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 14 (“War-Mantle”) and catching up with classic Clone commandos Scorch and Gregor. So yes, there are spoilers here.
The Empire has no use for history. As Star Wars: The Bad Batch Season 1 marches toward its conclusion, the Galaxy’s new rulers are doing their best to sweep the Republic under the rug. The Clones served their purpose, but why waste money on their construction when three times as many free grunts are willing to sign their lives away for a roof and a sandwich. Make the universe outside the Empire so wretched, and every youth will come running for one of those sweet, sweet Stormtrooper costumes. And, yeah, their aim won’t be worth a damn, but the Emperor doesn’t need sharpshooters. He merely needs a neverending supply of blaster fire.
The Bad Batch Episode 14, entitled “War-Mantle,” sees Clone Force 99 accepting another mission from Captain Rex despite the gig they’re already pulling for bartender bounty hunter Cid. Hunter still can’t shake his desire to fight the good fight, and while he balks at ditching a paid job for a favor, old loyalty forces his hand. He was born to serve and eradicate despotic rule. His desire to do so only intensifies with the knowledge that a despot kickstarted his existence.
Before he jumps off the call, Rex points Clone Force 99 to Daro, another one of those pesky Outer Rim planets where the Empire is up to no good. Clone Force 99 is hunting a distress signal, and it leads them to a heavily fortified base. Immediately they’re put on edge when they spot the armor these new troopers are sporting. They don’t know it, but we do. They’re staring at Stormtroopers, generation one.
Highlighting this transitional period, these early model TK troopers wear designs based on the painting of Star Wars conceptual artist Ralph McQuarrie. Before the films were ever a reality, George Lucas asked the artist to whip up some images that he could bring into pitch meetings. If you’ve been around the block once or twice, there’s no doubt you’ve seen these pieces. They’re the paintings that show Deak Starkiller (Luke Skywalker’s prototype) gas-masked in battle with a much more samurai-influenced Darth Vader.
McQuarrie’s early Stormtroopers are a touch chunkier, a little beefier. They don’t appear to be nimble on their feet, and as we witness in The Bad Batch Episode 14, they are a clumsy lot. Clone Force 99 is stunned by their ineptitude, and they’re actually relieved to discover that there are no Clones under their helmets. The Stormtroopers don’t have their skill, but they don’t need it either. They got the numbers.
As was indicated in the Bad Batch premiere, the Empire only wants to retain a handful of Clone soldiers. They recognize their abilities, and as such, they make fine teachers for the TKs. The signal Clone Force 99 gets from Rex belongs to one such educator: former Clone soldier Gregor.
We first met this uncomfortable chuckler in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars episode “Missing in Action.” During the Battle of Sarrish, Gregor sustained a traumatic head injury when his shuttle crashed on Abafar. Suffering from amnesia, he took up a job as a dishwasher and remained hidden in plain sight until a Republic official accidentally outed him. He proved to be a capable soldier, helping the Astromech unit, D-Squad, escape a tight jam.
Gregor seemingly perished during the “Missing in Action” conclusion, but years later, he reappeared on Star Wars: Rebels, living amongst the other retired Clones on Seelos. From there, he became instrumental in the fight against Grand Admiral Thrawn. In the Rebels series finale, “Family Reunion – And Farewell,” Gregor finally did lay down his life, dying in Rex’s arms during the battle of Lothal. His final words were those of gratitude, telling Rex that he was thankful to die for a righteous cause.
The Bad Batch Episode 14 connects Gregor’s supposed death in The Clone Wars to his actual death in Rebels. As all our favorite Clones have learned, the Empire is no place for them. They were never anything more than a stopgap. Teaching a clearly inferior army to enslave and dominate the weak goes against everything they were bred to do. If Gregor wants out, Clone Force 99 will happily oblige.
Gregor is not the only familiar face we encounter on Daro. He doesn’t get significant screentime, but Delta Squad hero and Star Wars: Republic Commando supporting player Scorch pops into frame a few times. Unfortunately, he never jumps ship. His place, for now, is alongside the TK troopers, shooting it out with Gregor and Clone Force 99.
Scorch was introduced in the 2005 Republic Commando video game. It was a basic run and gun adventure, but it was the first Star Wars story to emphasize the Clones. Released three years before The Clone Wars would hit television sets, Republic Commando developed an intense following. Like the animated series, the game picks up immediately after Attack of the Clones. While it does not add too much context to the time before Revenge of the Sith, the game does allow the player to enter the Clones’ mindset and understand their point of view.
Delta Squad would eventually reappear in the Clone Wars episode “Witches of the Mist,” but like Scorch’s brief appearance in The Bad Batch Episode 14, the Republic Commando grunts were denied a meaty narrative. The Scorch cameo here offers hope for more, but for now, we must be satisfied in seeing the video game badass survive a major walloping from Clone Force 99. The question remains, will Scorch stick with the Empire, or will he see the light and defect like Gregor and Hunter’s crew?
The Bad Batch Episode 14 continues to highlight what makes the Clones so dang special. They began life as fodder to fuel an imaginary war, and while that plan worked for a time, they also became key fighters in the Rebellion against the Empire. There are Stormtroopers to be found underneath every planetary rock, but there’s a limited Clone supply. This week, we see six Clones go up against several dozen and survive. Sure, Hunter falls into enemy hands to establish a cliffhanger, but our boy is getting out no problem next episode.
Could Hunter be the one to turn Scorch? Will Lucasfilm finally give Delta Squad the spotlight they so deserve? We shall see.
While the Empire tries desperately to kill history, that history is coming back to bite them in the butt. The Stormtroopers look cool in their Ralph McQuarrie duds, but they can’t shoot for crap. They’re destined to fire their blasters wildly, stumble into each other, and konk their heads on Death Star doors.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch Episode 14 is now streaming on Disney+.