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Star Wars: The Bad Batch - Aftermath & Cut and Run - Double Review

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The Bad Batch 1.01: "Aftermath" - Review:

The Bad Batch is the latest addition to the quality label of Star Wars animation that we’ve had over the past few years – Resistance perhaps aside as a rather small blemish – a real marked turnaround from the early days of The Clone Wars and the movie that led to its creation. Here, we return to the group of unorthodox Clones, who whilst admittedly I wasn’t particularly a massive fan of their story arc in the original Clone Wars series, moving events forward to Order 66 in the wake of the final season of that series really leaves a hallmark – with the group of characters having to adjust to the world that doesn’t want them, a world where Clones are feared, and hated by the Jedi that they used to protect.

In a cool feature that will appease Rebels fans if not those of the original Kanan comic run that was one of the first post-Marvel acquisition Star Wars titles (if you haven't read it yet, please do!), we get to see Kanan show up as a younger Jedi and witness Order 66 and the betrayal of the Clones that led him to believe, all these years later, that he never met a Clone he could trust after that. That suggests that we won’t be seeing more of him in the show, but it was a cool easter egg and a way to set the ball rolling whilst understandably lacking the devastating take on Order 66 that The Clone Wars captured with its character-driven approach to spectacle.

The Bad Batch themselves haven’t had any implants the same way the regular clones have, save for one – the Marskman, Crosshair, and as a result, are spared the brainwashed messages of Order 66. This means that they’re pushed aside and shunted into a corner, loathed by the rest of the Clones who view them as deformed outcasts. It’s nothing new for the Bad Batch, who find themselves questioning orders when they’re asked to take care of some separatists under Tarkin’s request. It turns out that those separatists aren’t droids, but civilians – and again, save for one, they disobey orders.

Running 70 minutes in length, The Bad Batch’s pilot didn’t feel that long at all, boasting the big budget required to make its animation look so spectacularly cinematic. If this was part of a feature release shown at the cinema I wouldn’t blink twice, the animation is visually stunning and the music feels appropriately Star Wars-y – the only downside is when it comes to characters, they’re a bit hit and miss and can feel a bit emotionally stiff, but I’m largely impressed by the results. I’m not entirely sure how much new there will be in The Bad Batch that wasn’t already covered in Rebels in regards to expansion of the lore, but Dave Filoni and company have always been masters at fitting in wider Star Wars canon that the fans lap up, and the potential in providing a look into the early days of the Empire and the gradual phasing out of the Clone Troopers seems too good to pass by on.

This feels perfectly tailored towards the fans of The Clone Wars and if you like that series you’ll find yourself right at home here. However; it’s made accessible to newcomers, not that any watching are likely to be, you don’t have to remember the names of Saw Gerrera or even know that Caleb Dume turns out to be Kanan to enjoy The Bad Batch, it has a degree of accessibility to it. Omega acts as the big new addition to this show – and she joins up with the Bad Batch at the end as she will surely be the Ezra/Ahsoka-esque character in the franchise. There will be growing pains, especially if the writers feels like Omega is the best chance to replicate the success of Baby Yoda and try a bit too hard to recapture that lightning-in-a-bottle creation, but we’ll get there eventually.

The whole group of Clone Force 99 is voiced by Dee Bradley Baker, which leads to a sense of familiarity among the Clones, but then that’s to be expected given their origins. Whilst everything else is largely spectacular, the dialogue isn’t exactly subtle, it’s as blunt as it gets – it feels more at home for the younger audience but doesn’t quite sound as convincing from the mouths of hard-edged, battle-weary veterans of The Clone Wars. It’s almost as if the show isn’t quite convinced at what its target audience actually is. But then, regardless of which way you look at it, The Bad Batch is Star Wars, and chances are, subtlety is not what you’re here for.

The action itself makes up for the shortcomings in the script even if it is largely relegated to a series of intense but quickly repetitive training exercises, with the stakes raising each time. It establishes the stakes, the sense of peril and battle-against-all-odds scale brilliantly from the get-go – immediately letting you know where the characters stand in this new world and who they are, introducing some old favourites that are regulars of the Star Wars universe.

First seasons have traditionally been a weak point for the Star Wars animated universe (if only by the fact that what comes later is usually so much better) but based on the pilot, things are off to a very good start indeed.

Star Wars: The Bad Batch 1.02 “Cut and Run

Debuting yesterday following on from the pilot's drop on Star Wars Day, the second episode of The Bad Batch clocked in at the normal 30-minute episode count and picked up from where we left off in hyperspace, with the Clones on the run from the new Empire. Few shows have dared journey this close to the origins of the Empire before and from a sense of timeline perspective, this is what makes The Bad Batch so fascinating – there’s no time jump until Rebels.

Omega’s sense of wonder and keen interest in new life reminds me instantly of Rey’s discovery of the forest in The Force Awakens, and much like Rey, Omega’s only been on one planet for her entire life. Their arrival on Saleucami introduces them to Cut and Suu, Suu’s wife. We get a namedrop of Rex – another Clone who’s lost his inhibitor chip, and also on the run from the Empire. It’s good to see writer Jennifer Corbett waste no time in getting the characters up to speed with the audience – they’re informed about the existence of the chips and why the Clones turned against the Jedi.

The second episode of The Bad Batch reveals that the strength of the show so far has been establishing the galaxy under the rule of the Empire. From the repetition of Palpatine’s speech at the end of Revenge of the Sith, when to make a connection and when not to make a connection to the established Star Wars property makes for a killer Bad Batch intro and set-up. There’s further hints about chain codes that enabled citizens to travel, we saw a more advanced version of them in The Mandalorian.

Whilst the first episode was newcomer friendly Cut and Run maybe less so. Cut’s choice has already been deployed in the past, and whilst we are introduced to the family who call Wrecker “Uncle”, it feels a bit too sudden. But Cut does raise a valid point about every Clone being created with a purpose in mind, and if that does ring true: what’s Omega’s? Probably something along the lines of keeping The Bad Batch together when times get tough, which they’re going to. We all know the endgame of the Bad Batch doesn't end with them toppling the Empire. But just how involved in the early days of the Rebellion are they going to be?

The adopted father-child relationship dynamic is tried and tested in Star Wars and it almost feels drawn out and repetitive here; but found families has always been a central theme in the franchise and The Bad Batch is no different. Cut and Hunter’s dynamic is explored here; and Cut teaches Hunter how to look after children. It’s routine and by-the-numbers, if you’ve seen The Mandalorian you’ll be getting a distinct sense of deja-vu. Cut gives Hunter some more valuable advice – he has to learn how to disappear. Chances are, that’s going to take him and the rest of the Bad Batch a while to learn.

The Bad Batch needs to be careful in its next few episodes to avoid feeling like we’ve seen everything here before, and with so much Star Wars content out there, a sense of familiarity is to be expected. But I’m liking what I see so far – the group’s dynamic is coming together and Omega’s interaction with the Clones helps give us an expanded central cast ripe for development.

As usual it’s the action that shines in Cut and Run, and seeing Tech, Echo and Omega in action is the draw, and coupled with the vast amount of worldbuilding potential on display, Cut and Run manages to find plenty of time for character development even if it’s not quite a perfect balance.

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