Clones may be expensive, but they can be programmed to do things that conscripted soldiers don’t want to do. If by chance the Grand Army of the Republic was made up of conscripts instead of clones, Order 66 would have gone quite differently and Star Wars history would not have been the same. Fewer triggers all around.
How does the Empire, which wants to do away with the old and embrace the new, plan to get conscripted troopers to follow orders without question? Episode 3 of Star Wars: The Bad Batch, titled “Replacements,” starts to address the issue.
SPOILER WARNING: From this point forward, spoilers will follow for the Star Wars: The Clone Wars episode “Replacements.”
The Batch (all voiced by Dee Bradley Baker) crashes on a moon and deals with an “Ordo Moon Dragon” while trying to get their ship’s capacitor back. It’s a classic problem, we’ve all been there. Omega (Michelle Ang) proves to be a big help, and she ends the episode with her own room. Thanks, Wrecker!
She also takes many opportunities to tell the Batch that Crosshair turning on them was not his fault. He couldn’t help it then, and he can’t help it now. The chips within the clones were designed for this. Even though the chips within the Batch (Crosshair aside) are not functioning, Tech is still working on a way to locate them. Also, Wrecker’s persistent headache in this episode has us worried.
While they repair their ship and get on their way again, we visit Kamino once more to visit with Crosshair and the newly arrived Imperial flunky of this show, Vice Admiral Rampart (Noshir Dalal). Tarkin (Stephen Stanton) likes his style, and he likes that he’s created an elite squad of conscripted soldiers.
Though Lama Su (Bob Bergen) and Nala Se (Gwendoline Yeo) keep beating their drum for the Kaminoan clones, Rampart maintains that “there are other ways of producing loyal soldiers.”
The squad all have shiny black armor just like Crosshair, and they look a heck of a lot like the Death Troopers that we first saw in Rogue One and then again on Star Wars Rebels.
Will they be loyal? ES-01 (Emilio Garcia-Sanchez) has good reason to be. As he says, “With the Empire I get paid, I get fed, and I have a roof over my head. That’s more than the Republic ever did for me.”
Surely he’ll be completely loyal, even without fancy programming/torture/mind control. Time for a test, and what better test is there than doing what the Batch refused to do in the premiere? This new squad is headed to Onderon to deal with Saw Gerrera.
They prove to be very formidable, and a group of Saw’s people are captured easily. Crosshair asks one woman where Saw is, she refuses to answer, and Crosshair shoots her in the face. Next! This is where ES-01 loses his loyalty. The people who are left are not soldiers, and he’s not an executioner. He’ll bring them in, but he’s not gonna gun them all down.
Crosshair’s response: “They put me in charge because I’m willing to do what needs to be done.”
He shoots down ES-01, and tosses off a “good soldiers follow orders.” The rest of the squad do as they are told. So much for food and a roof over your head.
Back on Kamino, Rampart and Tarkin barely notice that the squad is one member short. Tarkin is impressed that they did what the Batch wouldn’t, and Rampart sees potential. Until the time is right, however, Tarkin tells him that the clone program “will continue to serve a purpose.”
The job of the clone/conscript transition looks like it’s going to fall to Rampart, and it is likely that this is what “Project War Mantle” is, a name that gets casually dropped earlier in the episode.
Lama Su and Nala Se are unhappy, and it is pointed out again that the genetic material of Jango Fett is degrading. Lama Su says, “Then it is time to begin the next phase.”
Whatever the kriff this phase is will require a specific clone, and they aren’t going to come willingly. Sounds like they could be talking about a member of the Batch, or possibly Omega herself. We don’t know yet.
What we do know is that even though Crosshair is going through a huge amount of inner turmoil, his programming is working. He’s an order-following death machine, no questions asked, and if the Empire is going to base the Death Troopers off of anyone, he would be an ideal candidate.
Still, there’s only one of him. Conscripts can be bought with food and lodging, but at some point they’ll draw a moral line. If not for the chips in their heads, the clones would too. Best of luck to Vice Admiral Rampart, who gets to figure all of this out. Give us a shinier, cheaper army that will follow any and all orders and why not, throw in a few PS5's while you're at it.
The ever-mysterious Kaminoans aren’t going to go quietly.
New episodes of Star Wars: The Bad Batch stream every Friday on Disney+.