Star Wars: The Bad Batch season two has come to its shocking conclusion. I previously blogged about the first eight episodes of the season and here are my thoughts on the second half.
In general I felt these episodes were more strongly consistent than than the first half of the season had been. Echo leaving the Batch to join Rex and his underground movement to help the clone troopers escape the Empire spurred a great deal of introspection in the rest of the group, especially the teenage Omega.
Clone Force 99 (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker) may have started out as a military unit, but once they broke from the Empire and adopted Omega (Michelle Ang) they became a family, and the departure of Echo is keenly felt.
Episode nine, “The Crossing,” sees the remaining members of the Batch sent by Trandoshan smuggler Cid (Rhea Perlman) to a desert planet to retrieve some highly volatile ipsium mineral from a mine she purchased. While they are extracting the ipsium the Batch’s ship the Marauder is stolen. Without any supplies, the stranded group is forced to cross the harsh desert to reach a spaceport on the other side of the planet, only to find it abandoned. They are able to use the technology there to contact Cid, however the Trandoshan informs them she won’t be able to arrange for their rescue for several days. The Batch angrily reminds Cid of all the times they saved HER rear end, but she blows them off.
The group had been feeling increasingly uneasy at their alliance of convenience with Cid throughout the second season, but this feels like the turning point in their relationship.
“The Crossing” really stood out to me for developing the relationship between Omega and the emotionally repressed Tech. It’s a well-written scene that provides some long-overdue examination of the intelligent, introverted Tech. Baker and Ang do a fine job with the voice acting in this scene. And once again I’m amazed at how totally different Baker is able to make the male members of Clone Force 99, not just in their voices but also in their personalities.
In “Retrieval” the group discovers that the Marauder is still on the planet and are able to track it down by homing in on their droid Gonky. They discover the ship was stolen by teenager Benni Baro (Yuri Lowenthal) in an attempt to curry favor with Mokko (Jonathan Lipow), the brutal owner of the ipsium mine where Benni and numerous others work for literal slave wages.
Mokko is neither clever nor subtle, but like many other oppressors he’s discovered a secret to remaining in power: keep your subjects at each other’s throats desperately competing for scarce resources so that they’ll be too distracted to realize they’re being exploited. The Batch help Benni and the community overthrow Mokko. Regaining their ship, they’re finally able to depart the planet.
In “Metamorphosis” we are introduced to Dr. Royce Hemlock (Jimmi Simpson) and with a last name like that you just know this guy isn’t going to be pleasant. Indeed, the amoral Hemlock, previously expelled from the Republic Science Corps for his unauthorized experiments, is now a member of the Empire’s top secret Advanced Science Division at Mount Tantiss, tasked with unraveling the secrets of the cloning technology seized from the Kaminoans. Hemlock is using the surviving clone troopers as unwitting test subjects for his unethical experiments.
One of the transport ships belonging to the Advanced Science Division crash-lands, and the Batch, still smarting from Cid’s refusal to rescue them, only reluctantly agree to salvage the ship for her. Unfortunately they discover the cargo is alive & hostile, an attempt by the Empire to clone the incredibly dangerous Zillo Beast. Way back in The Clone Wars season two Chancellor Palpatine ordered his scientists to clone the Zillo Beast that attacked Coruscant. I always figured that writer Dave Filoni would eventually follow up on that somewhere or another. The Bad Batch, which is exploring the Empire’s efforts to pervert cloning to their own dark ends, is the perfect place to return to that subplot.
We shift our focus to former Batch member Crosshair in “The Outpost.” Still blindly following the Empire’s orders, Crosshair is assigned to the arrogant Lieutenant Nolan (Crispin Freeman) who does nothing to disguise his disdain for the clone troopers.
Nolan and Crosshair travel to Barton IV, where an Imperial supply depot is under siege by raiders. Mayday, the clone in charge of the base, is the opposite of Crosshair, regarding the inexperienced, haughty Nolan as unworthy of respect. Most of the episode involves Crosshair and Mayday arguing over what the clones’ role in the galaxy should be. Crosshair’s comment about not leaving behind “dead weight” is almost immediately thrown in his face when he steps on a pressure mine, and Mayday disarms it, saving his life.
The two clones locate the raiders, but in the ensuing battle an avalanche buries everyone. Crosshair manages to extricate himself and locates the gravely wounded Mayday. Crosshair struggles across the harsh frozen landscape to bring Mayday back to base for medical treatment. But when the two clones at long last make it back, Nolan tells them they’ve failed in their mission to retrieve the stolen supplies and refuses to help them. When Mayday succumbs to his injuries, a distraught Crosshair is furious, but Nolan responds that the clones are expendable. At last realizing exactly the sort of monsters he’s pledged his loyalty to, Crosshair shoots Nolan, killing him.
It’s been one of the central themes of this season how the Empire uses people. Previously we saw that Admiral Rampart did everything he was ordered to do, yet the instant he was no longer needed he was made a scapegoat for the Empire’s crimes and thrown to the wolves. Hemlock, rather than being outraged at Nolan’s death, is actually amused that Crosshair murdered his commanding officer and applauds the clone’s initiative, demonstrating that the Lieutenant, who saw the clones as expendable, was himself entirely dispensable. And one of the reasons why Hemlock is so desperate to unlock the secrets of the Kaminoans’s cloning technology is because he knows that if he doesn’t succeed the Empire will dispose of him.
In the next episode “Pabu” the Batch is once again assisting “liberator of ancient wonders” Phee Genoa (Wanda Sykes) on one of her capers. In spite of her seemingly blasé attitude, as well as her fondness for helping herself to other people’s property, Phee is much different than Cid, in that she regards the clones as friends. Learning that the Batch are attempting to cut ties with Cid, Phee takes them to the tropical island of Pabu, where refugees from numerous worlds have established a community. Phee is clearly offering them sanctuary.
When a natural disaster strikes, the Batch throws in to help save the lives of everyone on Pabu, and to rebuild the community. The contrast to the Empire is clear; for the Batch and Phee and the people of Pabu, friendship & community are invaluable, and it’s the responsibility of each individual to help others.
The second season moves towards its climax with “Tipping Point.” Echo and several other clones are actively working to rescue their brothers who are being shipped to Mount Tantiss for Hemlock’s experiments. One of the clones they liberate is Howzer, who has been a prisoner of the Empire since his refusal to follow orders back in the first season. I was wondering what was going to happen to him, so I’m glad we got an answer here.
Hemlock, having learned that Omega is the one person who Kaminoan scientist Nala Se (Gwendoline Yeo) actually cares about, has Crosshair transferred to Mount Tantiss, hoping the clone can give him a clue where his former team is hiding. Crosshair breaks free and is able to transmit a warning to the Batch before being recaptured.
That leads to the two episode season finale “The Summit” and “Plan 99.” Hoping to locate Crosshair, the Batch infiltrates Governor Tarkin’s (Stephen Stanton) base on Eriadu where Hemlock will be attending an important Imperial summit, so that they can place a tracking device on Hemlock’s ship and follow him back to his base. Unfortunately Eridu has also been infiltrated by Saw Gerrera (Andrew Kishino) who is determined to blow up Tarkin’s headquarters. The Batch, revealing they’re trying to locate Crosshair, try to get Saw to stand down, but he refuses, seeing Crosshair and the other clones Hemlock has imprisoned as necessary sacrifices in the war against the Empire.
As a result of Saw’s interference, the Batch are discovered and Hemlock’s ship with its tracking device is blown up. Tech sacrifices himself to save the rest of Clone Force 99, seemingly plunging to his death. The rest of the Batch, wounded and pursued by the Empire, flee to Ord Mantell, hoping Cid can help them. However Cid betrays them, revealing their whereabouts to the Empire in exchange for a reward. Hemlock captures Omega and brings her to Mount Tantiss in order to pressure Nala Se into working on the Emperor’s mysterious cloning project. Hunter, Wrecker and Echo manage to escape from the Imperial forces, but they still have no idea where Hemlock’s base is located, but they vow to track the mad scientist down and free Omega.
To be continued! Yipes, what a cliffhanger!
The Batch’s decision to go to Cid for help instead of returning to Pabu was baffling, since I’m sure everyone in the audience saw her betrayal of the team coming a long way off. The only thing I can think is that Pabu was too far away, the Batch needed immediate medical assistance, and so risked returning to Cid. But the script really ought to have made that clear.
It’s interesting that we see Cid attempt to rationalize her betrayal of the Batch, arguing that the team had put her at risk by returning to Ord Mantell, giving her no choice. That’s entirely in Cid’s self-serving nature, and sadly there are all too many people like that who will engage in that sort of self-justification, making themselves out to be the “real” victims. In the end Cid, was very much like the Empire, seeing Clone Force 99 primarily as assets to be utilized for her benefit.
In contrast, the Batch’s mission to find Crosshair once again shows just how important loyalty to family and friends is to them. It doesn’t matter that Crosshair previously turned his back on the rest of the team; he’s still their brother, both figuratively and literally, and they feel compelled to help him.
Tech’s death was a huge gut-punch. It really shows just how well this series developed Clone Force 99 from one-dimensional stereotypes into fully-realized characters over the past two seasons that it was so very painful to see him sacrifice himself, and to watch the others mourn his death.
The big question now – other than how will the Batch save Omega – is whether Tech is really dead. He fell from such a height that I can’t imagine how he could have survived. But we don’t actually see a body. And this IS the same series where someone once got cut in half and dropped down a pit, only to turn up alive later on. So you never know.
One thing’s for sure: I’m going to be in real suspense waiting for season three!