The Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 7 premiere reaffirms what every fan knows; just as the series itself started out with an acknowledgment that the Clones are individuals with Season 1’s “Ambush,” Friday's episode “The Bad Batch” opens the long-awaited new season by hammering that sentiment home. There are no Clone Wars without the Clones, and unlike the droids they’re fighting on the battlefield, the Clones feel every step and hit they take.
**SPOILER WARNING: This story contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 7, Episode 1, “The Bad Batch.”**
While everyone loves to see the Jedi and Sith trade blows, any episode that revolves around the Clones is fundamentally important to the series, especially if those Clones are a part of Domino Squad. (Fans who watched the Bad Batch animatics when they were first released in 2015 already knew this was the case.) Captain Rex, who’s watched countless brothers die, is feeling particularly guilty over the loss of that Domino Squad, a group Clone Wars fans have known and loved for years.
More importantly, though, Rex is holding onto a secret, one he's unwilling to share with the Jedi. For what it's worth, this is the kind of behavior that will allow Rex to grow beyond what the Kaminoans intended for their Clones; this is what the entire series has been leading up to — minus, y'know, the rest of the Skywalker Saga. When Clones become fully self-aware and independent, they become far more dangerous.
In comes the Bad Batch, a group of “defective” Clones whose differences make them stronger. In fact, those differences give them a creative edge that at first irritates the “regs” (as regular, carbon copy Clones are known), but eventually earns them a deeper respect, thanks to their ability to mow through battle droids with near-laughable ease.
Despite being the titular group of the episode (and the first arc of this final season), talk about the Bad Batch story has often revolved around Admiral Trench and the lead-up to his death at Anakin’s hands (or, rather, lightsaber). While we've followed the Jedi in The Clone Wars, the arc’s first episode hits us over the head with the point that this series has always strived to make: The Clones are ones we should care about here. They’re the most tragic characters in this story.
And while this episode introduces us to some truly fascinating and exciting new characters in Hunter (a human map and wildly talented tactician), Wrecker (basically Clone Hulk), Tech (the slicer and Bruce Banner to Wrecker’s Hulk), and Crosshair (the sniper), none of them are as immediately arresting as a new dilemma facing our old friend. Rex, beloved by fans and one of the few Clones we know for sure makes it out of the Clone Wars, discovers that a brother he once thought dead is actually alive. Echo, who seemingly died back in Season 3’s “Counterattack,” is still kicking... but has somehow been manipulated into sharing the Clones’ tactics with the Separatists. So, good news and bad news.
All the major names that returned to the Star Wars movies over the past half-decade were certainly exciting, and hearing animation stalwart Dee Bradley Baker’s voice in new episodes of The Clone Wars is in many ways equally thrilling. His ability to provide substance and true emotion to every character he takes on in the series — especially the Clones, one and the same yet so intimately different — is mindblowing. We’re only in for greater things as the Bad Batch arc and Season 7 continue. Just because we know Rex makes it out alive doesn't mean the series won't find new ways to hurt us all.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 7, Episode 1, "The Bad Batch," is now available on Disney+.