Features and Columns · TV

‘The Bad Batch’ to Continue the Most Adult Iteration of ‘Star Wars’

Just as ‘The Clone Wars’ achieved excellence, the show was over. Ah, but the quality shall continue elsewhere.
Star Wars Bad Batch
By  · Published on July 15th, 2020

Welcome to ‘The Clone Wars’ Explained, our column dedicated to the soldiers and Jedi who fought as puppets for an Empire on the rise. We thought this series reached its logical conclusion earlier this year, but Disney+ had other ideas. ‘Star Wars: The Bad Batch’ lives!

The seventh and final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars was a bittersweet sendoff. Bridging the gaps between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith was never going to conclude with sunshine and rainbows. The series exposed the Jedi as ignorant puppets of the Emperor, responsible for the deaths of billions. Remember, the future is so bright, Anakin has gotta wear Vader shades and kill some younglings.

Whatever possible redemption available to our “heroes,” by design, only came afterward in Star Wars: Rebels and the original trilogy. As such, The Clone Wars‘ legacy rests as a deeply satisfying exploration of war-time themes that George Lucas could barely scratch in his prequels. With the room allotted by serialized television, the cartoon show found itself to be the most adult-minded iteration of the franchise.

As satisfying as those last episodes were, the absence left by The Clone Wars felt significant even if The Mandalorian seemingly took its job as the latest Star Wars gap-filler, shading in the blank spaces in the middle of Return of the Jedi and The Force AwakensThe Clone Wars is a story as much about the grunts and the citizens as it is about the flashy champions destined for licensing deals. It’s the Star Wars equivalent of The Twilight Zone, using far-out characters and concepts to speak directly to the audience of the now. We need its depth and pathos.

Lucasfilm answered our call. Springing directly out of the last season, Disney+ will stream a new animated Star Wars adventure produced by The Clone Wars mastermind Dave Filoni, as well as Jennifer Corbett, Athena Portillo, Brad Rau, and Josh Rimes. Entitled Star Wars: The Bad Batch, this new series will follow the squad of genetically aberrant clones introduced in the first episode of The Clone Wars‘ seventh season but pick up their story after the Empire’s rise to power.

The series plot is summed up in a single sentence, “In the post-Clone War era, they will take on daring mercenary missions as they struggle to stay afloat and find new purpose.”

New purpose? Yes, yes, yes. The internal struggles have always trumped the external battles in The Clone Wars. Star Wars works best when it is character over narrative.

The clones were bred for war. What does it mean for them when the war is over? Luckily for the pawns, war never ends. Lots of clones simply shifted over into Stormtroopers. Yay? Nay.

As we saw in Star Wars: Rebels, for Captain Rex and his fellow clones with a bit more mastery over their conscience, the conclusion of the Clone Wars and the ignition of the Rebellion proved life can be a bit more complicated. Finding an identity apart from their brothers became a lifelong pursuit.

The Bad Batch clones got a bit of a jump start on that mission. As genetic defects, these clones, a.k.a. Clone Force 99,  were not mirrored copies of each other. There’s the beefy tall one (Wrecker), the skinny one (Tech), the mean one (Crosshairs), and the long-haired Rambo one (Hunter). All weirdos, all badasses.

With their physical differences comes a particular set of skills that would make Liam Neeson blush. Wrecker is the muscle, unafraid to take on a dozen battle droids minus a blaster. Crosshairs’ rough disposition and killer eagle eye make him the perfect sniper, picking the enemy off from afar and burying his feelings deeper into his gut. Yet, for as effective as they are as warriors, their comrades keep their distance.

In an army that demands conformity, the Bad Batch symbolizes a threat to the community.

Their mutation sets them apart from the rest. While clones have always found ways to differentiate each other through tattoos and hairstyles, these biological deviants were a variance too far. In a universe that loves to trap entities into boxes (“No Droids here!”), the Bad Batch represents the ultimate outsiders and the righteous soldiers to challenge the system.

When we last saw the Bad Batch, they welcomed the former ARC Trooper Echo into their ranks after the battle of Anaxes. Echo spent several seasons under the spell of the Separatist army, with much of his flesh replaced by machinery. When other soldiers refused to fight by his side, the Bad Batch invited his unique point of view. In doing so, they were able to crack the enemy’s computer banks and win the day. Trust and acceptance being the final weapon used to achieve victory.

Do you remember when Gareth Edwards was first promoting Star Wars: Rogue One? He championed his film as the first Star Wars movie to depict the struggles and torments of war. With so many eyes on it and so much money at stake, his film skirted the trenches but never firmly committed to its foxholes. However, there were fewer eyes on The Clone Wars, and while many fans dismissed it as just a cartoon, Filoni and pals delivered on Edwards’ dreams years before the director even had them.

A lot of eyes sprung open during the final season of The Clone Wars as it was perfecting its aim (we can’t pretend there were no bumps along the way). Star Wars: The Bad Batch offers creators a chance to pick up the baton and continue the torturous emotional journey of heroism. A quest that will probably never be made available cinematically.

With Season 2 of The Mandalorian months away from airdate and an Obi-Wan saga starring Ewan McGregor still in development, along with a Cassian Andor series and a female-centric show from Leslye Headland, Disney+ is staking its claim as the new home for quality Star Wars entertainment. They’re taking power away from any single film, hopefully shrinking fan outrage in the process. When you have so many stories to choose from, one perceived dud feels less painful.

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Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)