Happy Star Wars Day, and may the fourth be with you! To celebrate this momentous day, Disney+ released the 70-minute premiere of Star Wars: The Bad Batch. This series continues the highly popular Star Wars: The Clone Wars television series, picking up where its predecessor left off: with the titular defective clone squad adjusting to the rise of the Empire. Clone Force 99 made a strong debut during the final season of The Clone Wars, but how do they fare as the stars of their own show?
We always knew the acting on the show would be stellar. Dee Bradley Baker, the voice behind the Clone Troopers, returns and is as good as ever. He’s an incredibly talented actor and The Bad Batch gives him a chance to show off his versatility. Each member has a distinct voice and personality, which is different from the cookie-cutter voice of the regular, or “Reg,” Clone Troopers. It’s entertaining to listen to Baker jump between the brainy, mild-mannered Tech to the booming and blockheaded Wrecker. It sounds like Baker is enjoying himself as he explores the different aspects of these characters.
The show is gorgeous, some of the best animation the Star Wars universe has yet to offer. Character models and backgrounds are meticulously crafted, and animation cycles are the smoothest they’ve ever been. During the opening sequence, I noticed how backgrounds were blurred out to give it a narrow depth of field. This gave scenes a more cinematic quality, which I loved. The lighting and shadows are also impressive and enhanced some of the more dramatic scenes. It’s amazing to see how far Star Wars animation has come since The Clone Wars debuted in 2008.
The first episode of Star Wars: The Bad Batch is a mixed bag
The opening minutes of the premiere episode, “Aftermath,” are incredibly effective, as the Bad Batch witness the horrors of Order 66 firsthand. The last season of The Clone Wars and the video game Jedi: Fallen Order have explored this horrendous event in depth. The Bad Batch shows us the confusion up close on the battlefield, as squadmates fight among themselves as they hunt down a young Jedi padawan. It’s an eerie way to open the series that sets up the conflict for the rest of the episode.
That said, the rest of the episode becomes increasingly bland and uninteresting. While exploring the rise of the Empire through the eyes of Clone Troopers is an interesting concept, the execution feels rushed. The Bad Batch jumps from learning about Order 66 to training under Admiral Tarkin to hunting down Saw Gerrera and other rebels.
The timeline for these events is confusing, as the episode rushes through these scenes to get to the next without allowing them to breathe. When the episode does slow down, it feels like it’s wasting time. The combat simulator scene is one of the longest in the episode, and it’s most redundant. This scene’s purpose is to show the squad’s creativity on the battlefield. We already knew this from the first scene of the episode and their introduction in The Clone Wars.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch is full of promise
The episode introduces a new female clone, Omega, and every time she was onscreen I tuned out. Maybe I just need to give her more time to grow on me, but she came off as an annoying, plucky sidekick. But she has the potential to be one of the most interesting characters in the series, as she’s still rather mysterious.
The highlight of the episode is the conflict between Hunter and Crosshair. The latter suspect his sergeant let padawan Caleb Dume, a.k.a. Kanan Jarrus from Star Wars Rebels, escape. Crosshair believes that a good soldier follows orders, and he struggles with what to do about this. In the end, Crosshair betrays the Bad Batch, and the squad is on the run from the newly formed Empire.
And now the Bad Batch must watch one of their own wrestle with the Dark Side, which is the most promising storyline the show has going. Plus, Hunter and Crosshair seem to be the strongest two characters on the show right now and watching them quarrel is entertaining.
But for the most part, The Bad Batch is off to a weak start. Despite being 70 minutes, the premiere felt rushed. It did introduce promising new plot elements that we’ll hopefully see develop as the show continues. Luckily, we won’t have to wait too long for the next chapter as the second episode premieres this Friday.