- Andrew Lynch
THE CLONE WARS: 'THE BAD BATCH' ARC REVIEW
After 6 years since it’s unceremonious ending, The Clone Wars has returned and all is right with the world. Prior to the Sequel Trilogy, The Clone Wars kept the love of Star Wars alive by combining epic action with the world building and genre-blending of the original trilogy. It elevated the Prequels by making Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side more fulfilling than the lacklustre version in the Prequel Trilogy. Introducing new, fan favourite characters like Ahsoka Tano and Captain Rex helped the show become the success that it is and paved the way for new, albeit lesser, animated Star Wars shows. Not only fans, but the creators as well, deserve the chance to end the series properly. And from that bombastic opening theme, it’s like it never left.
The first of three-story arcs in the final season, The Bad Batch arc, sees Captain Rex teaming up with the A-Team of rejected Clone Troopers, the Bad Batch, to infiltrate a Droid command centre/tower/station thing and save Clone Trooper Echo. Typical Clone Wars stuff. By focusing on the best part of the show; the Clones and the exploration of themes of identity, friendship and loyalty, The Clone Wars’ Final Season returns to familiar ground with the added bonus of 5 years advancement in animation.
Much like the Original Trilogy, and Star Wars in general, The Clone Wars is intended for kids, which means there are cliched archetypes, specifically in the Bad Batch. The Bad Batch are made up of; Hunter, a Rambo look-a-like with red bandana included; Wrecker, the Hulk of the team, both physically and mentally; Crosshair, the stoic sniper; distant from battle and emotions; and Tech, the…tech…guy. Simple but effective because, as with Star Wars, those archetypes are toyed with. Leia wasn’t just a damsel in distress and Wrecker isn’t just a smashing machine.
Much of the first episode deals with Hunter and his difference in leadership to Rex or ‘Regs’ as the Batch refer to Regular troops. It is an ongoing theme throughout the arc about the importance of independent thinking over mechanical, rigid thought. Clearly expressed in the organic Clones war against the cold Droids or Clankers and in more subtle ways such as the Bad Batch’s fluid, evolving style of fighting. They quickly improvise a strategy based on their own strengths while the ‘Regs’ follow the same tactics, seen in some breath-taking, John Wick level action in the first and third episode that reminds you how far the show, and animation has come.
After the action-packed premiere, the second episode reigns it in and adds in more character-based story telling regarding Rex and Anakin. Throughout the show, Anakin witnesses his own flaws in other characters such as hot-headedness or responses dictated by emotions. He is even called out on criticising Rex for his emotion-driven responses, and how Rex might have learnt it from Anakin. Anakin pulls Rex aside to warn him that their mission might not be successful, with Rex stubbornly ignoring it in the hope of achieving the impossible goal of saving everyone. Much like King Solomon dispensed wisdom but failed to heed it himself leading to his eventual downfall, Anakin warns Rex about his lofty expectations when Anakin himself has promised himself to become the most powerful Jedi and save people from death. These little exchanges that flesh out Anakin from a whiny brat to a conflicted Jedi are what made The Clone Wars such a beloved series for improving the deeply flawed Prequels.
Another way The Clone Wars built a loyal fanbase was the way it delivered moments of fan service. Unlike fan service in The Rise of Skywalker, which feels like a misguided parent trying to impress their kid, showrunner Dave Filoni balances fan service to work in tandem with the story. One example comes in the opening of the second episode, when Anakin has a private liaison with Padme via hologram. Little details like the way she nurses her stomach, alluding to her pregnancy or Kevin Kiner’s subtle use of ‘Across the Stars’, the Love Theme for the doomed couple, don’t overpower the scene, but are little details that keen eyed and eared fans will appreciate. Then there is the revelation that Obi-Wan Kenobi has been aware of Anakin and Padme’s relationship, which makes his sense of failing Anakin more prevalent. He knew Anakin was repressing emotions the Jedi forbid, and he left them to fester in the young man’s mind, leading to the Chosen One’s destructive, emotional attachments.
While a strong start to the final season, there are still the familiar trappings of the show, which are inherent in a family-friendly focused animation show. The third episode lacks the pace of the first two, and takes a break to teach younger and (sadly) some older viewers, important life lessons. They are interesting ones, such as pacifism during war time and the concept of ‘evil winning from good people doing nothing’, but it is one that the show has covered before since season 1.
There are cool action scenes as the Clones defend the native village from the Droids, but it offers nothing that isn’t already addressed in the arc. Rex spells out the overarching theme of cold, emotionless disregard for human life to the natives (and the audience) through Echo and his transformation into something more machine than man (something Anakin should take note of). That idea of valuing sentient life is also seen in the villains of the arc; humanoid-spider Admiral Trench’s half robotic appearance and the more internalised inhuman view of dial-radio power Wat Tambor. Tambor constantly refers to Echo as his ‘experiment’ and has no regard for the loss of human life but the concern of the loss of his money and property (sound familiar?).
The final episode acts as a fitting conclusion of the arc, blending all the strengths that came prior; cinematic action that capture the scale of a galactic war; character driven moments such as Anakin’s rage filled slaughter of Admiral Trench as Kiner utilises the menacing Imperial March; and moments of fan service, like a Samuel L Jackson level threat towards the bewildered Droids. The Clone Wars rages on and thankfully nothing has changed.