This post contains spoilers for Episode 1 of The Bad Batch and Season 2 of The Mandalorian.
We learned a lot in the 70 minutes of the premiere of Star Wars: The Bad Batch, if you define “a lot” as “pretty much nothing” because the trailers spoiled just about everything there was to spoil.
It’s a welcome rest for the adrenal glands after the series of shocks they received from The Mandalorian, which began with a tiny green hand pulling a blanket away to coo at Mando, continued with the sight of Luke Skywalker’s X-wing pulling into an Imperial garage, and then, just as the fan-shrieking faded away, Boba Fett took a seat in Jabba’s Tatooine palace.
The last two developments, I am still amazed to point out, took place not just during the same episode, but within approximately two minutes of one another.
Even four months later, we’re spoiled; we’re spent; we’re numb.
It was rather peaceful to watch the Bad Batch trot about dispensing chaos (they blew apart everything from droids to lunch). There were no emotional gut-punch surprises here.
There were, however, a few unforgettable revelations.
Kanan Jarrus’ odd path to puberty
Some fans might categorize the appearance of a young Kanan Jarrus, then known as Caleb Dume, as a tear-jerking surprise. But comics and the TV series Rebels largely explored Padawan Dume’s path out of Order 66; this was merely the animation realization of it.
The visuals of semi-little Kanan were gripping in the sense that they added a great deal of information about his hair styling choices in adulthood. Young Caleb sported not only a traditional Padawan braid but also the same ponytail his adult self wore in Rebels.
While I initially assumed that Kanan’s hair reflected the samurai origins of the Jedi, his insistence on maintaining his freshman-year style in adulthood seemed more of a reflection of his prolonged Padawan state.
Because of the extermination of the Jedi with Order 66, Caleb never advanced beyond the status of Padawan — but Kanan was mystically knighted during a Force vision in Rebels.
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The nuance of the hair detail was visually eloquent and subliminally meaningful. It was a well-defined moment in opening seconds of this new series.
And then Caleb Dume spoke.
Freddie Prinze Jr. voiced adult Kanan in Rebels, and…. uh… he does so as barely adolescent Caleb as well.
The stab at authenticity is laudable, but it winds up delivering a fatal blow to the flashback. Instead of sounding like strapping Kanan, only younger, he has all the vocal qualities of Peter Brady trying to talk tough to a biker gang.
Ashley Eckstein voiced Ahsoka Tano at various ages and got away with it because the character was a small female whose vocal range was about as wide as a palm branch.
A moderately deeper tone was all that was necessary to signal that Padawan Ahsoka was moving closer to maturity.
This was not that.
One of the Bad Batch’s prime tactical innovations was stolen from your third-grade soccer team
At one point, the entire Bad Batch plus Omega was imprisoned in the same cell (terrific move, Imperials) and the team wanted to hide the hole in the wall Wrecker was about to create.
Their solution: MAKE A WALL. It looked like Our Lady of the Visitation Vipers taking a penalty kick on the St. Jude Lambchops, sponsored by Bridgetown Meats.
The Kaminoans re-programmed Fives’ cute droid friend from Clone Wars so the Empire could kill it
Here I reference AZI-345211896246498721347 (no, I didn’t rewind and slowly transcribe; that’s what Wookieepedia is for.)
This is the cute floating guy who helped Fives figure out the inhibitor chip conspiracy in Clone Wars. When last we saw him, he was in route to “re-programming,” and heartbreakingly cheerful about it.
Well, the re-programming went well in the sense that fresh-faced AZI-3 maintained his pep and was now besties with Omega, but get this: When last seen this time, his eyes went dark, as blue electric sparks jumped from his winsome little repulsorlifts.
But don’t worry. No one’s ever really gone.
The Other Clones mean-girl the Bad Batch
You’d think the Top Gear-level destructive powers of the Bad Batch would render them fodder for rock-style locker posters on Kamino, but no. They’re misfits! They’re all misfits!
This became clear when Omega, entirely uninvited, slaps her lunch tray right on down next to them in the dining hall. I cannot overstate the horror this stirred in my introvert heart, but the Batch was just kind of… mystified.
Some regular clones slid past and referred to them as “the Sad Batch,” which… oooohhhhhhhh! BURN! The point of this, I’m sure, was to show the individual free-thinking clones had become “good soldiers follow orders” Stormtroopers.
But what I got out of it was that Omega sacrificed what looked like a perfectly good Chipotle pickup to start a food fight. It’s just your good old-fashioned child-instigated early Imperial prison riot.
Crosshair’s incredible ability to snipe is probably just the capacity to shoot somewhat straight
So Crosshair’s superpower is supposedly sniping and destroying toothpicks in an anti-social manner.
But what happened at the end of the finale confirmed my theory that this dude doesn’t really have special talent; he’s simply a somewhat average marksman who, compared to the men who would become Stormtroopers, looked like a Navy SEAL.
How do we know this?
Omega shot his weapon right out of his hand, then claimed to have never held a blaster before. I suppose this twist lit the Force Sensitive Character Fan Theory bonfire.
But really, any child who has spent at least a little time with a Duck Hunt emulator is going to out-aim a Stormtrooper — which Crosshair is at this point in the episode.
Wrecker likes to blow things up because he likes to blow things up
This piece of intelligence issued from Wrecker himself, who yelled it very loudly, Wrecker-style. He was reacting to Tech’s observation that the clones are programmed, just as Fives warned.
Wrecker was as offended as a Millennial on Twitter at this moment because he cherished a convention that was no more, even though he was not aware of its disappearance yet.
The era of the personality-driven Clones was terminated along with the Jedi. Only the Bad Batch and Rex’s crew remained unaffected by the Order 66 inhibitor chip.
This moment was illuminating because it provided actual character development for Wrecker beyond WRECKER SMASH.
This, plus his later frantic search for his stuffed toy, Lula, is the clever three-dimension progression Filoni delivers best and elevates his work beyond other entries in the canon.
We will watch your career with great interest, Lula.
Whoever has the mold remediation contract on Kamino probably hauls Bezos-level money
You guys, guess what happened during the scenes on Kamino.
The giant spoon of exposition is not exclusive to Obi-Wan Kenobi
Speaking of Kamino, let’s hustle inside and get dry for a moment.
An accidentally hilarious moment of Episode II — one of many — took place when a giant ladle dropped from the ceiling to serve as a seat for Obi-Wan as he visited Kamino.
This particularly ludicrous detail in the most ludicrous of the prequels was overshadowed by the epic love poem entitled “I Don’t Like Sand,” but it led to the Internet’s beloved *visible confusion* meme.
It makes a grand return here to seat the future Moff Tarkin as he appears for an audience, the main purpose of which seems to be to say menacing things and occasionally walk through moody smoke.
Before Dark Troopers were big and scary and stole Baby Yoda, Dark Troopers were big and scary and tried to straight-up murder the Bad Batch
This revelation resulted in a somewhat major tizz within the fanbase.
Formerly, the Dark Troopers’ first appearance took place in various video games, but these slipped to non-canon status. A form of them later appeared in The Mandalorian to snatch Grogu from Mando, and then to fight the crew he formed to rescue him.
You’re canon now, baby!
Seems the Empire took plenty of time to refine the Dark Troopers. What we see in The Aftermath seems to be an early form of them.
These guys rehearsed for slamming Din’s head into a wall by shooting live rounds at the Bad Batch during a “training exercise,” which was still less grueling than the bio final I had to take at 7 in the morning, when I was asked to lean over and identify hundreds of samples of fetal pigs soaked in formaldehyde.
You see what Common Core leads to, Bad Batch?
Omega is every annoying and derivative thing we feared
Look, as a big thumbs-upper of The Mandalorian, I don’t have a problem with the whole Gruff Damaged Dude Adopts A Small Powerful Kiddo thing.
What I do have a problem with is the whole Gruff Damaged Dude Adopts a Small Powerful Kiddo thing in the immediate wake of The Mandalorian.
It’s too close.
It’s too exquisitely explored by Din and Grogu. This is their Perfect Cheer. Get your own, Omega.
The series may yet turn in another direction, but I fear not. And that is a shame, because the setup of Crosshair betraying his brothers — he who knows them best — is rather unexplored territory in the Star Wars universe, as is the idea of the clones separating from the Stormtroopers.
There are whole swaths of identity, family, and moral issues to explore here, and throwing Omega into the mix is unnecessary and overly convenient.
Stay tuned for more mayhem from the Droids and Dolls. I’ll be right back with a rundown of Episode 2. In the meantime, please leave the Ladle of Exposition parking space for Jedi and future Moffs only.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch is currently streaming on Disney Plus. New episodes release every Friday. Follow Monsters and Critics’ Facebook page for the latest Star Wars theories, essays, news, and reviews.