Wow, ‘The Bad Batch’ got dark quickly.
The Star Wars animated shows have a history of getting dark in tone but it is usually after a couple of seasons which gives the target audience (pre-teens) a chance to grow with the show. This isn’t the case with ‘The Bad Batch’, three episodes in and innocent bystanders are getting incinerated while an Imperial officer shoots one of his own troopers.
This episode’s title ‘Replacements’ plays out on a few different levels. The main story follows the squad as they crash land on a desolate moon after taking damage to their ship in the previous episode. They need to find the replacement parts to get flying again. One of the ship’s energy cells gets stolen by an Ordo Moon Dragon, a creature that feeds on pure energy. Hunter sets out to track down the beast and Omega tags along to prove that she is a good replacement for Crosshair on the team. Hunter gets knocked unconscious and Omega had to finish the mission on her own. In doing do she displays similar tracking skills to Hunter, this is after already show shooting skills like Crosshair, and using intelligence she manages to retrieve the power cell peacefully. She has proven herself to the squad and when she returns to the ship Wrecker reveals that he had made her her own bedroom showing that she has truly been accepted.
Back on Kamino, Tarkin and Vice Admiral Rampart and continuing with their plan to replace the clones. Their belief is that people who choose to serve the Empire will be more loyal and cheaper. They have set up a squad of new recruits, to be lead by Crosshair, that will replace Clone Force 99. Their first mission – go and kill Saw Gerrera and his followers, the mission the Bad Batch refused to complete. In Tarkin’s eyes if they can complete this task they are more reliable then clones. Crosshair, with his inhibitor chip fully functioning, is more than happy to comply and the squad methodically take out Saw’s people one by one. With no sign of Saw, Crosshair interrogates a survivor who he then shoots in cold blood when it becomes apparent that Saw has already left. Crosshair then orders the other squad members to kill the remaining prisoners and when one refuses he shoots him at point blank range. The rest of the squad fall in line and a massacre happens just of screen but you see the light coming off the flamethrower. When the squad return to Kamino the troopers death is just accepted as a cost of war and the squad in seen as a success. These new recruits started out seeing this as a job but now they are being kept in line by fear.
While the bulk of the storytelling is straightforward thing we have seen in Star Wars time and again (facing down a beast has been in all forms of Star Wars and troopers killing innocents has been there since ‘A New Hope’ but not this much out in the open) there are thing happening that make this stand out and set things up for the future. Wrecker bangs his head when the ship crashes and starts experiencing headaches, is his inhibitor chip going to activate? Tech is creating a scanning device for the chips, is this going to solve problems or make more? Omega seems to be able to imitate the squads enhanced skills, is she the ultimate clone? The squad doesn’t blame Crosshair for his actions, can he be redeemed? Crosshair appears to be showing regret in the quiet moments, does his chip have full control of him?
But there is one big question left hanging. Lama Su and Nala Se, the head of the Kaminoan cloners, are plotting in the background to save the cloning process. For years their people have survived of the money generated by creating the clone army of the Republic, this income is now under threat from Tarkin and Ramparts War-Mantle plan (one of the Imperial projects glimpsed by Jyn Erso in ‘Rogue One’). They talk about how Jango Fett’s genetic material is deteriorating and they will need a new donor for the next phase to make the perfect clone that the Empire will not be able to do without. They only need one to give the sample so are they talking about the Bad Batch? Is that why they let Omega go with the squad, so they could track their movements? How far will the Kaminoans go to keep their contracts and will the Empire turn on them if they are no longer required.
This is the strongest episode so far. It builds on the impending dread being created by the Empire and is laying the ground work for the whole Imperial regime. The characters are starting to be clearly defined and bonds created.
But just how bad is it going to get for The Bad Batch.