Star Wars: The Bad Batch review: Too kid-centric, but that could change soon

The very first episode of the 2020 revival of Star Wars: The Clone Wars presented Clone Force 99, a team of elite clone task forces with speculative anomalies that made them stick out amongst the clone warriors produced to protect the Galactic Republic from the Confederacy of Independent Systems. While The Clone Wars concluded its plotlines and its titular dispute in between the Jedi and the Separatists led by Count Dooku and General Grievous in its last season, the system nicknamed The Bad Batch offered a chance to continue The Clone Wars’ concentrate on the lives of soldiers in a galaxy grasped by apparently limitless war.

Star Wars: The Bad Batch, which premieres on Disney Plus on Might 4 (aka “Star Wars Day,” since “May the 4th be with you”), gets practically precisely where The Clone Wars ended, with the execution of Order 66 triggering control-chip implants that require the clone cannon fodders to switch on their Jedi leaders. The members of the Bad Batch are mainly untouched, due to their special natures, leaving them to question whether the damage of the Jedi Order is warranted. As the brand-new Galactic Empire starts strengthening its control, the team starts challenging orders and bucking Imperial management.

The program might possibly make a great deal of extremely pertinent commentary about soldiers battling in unfair wars for a progressively authoritarian state, however the very first 2 episodes of The Bad Batch are primarily concentrated on attempting to make a program about a group of grim, greatly armed veterans feel kid-friendly. The pilot presents Omega (Michelle Ang), a mystical, precocious girl raised in the cloning center on earth Kamino. Omega rapidly forms a bond with the Bad Batch’s leader Hunter (voiced, like all of the clone soldiers by the hugely skilled Dee Bradley Baker) and end up running with the team to efficiently act as his embraced child and partner.

Ideally, this is simply the most recent symptom of a pattern that’s extended throughout the Star Wars animated programs helmed by Dave Filoni. While The Clone Wars ended up being an advanced series that provided war-movie action, presented precious brand-new characters, and offered strong advancement for the prequels’ heroes and bad guys, it began with a far more juvenile tone, much like Bad Batch.

The five members of Clone Force 99 stand together in a grey, foggy background in The Bad Batch

Image: Lucasfilm Ltd.

Anakin Skywalker’s padawan Ahsoka Tano starts The Clone Wars as a 14-year-old who’s simply been sent into the field, and she functions as a relatable stand-in for the audience, letting them discover the nature of the galactic dispute from the very same point of view as more youthful audiences. A number of the first-season episodes include quite cutesy plots, like Anakin searching for R2-D2, or Container Container Binks being misinterpreted for a Jedi. The series didn’t truly strike its stride up until season 2, when the group started providing standout episodes like the legendary action of “Landing at Point Rain,” or the deeply individual drama of “The Deserter.”

Star Wars Rebels, which Filoni co-created with Simon Kinberg and Carrie Beck, went through a comparable development. In the very first season, the cast of mainly teen characters primarily participate in ridiculous hijinks and disputes with one-note bad guys. However by season 2, Rebels started making use of a few of The Clone Wars’ finest characters, while likewise substantially establishing its primary cast. It went on to tell complicated stories about sacrifice, the burdens of leadership, and found family, while providing the first onscreen appearance of one of the most significant villains in Star Wars canon.

Omega’s presence is understandable in that Filoni and head writer Jennifer Corbett might have had a hard time selling a show in 2021 without a single female protagonist. They likewise might have thought a cute sidekick would work well given the popularity of Grogu, aka Baby Yoda, in The Mandalorian.

But a non-verbal alien serves a very different role than a human tween. Grogu’s hijinks are alternately cute and horrifying, and he periodically uses his Force powers to change the course of a fight, but he doesn’t actively demand the spotlight in the same way Omega does at the beginning of The Bad Batch. She’s also likely a Force user who will serve as a series McGuffin, possibly pushing Hunter and the rest of the Bad Batch to protect her just as violently as Din Djarin fights for his young charge on The Mandalorian. But Corbett seems to be bending over backward in the very first two episodes to ensure Omega isn’t just adopted by the squad, but accepted as a useful member of the team. Her moments to shine come at the expense of the existing characters, who have to make dumb mistakes so she can bail them out.

It’s particularly frustrating that Corbett and Filoni felt the need to jam Omega into the show given how inaccessible the rest of the show is to kids, or even casual Star Wars fans. While the heroes of the Bad Batch largely fall into broad Five-Man Band archetypes, the show is deeply invested in the lore of the previous animated series. It’s filled with callbacks, references, and cameos that receive almost no explanation. It’s really hard to imagine new, young viewers being quickly wooed by a series that seems to assume that anyone tuning in has already watched 11 seasons of The Clone Wars and Rebels.

But the lore and characters established in The Clone Wars are likewise featured in The Mandalorian, and they’ll get additional life in Filoni’s Ahsoka Tano series. Perhaps those shows, and not The Bad Batch, will be the true successors to The Clone Wars. Yet if the trajectory of past series can predict anything, it’s likely too early to write The Bad Batch off. Omega will grow up, and the program will most likely grow with her.

Episodes of Star Wars: The Bad Batch will be launched weekly on Fridays on Disney Plus, beginning May 7.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.