In the first thrilling seconds of this season’s premiere, the familiar logo for Star Wars: The Clone Wars popped on screen only to suddenly burn away and reveal the new battle-scorched logo of The Bad Batch. It was a brazenly unexpected flourish that felt like a declaration of intent, that the Star Wars saga was moving into uncharted territory. Despite its unique (and uniquely fierce) crew of Kaminoan clone castaways, The Bad Batch has been running a familiar gauntlet of even more familiar Star Wars guest-spots and callbacks instead of venturing into a weirder, wilder post-Clone Wars universe. This has both worked to the show’s benefit and it hasn’t.
It’s still a heck of a lot of fun. From rollicking Rancor slug-fests to hilariously slow tank escapes The Bad Batch aims to get you off your couch and on your feet every week and mostly it succeeds. It’s when the character drama comes into play that the show hits a rockier path.
The last two weeks of The Bad Batch have adopted The Clone Wars’ tried-and-true approach to minor story arcs, where the show jumps into the middle of a seemingly random planet’s wartime intrigues and then later factors in the series’ lead players for a rousing conclusion that neatly ties the whole saga that much closer together. This worked for The Clone Wars and its expansive cast of characters, but should this be the formula for the relatively intimate Bad Batch?
This week’s episode, “Rescue on Ryloth” (directed by Nathaniel Villanueva and written by Jennifer Corbett), was the predictably explosive conclusion to last week’s tee-up episode, “Devil’s Deal”, yet it abruptly leaves the fate of its guest star, Hera Syndulla of Star Wars: Rebels, up in the air by the time the credits roll. (After all, this isn’t Hera’s show, though her astro-droid Chopper does make a go of running away with it.) As for the eponymous Batch themselves?
After getting put on the shelf last week, the fearsome fighting team of Star Wars: The Bad Batch dusts itself off for a bit of fun; “Rescue on Ryloth’’ is less “we now return to the Syndulla family drama, already in progress” and more getting back on track. Cham and Eleni Syndulla, Hera’s heroic parents, are the subjects of the episode’s feature rescue, and fittingly they mostly remain stuffed in a Rylothian cell with soldier Gobi Glie (as opposed to last week’s episode, where the Syndullas loomed quite large). Admiral Rampart glowers over them and attempts to crush any remaining insurgency among Cham’s supporters with his large contingent of clone troopers. Beyond that, it appears Cham’s rebellious ambitions are meant for another episode, possibly for another show all together.
Speaking of Rampart, his stunning villainy forces the hand of clone captain Howzer, who clearly has no love for the Empire despite his Kamino-installed inhibitor chip. “It’ll be easy to find your daughter and… take care of her,” Rampart says to the Syndullas as Howzer bristles right behind him. Strange that Rampart, who declared in the third episode of The Bad Batch that the Empire should no longer rely entirely on clone troopers, would press his vindictive advantage in front of a soldier he doesn’t have much faith in philosophically. Naturally this doesn’t work out for the young Admiral, and as an unintended consequence Hunter later gets to observe another clone in the wild as they rebel against their Imperial programming. (Perhaps Howzer could one day become the Batch’s latest recruit? Fingers crossed.
Last week Captain Howzer stood out a mile, not just because he was the only remaining clone trooper still rocking a turquoise color scheme (or any color scheme for that matter), but because his behavior felt out of sync with the rest of his clone brethren post-Order 66. He is warm to Cham, who plainly grappled with his doubts about the Empire until the other shoe dropped, and this week Rampart’s mustache-twirling machinations against the famed soldier pushes Howzer to make that fateful jump between alliances. Later, Howzer is seen standing between his squad and their quarry (namely, the Syndullas) and declares his independence from the Empire. Looking on, Crosshair takes aim, and listens to Howzer appeal to his brothers-in-arms.
It’s a stirring turn of events with a lot of implications for the wider Star Wars saga, especially for these tumultuous first years of the Empire. More crucially for this series, however, Howzer’s defection could end up becoming the fuse that ignites the powder keg between Hunter and his former Batcher, Crosshair. Our toothpick-chomping sharpshooter finally got the go-ahead to actively pursue the Batch this week after Rampart’s occupation of Ryloth blew up in his face, but how will Crosshair’s inevitable face-to-face with Hunter work out now that he has seen with his own eagle eyes that inhibitor chips (not to mention following Imperial orders) no longer maketh the soldier? Could Crosshair’s Imperial entanglements be coming to an end?
These are all tantalizing questions to mull over, but they’ll keep for now. “Rescue on Ryloth” brings the Batch back to the fore of their own series, so how did Hunter, Tech, Echo, Wrecker, and Omega fare this week?
As far as Hunter’s concerned, he’s still acting like a big ol’ dope. Hera sends out a transmission to the Havoc Marauder (“you gave her our comm channel?” Hunter asks Omega) which brings our Batch back to Ryloth, where Hunter gets a good look at the Empire’s set-up outside the Rylothian capital palace. Springing Hera’s folks out of the hoosegow looks incredibly dangerous from Hunter’s vantage point—which, for Wrecker at least, sounds like a lot of fun—and he decides to turn Hera down. “It’s not worth the risk,” Hunter says to Omega’s new best friend, who cannot believe her ears.
Hunter’s initial reluctance to help people—to do the right thing—seems to pop up on occasion just to gin up a bit of added melodrama when an episode looks like it might fall short of its run time. It certainly doesn’t happen because Hunter’s shy about helping people; recall that we kicked off this season with Hunter letting a certain young Jedi run away from his clone trooper pursuers. There was no debate in that moment, just Hunter’s instincts. So why does he keep fighting against his own benevolent impulses?
Later Hunter gets a grip and the Batch go ballistic on the nearby Rylothian refinery, a perfect (and perfectly thrilling) diversion for Hunter and Echo to infiltrate the capital palace and retrieve Hera’s parents. “Rescue on Ryloth” brings the goods in terms of action sequences (Tech gets to pull a slick stunt with the Marauder and Hunter gets the drop on an Imperial probe droid), but it’s a stark reminder that this Batch could use some crucial downtime to figure out what they want from their future and, possibly, carve out a place where they can call home. Before the walls finally close in around them.
More than a return to form, “Rescue on Ryloth” also manages to recalibrate Hunter’s Bad Batch for the battles yet to come by reiterating Omega’s loyalty to her found family. (As for the rest of Clone Force 99, ah... they’re fine? Perfectly happy?) After Hunter drops the loser line “being strategic means knowing your limitations,” not exactly fodder for the inspiring banners that ran before every episode of The Clone Wars, Hera rightfully asks why Omega trusts the fickle Hunter. “Because he’s my brother,” Omega says, pure optimist that she is. “They all are.” Unshakable loyalty. Maybe it’s time The Bad Batch finally put that to the test?
- Gobi doesn’t suffer any blowback from Cham this week for manipulating Cham’s daughter into participating in his insurgency, at least from the look of things. (What the heck were they talking about the entire time they were in that cell?) Cham was already on Admiral Rampart’s chopping block but Gobi’s method of dragging Hera into this mess (luring her onto his ship by exploiting her love of flying) was pretty gross. Gah!
- Gonky gets his Batcher bonafides directly from Hunter this week. As Omega attempts to work out the wobbly trashcan droid’s sparks and errant gonks, Hunter notes Gonky is a defective unit, which is an impolite way of saying Gonky’s an outcast, a… Bad Batcher.
- It’s like poetry, it rhymes: Hera’s cries of “please hurry. I need your help” over an astromech transmission deliberately recalls Princess Leia’s pleas to Obi-wan Kenobi via R2-D2 in Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope.
- Hunter: “Omega. It’s a big galaxy,” Um… who wants to tell him?
- Hera and Omega, as well as Hunter and the Batch, got to scope out Crosshair and his crew this week, which was a nice visual flip on the sharpshooting heavy.
- I don’t know why, but watching Chopper zap a droid already using the console he needed reminded me of that time George Costanza yanked a kid out of a pay phone in Seinfeld.
- I looked into Chopper after a lot of you suggested I should last week, and I came across something interesting: while Dave Filoni has since been revealed to be the voice behind the beeps and blops of this scrappy astro-droid, it seems that C1-10P is now voiced by “Himself”?
- Hera is still working on her takeoffs in this episode: she lurches her shuttle into another parked shuttle, which makes exactly the kind of racket you’d think and alerts the entire base to her and Omega’s shenanigans. Awesome moment.
- It’s like poetry, it rhymes: this one’s a bit of a stretch, but Hera’s “we’re getting the hang of this!” line while flying that Imperial shuttle made me think of a similar line from C-3PO (“I think I’m beginning to get the hang of this flying business!”), said whilst flying with Padme Amidala towards her romantic doom in Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith.
- Anyway, Tech’s rebuttal to Hera’s line was equally priceless: “Yes, your dangerous and uncontrolled maneuvering is as confusing to them [the Empire] as it is to us.”
- Hera: “My parents would never approve of this plan!” Omega: “I won’t tell if you won’t.”
- For all Hunter’s chest-thumping about strategy, it’s not very strategic to walk your prized Imperial traitor through the front gates of the capital palace.
- Crosshair Watch: The sniper gave his informed advice concerning the Batch to Rampart and Rampart rebuffed him. This is the most disharmony we’ve seen on Crosshair’s face since episode three. But is redemption still in the cards, considering all the terrible things he’s done in the name of the Empire?
- So how did this “Rylothian Insurgency” arc work for you, group? Will Hera geteam up with her co-pilot, Omega, once more? Will Admiral Rampart get a proper dressing-down from Tarkin next week for his big blunder on Ryloth? Were we robbed of a Chopper/Gonky team-up? Beep and bloop in the comments below.