Most episodes of Star Wars: The Bad Batch have fed into each other, but "Rescue on Ryloth" is the first time we’ve gotten what is definitely a “Part 2” installment. We left Ryloth in shambles in the previous episode, as Cham Syndulla (Robin Atkin Downes) and Eleni Syndulla (Ferelith Young) were arrested for the attempted assassination of Senator Orn Free Taa.
Attempted, but not successful. Taa is still alive, despite what we may have written last week (he looked dead, whoops) but so is the young and mighty Hera Syndulla (Vanessa Marshall). Thankfully, she exchanged numbers with Omega (Michelle Ang), so Hera knows who to call for help now that everything has gotten fully kriffed.
**SPOILER WARNING: From this point forward, there will be major spoilers for Star Wars: The Bad Batch episode 1.12. If you haven’t watched yet, steal that shuttle and fly far, far away.**
It’s not a surprise that the titular Bad Batch (all voiced by Dee Bradley Baker) comes to the rescue this week, the title of the episode tells you someone is going to come to the rescue, and the show isn’t called Star Wars: Boss Nass Warrior Gungan. The Batch arrives thanks to the Omega/Hera connection, and they're eventually convinced to take action.
One of the biggest joys of seeing young Hera last week (aside from having Vanessa Marshall back in the role), was seeing her interact with Omega. There’s much more of that this week, and these two are kindred spirits. They are on very different paths (with Omega’s future shrouded in mystery) but they are both of the same stubborn mindset when it comes to doing the right thing. They drag the Batch kicking and screaming into helping the Syndulla family. The rescue is pulled off, but much larger events are put in motion.
One of them is Hera taking off in a stolen shuttle for the first time. Gobi (Corey Burton) has only let her fly before, no takeoffs and no landings. She takes off this week, and it is bumpy to say the least. We’re not judging, it’s her first time, and it all works out. We know that Hera will become one of the best pilots in all of Star Wars eventually, so it’s amusing to see her first lift-off be so clumsy. The second one will surely be smoother. (We also can't get enough of her saying Chopper's name in her native Ryloth accent. Chopaaiirrr.)
In the process of Hera, Omega, and the Batch rescuing the Syndullas, they come across Howzer, a clone commander we met in the previous episode. Fans took to him immediately, partially because he reminds us of the clones before Order 66 was triggered. Put another way, he’s not an a-hole. There is concern all around about what the Empire is doing on Ryloth. It’s turning into an occupation, and the Batch notes that this isn’t even a former Separatist planet, like Raxus was. Howzer pretends to tow the company line, but he’s not really going for it.
He doesn't stop Hunter and Echo from breaking the Syndullas out, and he even warns them all that Crosshair and company are waiting to assault them. Why? He tells them: “Because I’m on your side. What the Empire is doing is wrong.”
When the gates finally open, Crosshair’s battalion sees only Howzer himself emerge. Howzer stops being polite and starts getting real.
“Brothers. What are we doing? We came here to free Ryloth from Separatist control, and we succeeded…” he says, adding, “…but look around you. We’re now being ordered to target the very people we swore to protect, and I will not be a part of it any longer.”
He tosses down his blaster, and finishes with, “Who will stand with me?” It’s enough to give any fan of Star Wars: The Clone Wars shivers, as well as make any stragglers jump on the Howzer train. It works in the context of the story, too — the clone regs start throwing down their weapons.
Crosshair, alone with his rifle and a small group of conscripts, is pretty pissed off.
By the end of the episode, we have the extended Syndulla family (Eleni still alive) fleeing on the shuttle that Hera stole, with Cham coming to terms with the fact that the fight is not over. Hera and Omega bid each other farewell, with Hera saying that she'll see her around. Between this and the unfinished saga of the Syndullas as a whole, we’d bet we haven’t seen the last of them on this show.
Of perhaps greater importance (for the rest of this season at least) is Howzer’s effective stand. If the programmed (and triggered) clones can throw down their arms and decide not to fight for the Empire, then what good are they? Clones are more effective than conscripts, but it would seem that both sets of soldiers are capable of not following orders. Howzer has his moment here, and conscript ES-01 had his moment earlier in the season.
If both groups are capable of doing this, then the only real question the Empire will need to ask is who costs less? Conscripts are cheaper, and can probably be brainwashed more easily. We know that clones will be phased out at some point, but Howzer’s speech feels like something that will accelerate the process.
The biggest loser around, once again, is Crosshair. The Batch made a fool of him, Howzer made a tool of him, and a battalion of clone regs throwing their blasters down didn’t help him out either. He’s had it with his former brothers, so he officially asks for permission to hunt them down.
What will happen when Crosshair catches up with them? Will he have any success, or will they hold him down and remove his inhibitor chip? Even without the chip, will Crosshair prove to be another Empire-loving stooge barn? We’d like to think there’s hope for him. The Kaminaoans enhanced his chip in the premiere, and as Omega told him, it’s not his fault. That said, he’s basic. He’s had little moments of sadness to himself, but that’s all. Never once has he taken a stand like Howzer.
Thanks to Hera’s successful (yet bumpy) shuttle theft and some clones waking up, the Batch is set for a reckoning. The Empire is set to finally decide which kind of soldier will bear the mantle of war. Everything feels locked in place for the last four episodes of this season.
"Good soldiers follow orders when they feel like it" is not going to be good enough.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch streams on Disney+ every Friday.