The Bad Batch recently wrapped up its second season, and based on the way it ended, we’ll almost certainly be getting an official announcement about season three at Star Wars Celebration later this week. And it’s a testament to this show that I’m more excited to see what’s next than I’ve been at any point in it’s entire run so far.
In short, this season of The Bad Batch was absolutely tremendous. It rose to some of the highest points of any Star Wars animated series so far, and any Star Wars show in general. It took a little bit for it to find its footing (which, as I’ll explain in a moment, I think was intentional) but once it did, it was fantastic.
The season started with the squad in much the same place they were last season, still running missions for Cid trying to earn credits. I was initially a bit frustrated by this, wishing that the team would embrace a bigger picture and get more involved in making a positive impact in the galaxy. But I think as the season went on it became clear that the writers actually intended for us to get frustrated, because the characters in the show were feeling the same. It started with Echo, but then began to trickle down to the others. Echo thought they should be doing more to resist the Empire and help those in need, but Hunter’s primary focus was on blending in and surviving. That became a key theme throughout the season, which is why toward the end of the season they went to Pabu: it was a chance for us to see these characters get what they had been searching for. A place to lay low and live a quiet, peaceful life, one in which Omega could just be a kid without the pressures of the galaxy weighing on her.
But for as long as Star Wars has existed there has been the reality that as long as good people use their power and resources to simply preserve their own wellbeing and not use it to help others in the face of tyranny, evil will reign. It leads to the point where Echo leaves the batch to join up with Rex, and together they seek to aid other clones around the galaxy. I think one of the most important conversations of the whole season happens when Echo reunites with Hunter in “Tipping Point”. Hunter admires what Echo and Rex are doing, but he says, “Echo, you’ve seen the power you’re up against. You can’t defeat them.” This series shows us the rise of that Empire, and how they’re taking over worlds (as demonstrated in “The Solitary Clone”). But Echo responds, “It’s not about that. It’s about fighting for our brothers.”
In other words, Echo sees clearly that the merit of the fight isn’t in whether they can defeat the enemy but in whether they can help save some of their friends. It’s another timeless Star Wars theme. As Rose Tico said in The Last Jedi, “that’s how we’re gonna win. Not fighting what we hate; saving what we love.” Or as Qui-Gon Jinn says in Master and Apprentice, when faced with much the same question of whether it even matters.
“It matters which side we choose. Even if there will never be more light than darkness. Even if there can be no more joy in the galaxy than there is pain. For every action we undertake, for every word we speak, for every life we touch—it matters. I don’t turn toward the light because it means someday I’ll ‘win’ some sort of cosmic game. I turn toward it because it is the light.”
The clones might never be able to overthrow the Empire – and, in fact, we as the viewers know they won’t be able to. We know that any resistance they muster is doomed to fail. It’s a tragedy, yes, but that doesn’t mean that the efforts of Echo and Rex and the other clones they’re teaming up with are wasted. The light is worth following even if it can’t overcome the darkness, because the light is still the light. It is still good, still worth it. If they can help some of their brothers, that’s what they must do.
And they must do it because the Empire views the clones as entirely expendable. Without question this series is at its very best when dealing with these matters, particularly when Crosshair is involved, and this season was no exception. Some of the very best episodes were “The Solitary Clone”, “The Clone Conspiracy”, “Truth and Consequences”, “The Outpost”, and “Tipping Point”, all of which dealt extensively with the state of the clones in the galaxy. The Empire is in a rush to phase the clones out and replace them with enlisted recruits, seeing the clones as too free-willed and therefore dangerous to their efforts. At their worst, the Empire simply views the clones as their property and doesn’t care what happens to them, like with Doctor Hemlock – a terrifying yet terrifically compelling new villain introduced late in the season. In short, the Empire views the clones as entirely expendable.
The Empire views the clones as expendable, but a larger theme is that almost everybody in the Empire is expendable. Admiral Rampart leads the way on pushing for the enlisted recruits only to discover that he was just a pawn in the larger game. Nolan thinks he calls all the shots but he’ll be quickly replaced. Even in the finale, as Saw Gerrera wants to blow up Tarkin’s tower, Hunter and Tech push back by saying that the Empire will just replace those leaders before long. The Empire is set up to make every single person replaceable except for one: Emperor Palpatine. That’s all by design. Not everybody sees it clearly, but the same Imperial officers who view the clones as pawns in their plans and easily replaceable don’t realize that they’re in the exact same boat.
Crosshair sees this happening, but he believes that as long as he fends for himself and uses his abilities to survive that he’ll be fine. Ironically that’s the same message that Hunter and the rest of the bad batch are demonstrating too, so both Crosshair and the others come to lean many of the same lessons as the season goes on. Crosshair shows up sparingly, but whenever he does the episode is bound to be fantastic. There’s a crack that begins to form in his interactions with Cody early in the season, but it all reaches a crescendo in “The Outpost”, where he and Mayday – a reg – are both stranded together in an avalanche. Crosshair looks out for his brother, only to learn that the Empire doesn’t care. The Empire, and Lieutenant Nolan in particular, view all of the clones – including both Crosshair and Mayday – as entirely expendable. Nolan lets Mayday die, which is the final straw for Crosshair, who kills him. Crosshair has come to realize that the Empire is a far greater avalanche that he won’t be able to outrun, nor will any of the clones. He’s got to do something about it, and he does, both in killing Nolan but also later in sending a warning to his old squad. It’s something the rest of Clone Force 99 has to come to learn as the season goes on, realizing that they’ve got to fight.
It reminds me of the passionate plea of Kanan Jarrus to the Bendu in the Rebels season three finale, where the Bendu prefers to not get involved in the fight. Kanan exclaims,
“Look, I tried to live that way once. Told myself the galaxy would go on with or without me. But when I saw innocents harmed, and knew I had the power to do something about it, I couldn’t just watch it all burn down around me. Some things are worth fighting for!”
Indeed they are, and the entire Bad Batch is coming to learn it. Tech believes it enough that he sacrifices himself in one of the most emotional Star Wars moments we’ve seen in a long time, where he gives his life to save the lives of his squad. He knows that his sacrifice won’t bring the whole Empire tumbling down, but he does know that it will save his friends. And that is worth fighting for.
The season, of course, ends on quite the cliffhanger, with Omega captured and taken to Mount Tantiss. One of my biggest disappointments with an otherwise amazing season was that we didn’t see more of Tantiss after it was teased at the end of season one. The finale of the first season set up something that I thought would lead to more payoff this season, but it really didn’t. Tantiss is incredibly intriguing to me, and I’m anxious to learn more about the Empire’s plans and efforts there. For example, Nala Se knows what the Emperor wants and refuses to do it – what is that? The natural guess would be trying to clone a Force-sensitive body, but we don’t know. The tease for what was to come in season two became a tease for what is to come in season three, but it’s a relatively minor complaint in the grand scheme of the series. There will be more coming, and I can’t wait to see it.
The season was a home run, with too many standout episodes to fully note, which gave us some of the best animated stories we’ve ever seen in Star Wars. From the storytelling to the voice cast (Dee Bradley Baker in particular) to the musical score (Kevin Kiner never misses) to the stunning animation, The Bad Batch is Star Wars at its finest. And I can’t wait for season three.
One thought on “Star Wars: The Bad Batch season two review!”
I couldn’t agree with you more. Hard to believe that the kind of silly stereotypes we saw in the Batch at the beginning of Season 7 of Clone Wars is now some of the best Star Wars, ever. I never would have believed it, but here we are. Great post, and I love your inclusion of Qui Gon’s Light speech from Master and Apprentice, and Kanan’s speech to the Bendu. The very heart of Star Wars. It’s going to be a LONG wait for Season 3!
LikeLiked by 1 person