As part of a recent, friendly bet (which you can see outlined here on Twitter) I have committed to not only watching every single episode of this season of Star Wars: The Bad Batch, but I must also write 500-word (minimum) reviews about the series!
That’s not actually sarcasm. I’m excited to write about Star Wars again, and am using this as an excuse and a bit of a prod to kickstart myself back into some writing. Without further ado…
A Brilliant Premiere Marred by Inconsistency
I’ll cut to the chase: Overall, I think the series premiere of The Bad Batch was a success. It balances character moments well within the larger scope of the galactic-scale issues facing them in the nascent days of the Empire, and as a result, I think the titular Bad Batch flourishes here in a way they did not in their The Clone Wars Season 7 début. Unlike others, I didn’t even dislike that arc of the series, but I did think those episodes were tonally inconsistent with the more “mature” latter-day Clone Wars–something about the characters and what they accomplished was hard to square with other events that late in the series, with other Season 7 episodes (not to mention those of Season 6) feeling much heavier and more down-to-earth. I’ve said before that, to me, the Bad Batch arc wouldn’t feel out of place in Seasons 1 or 2.
The core aspects of the characters that harken back to the old Clone Wars, including a playfulness and an immaturity, isn’t gone in “Aftermath,” the premiere of this new series, but as I said above, I feel like it’s more balanced and the focus on the characters themselves and their place in the early Imperial period serves to ground the story and provide a good “in” for the audience. While some expressed reservations about Omega, a new female clone character and (as revealed in the episode) a fifth member of the aberrant batch that led to the creation of Clone Force 99, I really enjoyed the dynamics she brought to the team and the episode, even if it’s not exactly a novel concept to have a young, student-like character who follows (and even at times mimics) her mentor(s). An equally pleasing aspect of the episode for a Canonphile like myself was the appearance of Saw Gerrera, who has clearly matured somewhat even since we last saw him (chronologically) in The Clone Wars, yet he is a far cry from the physically crippled and pathologically paranoid figure he will eventually become in Rogue One.
I could honestly be overly effusive about the aspects of “Aftermath” that I enjoyed. I suspect that the development team behind the series has used or been made aware of concepts regarding the clone army and their replacement by conscripted/recruited soldiers from the sadly abandoned TV series Underworld, as the episode concerns itself greatly with questions about the future of the clones. I absolutely loved those aspects of this episode and can’t wait to see how and where the series takes us next; however, there is something that marred (and will likely always mar) my opinion of not only this premiere episode, but perhaps also the series.
It’s time to talk about the elephant in the room: What does “Canon” really mean?
I’m mostly joking; I’ve talked and debated this issue many times, mostly to no avail, and I frankly don’t want to be bogged down in the morning following the premiere of The Bad Batch getting too into the weeds. Nevertheless, I do find it gravely concerning that previously established narratives are becoming more and more fluid and retconned–and, I’d argue, to the detriment of the overall story. In the opening minutes of the premiere, the creatives behind the series decided to place the Bad Batch on Kaller during Order 66–an event already depicted in the absolutely brilliant Star Wars: Kanan comic series from 2015-2016. Put simply, there’s zero way to make the two depictions of the same event cohesive: One does not feature the Bad Batch (among numerous other differences), and one features them so significantly that it forms one of the emotional bases on which the rest of the episode itself rests. Gone in the series are the clones Styles and Grey, friends and fellow soldiers alongside Depa Billaba and Caleb Dume (later aka Kanan Jarrus), replaced by the “reinforcements” of the Bad Batch. On the one hand I understand the desire to tell this story in animation and to connect these characters together, but something about the way the series does it–completely overriding the story depicted in the comic–comes across as lazy and petty, like a child complaining about not getting to play with the toys they want to they way they want to. I feel like more competent and frankly interesting storytelling, especially IP writing, would find a way to tell the story in a way that doesn’t contradict what came before. The recent trends in animation and live-action to do the opposite annoys me and, honestly, makes it far less likely that I’ll continue to buy things like comics and novels and reference books. It’s hard to see the point when the stories and information depicted therein are treated like suggestions and not actually considered part of the overall story.
Does this point aggravate me to the degree that I won’t watch the series? No. But I sincerely hope we don’t see more of this going forward, and that all the things I enjoyed about the premiere continue instead! Build characters and worlds, but not at the expense of what you already have!