Features and Columns · TV

Inhibitor Chips Were Never a Viable Excuse for Imperial Loyalty

The hunky new ‘Star Wars’ addition takes his first steps into rebellion, and we can no longer ignore Crosshair’s villainy.
The Bad Batch Episode 12 Rescue On Ryloth
By  · Published on July 16th, 2021

Welcome to The Bad Batch Explained, our weekly column dedicated to those rough and tumble Clone Wars leftovers and their march through a bold, new galaxy far, far away. In this entry, we’re charging into Star Wars: The Bad Batch Episode 12 (“Rescue on Ryloth”) and considering how inhibitor chips don’t form excuses. So yes, there are spoilers here.

As the Empire’s grip tightens, more subjects slip through its fingers. We’re still in the early days of their galactic rule, but Star Wars: The Bad Batch fiendishly revels in fetishizing the bubbling rebellion brewing amongst their ranks. Where Star Wars: The Clone Wars used the impending Imperial rise to stir dread into every frame, this new animated adventure is in the business of igniting hope. Emperor Palpatine got his throne, but it’s destined to crumble.

As predicted last week, future Star Wars: Rebels heroine Hera Syndulla calls in Clone Force 99 to rescue her parents from Admiral Rampart’s clutches. In her animated series, set several years after this one, she explained to the Ghost crew that Clones once upon a time saved her life. Well, The Bad Batch Episode 12, “Rescue on Ryloth,” paints that picture in detail.

Seeking to maintain Imperial occupation on Hera’s planet, Rampart staged an assassination attempt on Senator Taa and pinned the blaster fire on Hera’s freedom-fighter father, Cham Syndulla. Into chains he went, leaving Hera to scramble a rescue attempt.

Hunter and his Clone Force 99 crew are reluctant to answer Hera’s distress call, but after last week’s brief but warm encounter, Omega convinces her brothers to join the fight. She does so by appealing to Hunter’s righteous sense of soldiering. He believed he was made to help those who could not help themselves. The knowledge that he was actually built to be a pawn in a fabricated war tears at his soul. He aches to be what he thought he was.

Clone Force 99 is tired of playing mercenary. They’ve worked with Cid to gain credits and tread water while they adjust to a post-Republic galaxy, but bounty hunting is not their thing. Since the first episode, we’ve known this; we’ve just been waiting for Hunter to figure it out. They’re Rebels. It’s time to get rebelling.

The Bad Batch Episode 12 gets a little more surprising in how it unravels the other Clones standing on the sidelines. Crosshair is our focus. The Imperial loyalist can’t shake the inhibitor chip rattling around his noggin. His glare burns with revenge against his old pals. He’s a bulldog waiting to be unleashed, and Admiral Rampart lets him off that chain by episode end.

But what about Clone Captain Howzer? Since his franchise introduction last week, Star Wars fanatics have gone wild with their fawning over this gray-haired hunk. He sees the wrong around him. His guts twist at the thought of an Imperial occupation on Ryloth. He helped free these people from Separatist invasion. Now, he holds a blaster at their back? Howzer is on the wrong side, and he knows it.

In Crosshair’s case, we blame the inhibitor chip for his villainous behavior. For whatever reason, the other Clone Force 99 members resisted the chip’s instruction. Their aberrations prevented the Imperial spell, and they never turned their blasters on the Jedi when Order 66 was given. Crosshair could not resist the chip’s pull, and he went full Dark Side.

But so did most of the Clones. Even our beloved Captain Rex struck against Ahsoka Tano during the Clone Wars climax. After she knocked some sense into him, Rex felt great shame. He put himself under the knife and got the chip out just in case. Rex could not resist the chip’s initial activation, but once Order 66 was done, he gravitated to his core beliefs. He knew right from wrong.

Howzer is the same. He struck out against the Jedi presumably. He fell in line with the Empire. But he knows that the Ryloth occupation goes against Republic values, and those values are just as baked into his body as the inhibitor chip. Where Rex resisted, so too does Howzer.

When the math doesn’t add up, Howzer rebels, recognizing Rampart as a liar, and understanding the treachery at play. He can no longer stand at attention. As Crosshair’s troopers prepare to ambush, Howzer sides with Clone Force 99. He provides a distraction by confronting his fellow soldiers with words and honesty so that Hunter can sneak Hera’s family out the back door.

Some comrades throw down their arms. No one is blind. They see what the Empire is conducting. They resist alongside Howzer, and they’re rewarded with shackles. As they’re escorted to the brig, Howzer looks to Clone Force 99’s shuttle. He’s satisfied with his revolt.

We feel sorry for Crosshair, but the chip is no longer an excuse. His actions are his own. Rex and Howzer could not counter the initial Order 66, but they did not remain under its sway. Crosshair enjoys his position behind the rifle scope too much. We’ve known that since his first appearance. He loves sniping the enemy. Breaking him of that lust may prove impossible.

The Bad Batch Episode 12 ends with Admiral Rampart siccing Crosshair, his dog, upon Clone Force 99. We cannot expect a happy reunion. This is no longer a simple matter of bonking Crosshair on the head and yanking the chip out. What worked for Wrecker will not work for this gleeful killer.

Crosshair made choices. As did Howzer. Between the two, the latter should be the Clone added amongst Clone Force 99’s ranks. His story is not over. Howzer is a Bad Batcher through and through. Crosshair is a Death Trooper. His future rests next to the Empire. In the dirt.

Star Wars: The Bad Batch Episode 12 is now streaming on Disney+.

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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)