The Bad Batch attempts to give some more character and humanity to the cloned Stormtroopers that once fought alongside the Jedi. It was hard to feel for them during their extended usage as mostly red-shirts amid the lengthy seasons of The Clone Wars. This is due in part because, well, I’ve seen the Star Wars prequel movies and know there’s little reason to care for a collective of characters who will ultimately be turned into instruments of evil. Thankfully, this series doesn’t try to dangle the inevitable ball-drop moment and follows a different set of characters whom we don’t know their true fates.
The show follows a small grouping of Clone Troopers known as Clone Force 99 who are distinguished as being far different from the identical crowd. This group includes genetically unique soldiers skilled in different areas: the smart one (Tech), the expert sniper (Crosshairs), the giant brute (Wrecker), the leader (Hunter), and the explosives expert (Echo). They’re tasked as being the most elite of teams called into difficult missions. They’re also different from the other troopers in that they do not blindly follow orders.
So when Order 66 drops and they’re ordered to kill all the Jedi, something seems amiss to them. They soon realize the new Galactic Empire isn’t just built on shaky ground but that they don’t serve much of a purpose in this new world order. Demanding absolute obedieance from troopers, Admiral Tarkan orders Clone Force 99 to be either repogrammed or disposed of. Naturally, this is when the critical thinking skills of the group kick in and they go rogue. Perhaps later they’ll meet up with some like-minded rebels against such an empire.
The first episode, running 72 minutes in length, spends a lot of time setting up a rather simple premise. For a batch of soldiers that are meant to be divergent, they fit pretty basic archetypes. Tech spouts a lot of technobabble and estimates while Wrecker speaks with enthusiasm about breaking stuff. Even the addition of a chipper child to their ranks doesn’t add much extra charm, appearing more like an insertion of something to fight for and rescue in future episodes. Tarkan is a bore and even the secretly deceptive scientists of the clone factory still speak with the same level of dry delivery.
There’s some decent action present in the episode, where the troopers tackle armies, robots, and Jedi. To give credit where its due, there’s some creativity in these bouts. Of note is a training sequence where the Batch battle deadly droids and resort to such wild tactics as shooting energy-fueled knives. But that’s about par for the course with these Star Wars series, hence the name. There is at least an ounce of moral questioning in how the leader of Force 99 lets a Padawan Jedi go and tell the Empire he killed the boy. That morality questioning is mild, however, and the path seems pretty clear for this group and their future adventures.
The Bad Batch is a decent dose of Star Wars intrigue but still an experience bereft of a more personal edge. It doesn’t contain the same plucky drive of Star Wars: Rebels nor does it inhabit the loner grip of The Mandalorian. In truth, the first episode feels mostly like another season of The Clone Wars with more appeal in original characters rather than ones we’re familiar with in the films. All components are there to make a compelling war story of rogue soldiers fighting back against the republic they once trusted. But, wow, does it slog through that first episode and has a long way to go to be something more than just another iteration of The Clone Wars, bringing all the bad baggage with it.