Following the events of the final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Dave Filoni and his crew have opted to explore the adventures of the Bad Batch as they navigate the ever-changing galaxy in the aftermath of the Clone Wars.
When these characters were introduced over a four-episode arc in the final Clone Wars season, I must admit I wasn’t really loving what they had to offer. So, as you can imagine, when it was announced the next animated series would be focused on them – I wasn’t all that excited. There just didn’t seem to be enough there with their characters and backstory to really sustain an entire 16-episode season. Nonetheless, I went in with the hope there’d be something in the narrative to surprise me and keep me invested. Overall, the debut season of The Bad Batch is pretty average. It definitely has its highlights in the form of familiar character cameos and eluding to some lingering questions in the Star Wars universe, but the episode-to-episode narratives aren’t that interesting.
The structure of each episode is more or less the Bad Batch accepting a mission where they either need to rescue someone, or retrieve something, or it’s them having to escape the clutches of the Empire. This gets quite repetitive towards the end of the season as nothing much really changes. There are some engaging narrative through-lines, such as the dynamic between the Batch and Crosshair, and the moments where we learn more Omega and get to see her grow, but they’re not really enough to make the series consistently great. Some of these isolated missions feature familiar faces, and those moments are definitely really cool – but they’re short-lived and I honestly forgot about most of them by the time the season ended. It’s just that the narratives and events from many of the episodes feel so basic that they just blur together. I can maybe distinctly remember the events of 6 of the 16 episodes, the rest are one patchy blur.
I understand that these animated shows are going to have a number of episodes that can be considered “filler” to pad out the season and bring some further entertainment for the younger audience, but there are ways to make it engaging for all. Take Star Wars: Rebels for example – that series also had a number of episodes where not a whole lot happens, but through engaging multi-episode character arcs and engaging character dynamics that got me to care about the team, I thoroughly enjoyed the majority of each season. It also felt like there was a season-long goal in Rebels, however this show doesn’t really have an end-game – it’s just a collection of missions with a lightly looming threat. That being said, the season closes out with two very intense episodes that cap off the season in a strong way – hopefully indicating the already announced second season is a little more creative and adventurous.
The idea of following a group of unique clones that each have their own identifying features and skills sounds intriguing on paper, but it doesn’t really stay fresh beyond the first few episodes. I found myself caring about them to an extent, but it never really feels like there are any real stakes at play. The dynamics between Hunter, Wrecker, Tech and Echo are sometimes neat, but it’s Omega who’s the real draw of the series. There’s much more intrigue in her history and the roles she could play in the Star Wars universe going forward. She has a great dynamic with the crew, Hunter and Wrecker specifically, and is the difference in keeping this series from failing. I should also commend the voice performance, or should I say “performances” by Dee Bradley Baker, who voices every single member of the Batch. The way he changes his voice just enough to give each one a distinct personality is brilliant.
In the end, there are definitely things to like about The Bad Batch to where I’d say, for Star Wars fans, its an overall decent watch. There’s some bad episodes, a couple of good episodes, and a lot of average episodes to make up the bulk of the season. Despite some cameo appearances and occasionally engaging multi-episode narratives, the majority of the season is a bit of a blur. I don’t quite know how the series can grow beyond what we’ve already seen, but I really hope it does. I have all the faith in the world that Dave Filoni has something up his sleeve, and I can’t wait to see it.