head outside to scope things out, and while they do the base is attacked again. The two remaining clones from Mayday’s squad are killed, and two crates of cargo are stolen – and Nolan cares a lot more about the latter, ordering Crosshair and Mayday to retrieve it. They head off into the snowy night, and along the way Crosshair accidentally steps on a pressure mine. Mayday slowly disarms it, refusing to leave Crosshair for dead, and the two discuss their backgrounds. Once the mine is disarmed they continue on, finding the camp where the raiders dwell. The two clones kill the raiders and retrieve the cargo… only to discover that it’s gear for the new stormtroopers. Mayday is upset that they’ve been guarding gear – and dying as they do – while they could have been using the gear to help instead.
An avalanche disrupts them, and the clones are buried in the snow. Crosshair loses his helmet, but Mayday is seriously injured. Rather than leaving him for dead, Crosshair decides to help him, slowly carrying the wounded clone back to base. By the time they make it back the Empire has begun loading up the cargo, and Nolan ‘greets’ the two clones with a reprimand for their failure. Crosshair insists that Mayday needs help, but Nolan heartlessly stands by while Mayday dies. Nolan tells Crosshair that the clones are expendable. As Nolan turns to leave, Crosshair shoots and kills him.
Crosshair passes out, and when he wakes up, he is in Mount Tantiss as an Imperial scientist begins some tests on him.
This is the third episode this season to focus heavily on the clones, their place in the galaxy, and the questions of morality and treatment, and there’s a pattern emerging. First it was “The Solitary Clone”, which saw Crosshair and Cody team up for a masterpiece of an episode. It was only rivaled by the two-parter midseason episodes “The Clone Conspiracy” and “Truth and Consequences”, which followed mystery and intrigue surrounding caring for the clones as the Empire begins phasing them out in favor of stormtroopers. Now we get to add “The Outpost” to that list, and it’s pretty easy to identify those episodes as among the best of the best not just of this season, but of the entire series.
“The Outpost” is all about Crosshair, but we’re also introduced to an awesome new clone in Mayday, who has grown disillusioned by the Empire. He’s served the Republic, and then the Empire, but when he and his men were in need of help they were left for dead. He’s come to realize that the clones are viewed as entirely expendable, and it hits home especially when he realizes that the cargo they’ve been protecting is stormtrooper gear. He’s been requesting reinforcements and supplies, while all the while he’s been guarding them. It causes him to utter a heartbreaking twist on that all-too-familiar line: “After all the clones have done, after all we’ve sacrificed. We’re good soldiers. We followed orders. And for what?” Crosshair has no answer to it, for he’s come to realize that Mayday is right.
It’s not just Mayday introduced in this episode, however, for in order for the emotional weight to truly hit home the showrunners created one of the most vile Imperial officers we’ve seen yet… which is certainly saying something! Lieutenant Nolan is extremely calloused and heartless, treating the clones like they are nothing. He views them as tools to advance his own aims, and he cares far more about protecting the cargo than protecting their lives. He’s careless with them, and is entirely unconcerned when clones die. It’s the most stark depiction we’ve seen yet this season, but it’s very much the same flavor that has been carried throughout. The Empire doesn’t care about the clones. They’re all just pawns, all expendable. But what Nolan failed to realize, like Rampart before him, is that he too is expendable and simply a pawn in a larger game. He may view the clones that way, but those above him view him that way too. It’s all a machine driven by the Emperor at the very top, a machine intended to bring about fear and terror to allow him to rule with an iron grip. Nolan is killed, and it’s a massively important moment for Crosshair.
So far he’s remained loyal to the Empire out of devotion, believing it’s the right thing to do. But even though he has rarely appeared this season, when he has he has been clearly confronted with the fact that the Empire isn’t as great for the clones as he once thought. This episode reflects that journey terrifically. Earlier in the episode Crosshair coldly says he’s ok leaving his comrades behind, but when Mayday is given a chance to leave Crosshair the wearied clone refuses. So, later, when Crosshair is presented with the same choice, he refuses. He struggles greatly to save Mayday, and he leaves his helmet behind as he does so. It’s not the faceless agent of the Empire; it’s Crosshair, who has come to his senses and had enough of it. He pleads with Nolan to help, only to watch Mayday die. The Empire is truly willing to leave the clones behind to die, and that’s the final turning point for Crosshair.
Of course, it’s not exactly a happy ending for him. The epilogue of the episode shows him waking up in Mount Tantiss, so it seems that the Empire isn’t totally done with him yet, and he’s not totally expend”able. They’re running tests, and I’m curious to see what for. Perhaps they’re going to try to turn him into an assassin like the one that Rex faced in “The Clone Conspiracy”, but at the same time that clone seemed to be acting of his own volition. A scarier thought is that perhaps Crosshair could serve as an early prototype of sorts for the Death Trooper; their armor is similar and evokes the same vibes. We know that while Death Troopers were elite soldiers they also received certain enhancements, and I wonder if the Empire is trying to capture some of Crosshair’s enhanced abilities for other troopers. Perhaps I’m way off here, but it wouldn’t shock me.
Regardless, the Empire wants Crosshair in Tantiss for something, just like the Zillo Beast, and we know they’re also on the hunt for Omega. In other words, with four episodes left in the season, all roads are leading to Mount Tantiss, and I’m extremely pumped to see what happens. It will be hard to keep up this level every week, but if “The Outpost” is any indication, we’re in for a real treat. It’s one of my very favorite episodes of the entire series.