We’re now at the halfway point of the animated series Star Wars: The Bad Batch season two, so I wanted to take a quick look at the episodes so far. The incredible Dee Bradley Baker returns to voice the entire Bad Batch and every single other male clone character on the series, with Michelle Ang as the Batch’s young ward, the teenage female clone Omega.
With the Batch believed dead and their former comrade Crosshair having thrown all-in with the Galactic Empire, the members of Clone Force 99 now hope to extricate themselves from their obligations to the Trandoshan smuggler Cid (voiced by Rhea Perlman) so they can go on their own path and secure a stable future for Omega. Cid suggests the Batch travel to Serenno, where the Empire is preparing to ship offworld the massive war chest accumulated by the late Count Dooku during his time leading the Separatists. The Batch’s efforts to make off with a portion of the wealth quickly goes pear-shaped, and they barely make it off Serenno in one piece.
I found the two-parter “Spoils of War” and “Ruins of War” to be somewhat underwhelming. Probably the strongest aspect of the story was the Batch meeting the elderly Romar Adell (voiced by Hector Elizondo), one of the few survivors of the Empire’s invasion of Serenno.
Adell informs the Batch that Dooku’s war chest was acquired not just by the Count looting the worlds of the Republic but his own home planet. It’s a vivid demonstration of how very far the former Jedi had fallen. In the recent Tales of the Jedi anthology series showed how Dooku’s disillusionment with the Republic was caused by him realizing how many of the politicians in the Senate were lining their own pockets at the expense of the people they were supposed to be representing. Now we see once again that, by joining Darth Sidious, Dooku ultimately became everything he started out fighting against.
“The Solitary Clone” was a definite improvement. The episode focused on Crosshair, whose blind loyalty leaves him isolated even from the other clones still serving the Empire. The ruthless, ambitious Admiral Rampart (Noshir Dalal) places Crosshair under the command of Commander Cody and dispatches them to the planet Desix to rescue Imperial Governor Grotton (Max Mittelman). The Governor has been taken hostage by the former Separatist Tawni Ames (Tasia Valenza) and her band of freedom fighters in a desperate attempt to safeguard their world’s independence.
This episode is a very effective inversion of the format established in The Clone Wars animated series. Cody leads a squad of clone troopers against the Separatist droid army to liberate a world… and I very quickly found myself rooting not for the clones but for Ames and her battle droids.
Cody genuinely believes he is doing the right thing, fighting for peace & security. He manages to talk down Ames, getting her to surrender, and is then horrified when Grotton orders her to be executed on the spot, an order Crosshair carries out without hesitation. Witnessing the start of the Empire’s brutal occupation of Desix, a shaken Cody at last realizes he’s on the wrong side.
Later, back on Coruscant, Cody confronts Crosshair about his unquestioning loyalty to the Empire:
“You know what makes us different from battle droids? We make our own decisions, our own choices. And we have to live with them too.”
The next day Crosshair is once again summoned before Rampart, who informs him that Cody has gone AWOL, further cementing the Admiral’s conviction that the Clone Army needs to be replaced with conscripted Stormtroppers who will be blindly loyal to the Empire.
Episode four, “Faster,” shifts the focus back onto the Batch as Tech, Wrecker and Omega accompany Cid to the planet Safa Toma where her droid TAY-0 is an entrant in a violent, high-speed “riot race.” TAY-0 loses when crime lord Millegi (Ernie Hudson) has his own racers cheat, and Cid finds herself heavily in debt. Tech participates in a second race to win Cid’s freedom.
This felt like another fairly standard episode but unremarkable, except for two things. One, we at long last got an episode spotlighting Tech. Two, at the end Millegi, handing Cid back to the Batch, he questions why the clones are risking their lives for her, attempting to warn them that she’s not worth their loyalty. Omega refuses to heed Millegi’s advice, but it does once again establish that, while the Batch working for Cid may have been a necessity in the short term to ensure their survival, in the long run they’re better off not being beholden to the smuggler.
“Entombed” was another fun but seemingly-throway episode as Cid’s sassy space pirate associate Phee Genoa (Wanda Sykes) convinces the Batch to accompany her on a search for a legendary treasure. This felt like an affectionate homage to Raiders of the Lost Ark, complete with ancient ruins, puzzles, death traps, and music that evoked John Williams’ scores for the Indiana Jones movies.
I feel the season started to get back on track with “Tribe,” the sixth episode. The Batch are running yet another errand for Cid, delivering forged chain codes to a group of droids on a space station, until Omega discovers those droids have a prisoner, a young Wookie. Impulsively leaping to the Wookie’s rescue, Omega learns that Gungi (Jonathan Lipow) is actually a Jedi, one of the few survivors of Order 66. The rest of the Batch immediately drop their mission and fight their way off the space station, taking Gungi with them.
Transporting Gungi back to Kashyyyk, the Batch are horrified to learn the Wookie homeworld is being pillaged by Trandoshian slavers working with the Empire. Citing the fact that the Wookies were their allies during the Clone Wars, the Batch join Gungi and a tribe of Wookies in fighting off the Empire.
This was a good one because it saw the Batch once again realizing that they have better things to do than getting tangled up in Cid’s criminal enterprises, that they’re much better off helping others who are being oppressed by the Empire. It was also nice to see the bond form between Omega and Gungi.
That brings us to the shocking mid-season two-parter “The Clone Conspiracy” and “Truth and Consequences.” On Coruscant, Admiral Rampart is aggressively pushing the Senate to pass into law the Defense Recruitment Bill which will phase out the Clone Army and enable the Empire to begin drafting its citizens into a new force of Imperial Stormtroopers. Several Senators are opposed, with Riyo Chuchi (Jennifer Hale) forcefully arguing that the clones, having done their duty to protect the galaxy, should not just be cast aside, as well as questioning why, with the Separatists defeated, the new Empire even needs a standing army.
“After all they have sacrificed, you now wish to discard them? Leave them with nothing? Is that how we repay them for our service? How can we debate commissioning a new army without a plan in place to care for our current one?”
Star Wars has been political right from the beginning. Despite the preponderance of British accents among Imperial officers, it’s clear that George Lucas regarded the Galactic Empire as the dark side of the United States. That really comes to the fore with these two episodes.
Rampart argues there simply isn’t the money to both support the veterans of the Clone Wars and to fund a new military, so the former will have to be sacrificed in favor of the latter. That is exactly the position we’ve seen again and again here in America.
Somehow there’s always the money available to build billion-dollar tanks & airplanes and to wage unending wars in the Middle East in the name of “national security.” But when it comes to helping veterans struggling with physical wounds and PTSD, to finding them housing, to funding the Military Health System and the Department of Veterans Affairs, well, suddenly politicians will start arguing for “fiscal responsibility” because now we seemingly cannot afford any of that. It is an absolute disgrace.
There’s an uncomfortable scene in “The Clone Conspiracy” where a group of clone troopers, realizing they are going to be cast aside, and not knowing if they are even going to have a future now that the galaxy no longer needs them, are experiencing a mixture of fear, disbelief and outrage.
Captain Rex summons the Batch to Coruscant in “Truth and Consequences” to help Chuchi expose that Rampart had Kamino and its cloning facilities destroyed so that the Empire would be forced to transition to an enlisted army. The Batch is able to locate evidence of the cover-up and gets it to Chuchi, who presents it before the Senate. However, the Emperor (Ian McDiarmid), ever the consummate chessmaster, quickly spins this to his advantage. Appearing before the Senate, the Emperor feigns shock & outrage and orders Rampart arrested. The Admiral is dragged off, all the while protesting that he was only following orders.
The Emperor then addresses the Senate and argues that the fact that the clones unquestioningly followed Rampart’s orders to destroy Kamino is proof that the galaxy needs to switch to the new Stormtroopers. A dispirited Chuchi watches as the Senate finally passes the Defense Recruitment Bill, ensuring the Emperor will have his standing army.
While most of the Batch were infiltrating Rampart’s star destroyer to recover evidence of the plot, Omega joined Chuchi in the Senate. Omega asked Chuchi what a Senator does, and the latter replied that Senators represent their people, serve as their voice in the government.
At least, that is supposed to be how it works. We see in these two episodes that all-too-many of the members of the Senate are complicit in helping Rampart push through the Defense Recruitment Bill because it’s a way for them to amass more wealth & political power.
Authoritarian despots such as the Emperor rely on such ambitious, avaricious public officials to maintain their grip on power. Like Rampart, those officials all think they’re going to come out ahead, only to be shocked when, their usefulness at an end, they get cast aside by their supreme ruler. And all the other lackeys & functionaries, despite witnessing this happening again and again, somehow manage to convince themselves “It won’t happen to me.” We saw this repeatedly during Donald Trump’s time as President, and, really, this is always a fixture of governments headed by narcissistic sociopaths. In the end despots are only loyal to one person: themselves.
“Truth and Consequences” ends with the Batch realizing they’ve been outmaneuvered by the Emperor. Echo decides that his place is no longer with the Batch, but with Captain Rex, helping their fellow clones who now more than ever will have to fight for their rights & freedoms. The implication is that the rest of the Batch are now also going to seriously reconsider their future.
Hopefully the second half of the season will follow on from the interesting character & plot threads set up throughout these first eight episodes and have a more focused direction.