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The premiere of Star Wars: The Bad Batch answers burning questions and hurts our souls
The boys are back in town! The next era of Star Wars animation has officially begun, as a group of Clones that we got to know toward the end of Star Wars: The Clone Wars have now spun off into their very own series. Welcome to Star Wars: The Bad Batch.
Through Hunter, Wrecker, Tech, Crosshair, and Echo — all voiced by long-time Star Wars actor Dee Bradley Baker — Star Wars fans are getting a first-hand look at what happened to the Clones following Order 66, how many of them responded, and how they were treated. The premiere episode, "Aftermath," clocks in at over an hour and addresses all of this immediately — and lets us know that the issues brought up will be ongoing storylines for this series.
Perhaps most importantly, the episode let us know whether or not the Order 66 programming triggered in Clone Force 99.
***WARNING: From this point forward, there will be huge spoilers for the premiere episode of Star Wars: The Bad Batch. If you have not watched it yet, then you don't want this, it's not habit forming, but get outta here Dewey.***
Are we going to be watching a show about a triggered Bad Batch hunting down wayward Jedi? The short answer is thankfully, no. It doesn't seem like it. Our heroes weren't triggered by Order 66, and they are just as dumbfounded and horrified by what is going on as everyone else.
Why are they not affected? Tech sums it up best while they are getting to the bottom of the programming itself: "Obviously we are different. They manipulated preexisting aberrations in our DNA… my guess is we are immune to the effects of the programming. Though I can't be 100 percent certain of it."
Why can't he be 100 percent certain? Because one member of the Batch was affected. From the moment the order comes, Crosshair starts acting different. He repeats the dreaded triggered-Clone mantra of "good soldiers follow orders" and then goes on to tow the new Imperial line. He constantly questions Hunter's leadership, and is the only member of the Batch that doesn't seem to mind that they are now working for an Empire and not a Republic.
Echo, it should be noted, is thought to be immune because he was blown up and then haphazardly put back together by Separatists on Skako Minor during The Clone Wars. He's been through enough. Crosshair, we officially come to learn, was triggered. Not as much as the bulk of the Clones, but he was affected. Both Tarkin (Stephen Stanton) and Kaminoan scientist Nala Se (Gwendoline Yeo) take notice.
The Batch ends up in a brig on Kamino after declining to murder insurgents led by Saw Gerrera (Andrew Kishino), but Tarkin has been watching and admiring Crosshair's attitude. They examine him, and Nala Se notes, "While the chip is not as active as a standard Clone's, the order does appear to be working."
Tarkin asks if they can intensify the programming, and wouldn't you know it, they can! They do. By the end of the episode, Crosshair is actively fighting against his former Clone family. He tries to foil their escape with the child Omega (Michelle Ang), who we learn is another enhanced Clone.
We'd imagined that if we saw the programming go off in the Batch, it would be in all of them. We didn't consider that they'd get split up, that one of them could react differently from the others. Crosshair is a sniper, he's used to looking at everything from a distance, and he was always the coldest of the group. It makes sense that of all of them, he's the one to be affected. It hurts, too, because now our boys have to fight against one of their own brothers.
The extra conditioning that he receives plays into another big plotline that the premiere brings up: What happens to the Clones? We know that eventually they are phased out of the Empire and replaced with conscripted Stormtroopers. Why does the Empire replace soldiers who can hit their targets with troopers who can't hit anything?
Money, mostly. Remembering our Star Wars: Attack of the Clones lore, the Kaminoans are friendly based on how big your pocketbook is. Clones aren't cheap, and Prime Minister Lama Su (Bob Bergen) reminds Tarkin that they have a contract with the Republic for further Clone production.
With the Republic? Yes. But Tarkin is quick to point out that the Republic no longer exists. They have no contract with the Empire, and Tarkin believes that the Clones provide "a service conscription soldiers could provide at half the cost."
This is why he is so intent on testing Clone loyalty for the rest of the episode, especially the loyalty of the Batch. While he likes how strong the Batch is in a fight (even an unfair one that he creates), he doesn't like their dislike of the rules. The horrifying super-conditioning is a plus, then. If all Clones could receive this, at cost, then maybe Clones could be the future.
We know what decision is ultimately going to be made, but the seeds of that decision are right here in this episode. The Clones have fulfilled their purpose, and they are expensive. The Empire is going to toss them aside and go with fake Prada bags from now on. Gotta save up for the big ball of death! You get what you pay for, Empire!
The Kaminoans don't look like they are going to go quietly, with both Lama Su and Nala Se keeping certain truths to themselves. Some of those truths revolve around the mysterious Omega, who we find out is a poet with a blaster despite never having held one in her life. Who is she exactly? The Kaminoans would be veeeerrrrry happy to keep that a secret.
By episode's end, the Batch has the mysterious Omega with them, but they are now being hunted by one of their own. It's a horrifying twist and we really should have seen it coming, because Star Wars animation really knows how to turn a vibroknife in a wound. All of the Clones cheer and applaud when a holo recording of Palpatine's famous "Empire Day" speech is played, but like the rest of the galaxy, they are giving thunderous applause to their own demise. It's hard to watch, and it's not over yet.
Saw tells the Batch, "You can either adapt and survive, or die with the past. The decision is yours." Many of the Clones are going to do the latter, but our boys? They're gonna do what they always do. They majored in both adapting and surviving.
Now then... who exactly is Omega a clone of? (The first person to say "Snoke" gets a tray thrown at them.) We imagine we'll find out a bit more as the series continues.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch is streaming now on Disney+, with new episodes premiering every Friday. Your move.