A great start for a fresh new series. Here's hoping the next batch of episodes are, in fact, good.
Disney helped fans celebrate May the 4th by releasing the first episode of the new animated Star Wars show The Bad Batch, a 70-minute long premiere that is looking like a worthy start to follow on from its acclaimed predecessor, The Clone Wars.
Dave Filoni is the magic-man at Lucasfilms. The best way of looking at Filoni is comparing him to what Kevin Feige does with the Marvel Cinematic Universe: a passionate nerd who understands the importance of character, intertextuality and honouring tiny details in established lore. 2020’s final season of The Clone Wars, Filoni’s swansong for the Republic era, introduced audiences to the ‘Bad Batch,’ four distinctly specialised but genetically mutated clone troopers. Whilst they could be labelled a cliché squad, the Batch, or Clone Force 99, consists of: the leader with enhanced senses Hunter, the dim-witted but brutish and immensely strong Wrecker, the eagle-eyed sniper Crosshair, and Tech, the bespeckled clone with advanced intelligence. Following their storyline in The Clone Wars, they are now joined by the cybernetic clone Echo. Filoni’s new series follows their struggle for existence as the Weimar Republic falls away and is replaced by Nazi Germany (metaphorically speaking).
Animation for Star Wars content has come leaps and bounds since 2008’s computer-rendered film. The opening sequence of this feature-length first installment sees a crisply created tundra landscape, as Order 66 is depicted from the Batch’s perspective (and also from the viewpoint of familiar young Padawans…) for a suitably thrilling start to the show. The sharpness of the visuals demonstrates how far Filoni’s eye for storyboarding and poetic imagery has come, especially as the action transitions to the planet Kamino. Dee Bradley Baker is back voicing every clone (which is still amusing) but, to stop the show being a complete sausage fest, Filoni has introduced Omega. Omega is a little girl, the first (and only?) female clone of Jango Fett, complete with a very endearing Kiwi accent. Episode 1 sets up Omega as the centre for the show’s emotion to orbit; a meme identifying the clones as “The Dad Batch” reinforces Star Wars obsession with parenthood.
The Star Wars timeline is undeniably crowded with content now, but The Bad Batch is uniquely set in the immediate reconstruction period for the Imperial Empire, allowing us to see the ascension of Grand Moff Tarkin (complete with enormous thighs) and the decommissioning of the clone troopers. This season-opener teases some of the details but hopefully the show going forwards can detail the shift in socio-economic policy and the begrudging views citizens will start to harbour against the Empire. The lack of Jedi also allows the action to be refreshingly creative with the Batch’s distinct skill set; gone are the lightsabers in favour of knives, snipers and sheer strength.
With the Batch evading the imperial forces, the stage is now set for an unpredictable and hopefully spectacularly entertaining series that can forge an original path between all the interconnectedness of the other shows and films.
The first episode of The Bad Batch is available to stream now on Disney+.