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One of the biggest loose ends Star Wars: The Bad Batch was primed to tie up was the question of what happened to the Clone Army following Order 66. We knew that some of them survived to appear in other stories, but for the most part, they were phased out in favor of enlisted troopers.
"CT"s became "TK"s. As many installments of Star Wars prove, TKs (Stormtroopers) are nowhere near as capable as Clones, but they make up for that in numbers. As one character says in the latest Bad Batch episode, there’s an endless supply. That's good because they suck on their own. We’ve been waiting for the new series to show us this transition, but surprise, it’s been going on for a while now.
***WARNING: From this point onward there will be spoilers for Star Wars: The Bad Batch Season 1, Episode 14, "War-Mantle." If you haven’t watched yet, turn back.***
The episode title is “War-Mantle,” which clues us in immediately as to what we’re dealing with: Tarkin (Stephen Stanton) talked about “Operation War-Mantle” with Vice Admiral Rampart (Noshir Dalal) earlier in the season. As the conscript vs. Clone debate has gone on in the rains of Kamino (and the Kaminoans have tried to stave off the inevitable), the mantle of war was being passed on to an entirely different planet.
The Bad Batch (all members voiced by Dee Bradley Baker) and Omega (Michelle Ang) get swept up in all of this after Rex (also Dee Bradley Baker, he’s every Clone) comms them and asks them to check out a distress signal on the planet Daro. They find the Clone in question, and a whole lot more.
There’s a hidden military base on Daro that would make a James Bond villain blush. Inside, Clone commandos are training Stormtroopers. Their armor has been changed (getting closer to classic Stormtrooper armor) and the musical riffs on the base (courtesy of Kevin Kiner) lean on John Williams’ pre-"Imperial March" themes from Star Wars: A New Hope.
One of the commandos here is the one Rex sent them after — he’s having none of this, so he tried to escape. It turns out the commando in question is Gregor, who, in terms of the timeline, was blown up on the planet Abafar in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 5 episode “Missing in Action.” We knew he survived that thanks to Star Wars Rebels, but this fills in the gap.
As he says, “I got blown up once and survived.” He’s not alone in that, as Echo (also blown up and still around) is standing right there. Gregor lays all of the information out for the Batch, telling them (when they discover a non-Clone within the newly designed armor), “These are our replacements, if you can believe that.”
According to him, the Empire called in commandos to train these recruits and he was among them. The Kaminoans probably didn’t know about it, as they only find out in this episode that their Clone contract has been canceled by the Empire. Prime Minister Lama Su (Bob Bergen) is in deep kriff.
“The Empire is not like the Republic,” he says. “We have empowered them to our own detriment. I fear they will destroy us rather than allow this operation to continue.”
He’s absolutely right, because now that the Jedi are gone, why wouldn’t the newly established Empire wipe up any and all loose ends? The Kaminoans have played their part, so they can go and die now.
Nala Se (Gwendoline Yeo) is a scientist, so she may be of use. She will be spared. A politician like Lama Su? He can go the way that the entire Imperial Senate is eventually going to go… right out the window. We don’t see him get killed, but Rampart really implies that he’s toast as some troopers converge on him and the doors of the glowing white ladle-chair room close.
The TKs may have been trained by Clone commandos, but they’re nothing when put up against the Batch. Their strength, as Gregor has said, lies in their numbers. There are endless waves of them, and there are also endless waves of V-Wing fighters in the skies. Eventually, these TKs will don the classic Stormtrooper armor, and the Empire will switch out the V-Wings for the truly cheap (and disposable) TIE Fighters. Who needs skill when you have endless bodies?
The Batch does get Gregor out and they all manage to escape, except for Hunter, who falls behind and orders them to leave without him. He ends up in a cell being visited by, who else, Crosshair. He was hoping for the whole squad, but Hunter alone will have to do.
If this operation on Daro isn’t “Operation War-Mantle” then what the kark is? The episode revolves around it and again, it’s the title. The Empire is building itself into the more-familiar fascist band we see in the Original Trilogy, and baggage like Lama Su will continue to fall away.
It is troubling that they kept Nala Se around, and also that Hunter is now a prisoner. We saw Nala Se give Crosshair his extreme conditioning in the premiere, so we worry she’ll do the same to Hunter. He no longer has a chip, but that may not matter.
Still, life (and the Force) could find a way. Nala Se is no longer fully loyal, and she could prove to be the wild card in this scenario. The fly in the ointment. The pain in the a**. She’s also a font of information about Omega, so it makes sense that she’s one of the last Kaminoans left standing.
What did the Empire do with those squads of Clone children that we saw early in the episode? They must all be very happy on a farm somewhere.
New episodes of Star Wars: The Bad Batch stream on Disney+ every Friday.