Review- The Clone Wars "Bad Batch" Arc
It's been seven years... Seven years since one of the most fun gifts to Star Wars fans was cruelly cancelled in its prime upon Disney purchasing Lucasfilm...
Yes, I feel like the old lady from Titanic.
While we later got the Lost Missions (season six) and a fair bit of extra content in the form of incomplete episodes, comics, and books, fans still prayed The Clone Wars would return.
Then at Comic-Con 2018, at the 10th-anniversary panel for the show, Dave Filoni revealed the series would be returning, to finally finish off the story as he wanted.
It was an amazing moment. One that meant a lot to Clone Wars fans around the world. Now as promised, nearly two years later, The Clone Wars season seven has premiered as an exclusive on Disney Plus, kicking off with The Bad Batch.
Before we start, it's worth noting this episode arc was previously released as unfinished episodes, in the form of rough CG storyboards back in 2015. I had seen some clips from the episodes, but never the full arc. I think the force told me to be patient for the real thing...
We start this four-episode arc with an episode that introduces The Bad Batch, a group of specially designed clones, with desirable mutations. The team are brought in due to their unorthodox methods, and 100% success rate to help in a mission to find out why recent attacks in the outer rim always appear to be anticipated by the enemy.
First off, it's great to see the show back exactly as we left it. While the colours and lighting have certainly improved, the animation style hasn't changed and thankfully the team at Lucasfilm haven't felt the need to tamper or add to the formula.
The episode begins with its traditional lesson on screen, before the wartime montage, that always sets the tone and story of the episode. We are then introduced to Anaxes, a vividly different-looking planet, with red foliage and a moody grey surface that reflect a stunning pink sky. It's what Clone Wars has always done well- offering new and different locations, that are truly alien, something new Star Wars films have failed to live up to.
In the episode, we get a touching scene of Captain Rex looking back on a picture of him and two of his fallen comrades, Fives and Echo. When joined by Commander Cody, the two share a moment of remembrance and worry that the enemy could somehow be using the battleplans Rex and Echo created.
After this, we meet The Bad Batch, who just visually look fantastic. Each of their personalities are clear in their appearance, with a level of creativity and flair that makes each character shine. They are certainly one of the highlights of this arc (as they should be) and makes it unfortunate we won't get to see them again in more episodes.
After infiltrating a separatist cyber centre, Rex with the help of Bad Batch member Tech discover a signal from the planet Skako Minor attached to which is the number of clone soldier Echo.
The first episode is great fun, it's testament to the great action of the show, and its unique ability to give us vivid designs and fun characters. One of the highlights is definitely Bad Batch member Crosshair and his remark at working with "regs" a nickname made for "regular clones". It makes for an entertaining dynamic, that not only reflects the rivalry and banter you get in real armies but also the great work Bradley Dee Baker does in voicing all these slightly different characters.
The next two episodes A Distant Echo and On the Wings of Keeradaks focus on finding Echo and putting an end to the experiment that is leading to so many Republic defeats. Both episodes continue to build on the story well, with particular focus given to Rex who invests a lot in his friend still being alive.
Along with giving us more fun and different aliens, the episodes do a good job of using sound to differentiate the characters we see from anything before, along with alternative looking enemies, a good way of keeping the show fresh.
Though while the aliens and characters are to be commended, I do feel a big flaw with these episodes is ironically its tendency to lose sound. Whether it's because of the episodes' original life as unfinished storyboards, or the timeframe to get the episodes done, a lot of the sound design and music seem unfinished, with particular action scenes in the third episode weirdly lacking in extra sounds that usually make the scenes come to life.
Although a vast amount of action is the bread and butter of The Clone Wars, the final three episodes focus so much on chase sequences, and battles, that they do make for slightly repetitive viewing.
While other episodes in the series also feature a lot of action, this is usually balanced with a strong story or changes in the characters involved. The Bad Batch arc is perhaps most coincidentally similar to the season three Citadel arc, where Echo appeared to die, that also revolved around select locations, with clones and Jedi fighting their way out of traps, and a tough arsenal.
Although while there are a lot of similar action scenes, credit does have to go to the creators for some of the moments that add to the overall story of Star Wars and add a bit more emotional weight.
A Distant Echo features a very interesting scene that expands on Obi-Wan and Rex's knowledge of Anakin and Padme's relationship. Whereas On the Wings of Keeradaks features a standout moment from Rex who points out what The Separatists have done to Echo, in order to get the planet's natives on their side.
The arc finishes with Unfinished Business, an episode that continues to show many of the strengths and flaws of the previous three episodes.
While the creators do shamelessly add mystery and questions to Echo's character, which never really amount to anything. Ultimately the dark and brutal concept of his existence is certainly impactful.
The earlier image of a pale, partly mechanical clone, plugged into an experimental computer is quite haunting especially because of details such as his flickering eyes, rolled back like a zombie. The image sticks with you throughout the arc and works in showing Echo as a damaged and wounded soldier, something that may have been too graphic on the Disney Channel.
The character reaches a natural conclusion, with Rex also experiencing some good development. The fun of The Bad Batch is also showcased in Unfinished Business, with each soldier getting their moment to show off their skills, in cool and interesting ways.
Ultimately the Bad Batch arc is a satisfying introduction to this final season of The Clone Wars. It shows off Lucasfilm's impressive animation, as well as their dedication to fun and inventive action, even if it can get somewhat repetitive.
With old characters, and new, the arc has a lot of fun, but also dark moments, that definitely make it worthy of a re-watch.