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…
Manchurian Kaminoan Candidate
This (now past) week’s episode of The Bad Batch was divided into two major plots: Clone Force 99 and their adventure trying to repower their damaged ship; and Crosshair’s continued manipulation by the Kaminoans and their Imperial masters. I enjoyed both plots, but found the second frankly more interesting for reasons I’ll get into shortly. The Bad Batch’s time on what appears to be the Ordo moon is a somewhat classic Star Wars animated romp: The characters find themselves marooned, they have to technologically overcome their circumstances, etc. Throw in some other elements that are classic Star Wars like a cool new creature/monster (that is not everything it first appears to be) and the young hero(ine) being in some way crucial to the resolution and, to quote Carl Weathers, baby, you’ve got a stew goin’!
But in all seriousness, my favourite aspects of that half of the episode were the furtherance of the relationship between Hunter and Omega, with an especially cute and thoughtful Wrecker moment toward the end of the episode as well, and especially the way that Omega, while out of her depth, is still depicted as intelligent and thoughtful enough to come up with the solution to the problem. She doesn’t have to be saved by one of her elders, and neither is she scolded by Hunter; she’s able to retrieve the part they need, stolen by the moon dragon, without resorting to violence–something that is mirrored to the opposite in brutal fashion in the other half of the episode.
Crosshair in this series is essentially (at least, as far as we know) a Manchurian Candidate–or, to make it slightly more topical, the series’ Winter Soldier analogue. For whatever reason, his genetics did not completely inhibit the inhibitor chip (hah!) and, as seen previously in the series premiere, the Kaminoans were somehow able to strengthen its signals (or some such) to enforce a greater control over his mind and actions. And he is used by his new Imperial masters to absolutely terrifying effect in this episode. Given command over a group of non-clone soldiers–and here we have a fantastic Rogue One connection, with Project War-Mantle finally getting its due–Crosshair is tasked by Tarkin and Vice-Admiral Rampart with completing the mission previously abandoned and failed by the Bad Batch: To return to Onderon and wipe out Saw Gerrera and his forces.
The interplay between Crosshair and his squad before the mission is juxtaposed to great effect with how they interact following the completion of the mission–and of course Crosshair sees his mission through (although Saw Gerrera had already gone), because as he says, “good soldiers follow orders.” The non-clone human soldiers look down on Crosshair to begin with, questioning his leadership and believing him to be an unnecessary burden; the loudest among them does not want to “complete the mission” as Crosshair sees it by killing non-combatants. In one of the darker moments of Star Wars generally but particularly in animation, Crosshair executes this mutinous soldier and then orders the others to execute the civilians. After a brief moment of hesitance, they follow his orders. In this moment, we’re beginning to see the true evil of the Empire come to the fore, the Empire that will eventually brutally murder Owen and Beru Lars and leave their skeletal corpses smoking on the Tatooine sands, the Empire that will carry out acts of genocide against the Geonosians–although anti-alien attitudes there were also seen in The Clone Wars itself, with a Vietnam War parallel that I found shocking in its cruelty–the Empire that will destroy worlds with both Death Stars and the means of Operation: Cinder. Leading the charge in this evil is a clone who seems to be compelled beyond his own desire to carry out his orders, and the tragedy of his actions is thus compounded with his own.
I definitely found this episode, and especially the Crosshair-related sections, to be the best of the season so far. I really hope the characters continue to grow and that the story continues to be grounded as it has been in their actions and thoughts. And I wonder if the tease re: Omega will develop as I think it will…