It’s hardly a secret that May the 4th has taken on a life of its own.
Though it began as an internet joke by fans, Disney has leaned into this unofficial Star Wars holiday to release new content and celebrate the galaxy far, far away. Now, with the day upon us, Disney+ has taken the opportunity to begin their next chapter of the Wars world with The Bad Batch, the latest animated series from hit-maker Dave Filoni.
As the creator of the original Clone Wars and Mandalorian series, Filoni has become one of the founders of modern Warsstory-telling. With an emphasis on character development and long-form narrative arcs, his style has served them well, especially with the company’s increasing emphasis on Disney+. With The Bad Batch, Filoni returns to the Clone Wars era but, rather than simply continue the franchise (again), the story now focuses on a rogue squadron (pun intended) of faulty clones. Similar to the way in which Mandalorian offers a twist on the familiar, The Bad Batch also takes the world created by Lucas and creates something exciting and new(ish).
Picking up immediately after the clone troops have executed the now-infamous Order 66, the elite troop of soldiers Clone Force 99 are left shocked and confused by what has just taken place. After having followed their Jedi generals for years in the heat of battle, suddenly they have been commanded to wipe them out. (“All of them,” growls Palpatine.) However, as members of a bad batch of clones who have been genetically enhanced above their brothers-in-arms, Hunter, Wrecker, Tech, Crosshair and Echo seem immune to the Emperor’s orders. Lost and confused in the post-Clone Wars era, the Bad Batch must attempt to find their place in a much darker world than they could have imagined.
With a slightly darker edge than its animated predecessor, Bad Batch has genuine potential to be the next great Star Warsseries. Featuring solid story-telling and interesting characters, The Bad Batch is entertaining and engaging from the first episode. Filoni and his crew have yet again [re]created a world that’s worth our attention. Although this set up of a rag-tag band of freedom fighters may feel familiar within the Wars universe, the fact that the group consists of Imperial troopers somehow makes it seem fresh.
What’s more, the timing of the story feels like it actually fleshes out part of Lucas’ original vision. (Admittedly, the poor writing of the prequels leaves ample space for this to happen.) By continuing the story post-Order 66 from the perspective from anyone outside the Jedi Order, Filoni opens up the importance of that moment to those who aren’t normally featured. This is yet again another example of how Disney+ has allowed Star Wars to give smaller characters not named Skywalker their moment in the sun. (Who knew that I’d be glad to see the Kimino cloners again?) Though formulaic, it is still working… and fun to watch.
Admittedly, the story doesn’t need the addition of a ‘kid’ to the group. (At least, not from the first episode.) With the inclusion of ‘Omega’, the Batch has someone else to protect and provide the necessary childlike innocence that they will need. This seems to be the trend for more mature Wars stories in order to ‘soften’ the groups for younger viewers (read: Yoda, Baby) but it isn’t always necessary.
What makes this Bad Batch interesting is that, as ‘faulty’ clones, they have a unique flaw that sets them apart from other troopers: free will. Because of their genetic modifications, this crew of misfits are able to avoid the power of the Emperor’s viral commands and make their own decisions. In other words, despite their Clone DNA, this batch has the ability to make moral decisions instead of following orders blindly.
This squadron has a conscience.
Usually viewed as mindless drones who execute the Empire’s wishes at will, this group of troopers with the ability to reason for themselves creates some interesting tensions. In the pilot episode alone, the frictions within the unit mount as they attempt to wrestle with the implications of disobeying orders for the first time. Having been told what to think their entire lives, their circumstances have forced them to decide the nature of their duty for themselves. On the one hand, they value the military chain of command and accomplishing their mission.
On the other, they have begun to question what’s right and wrong.
For this group, morality is a new experience and offers solid potential as the story unfolds. As they process their way through a new world, Hunter and his crew are literally blank slates in search of their own identity and ethics. As a result, these new toys appear to have given Filoni and his team the opportunity to explore what makes something good or evil.
It’s also what appears to make watching this Bad Batch a good choice.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch premieres on Disney+ on Tuesday, May 4th, 2021 with new episodes airing on Fridays.