It can safely be said that the first quarter of Star Wars: The Bad Batch has been a game of pit stops. Of course, when you’re an outlaw clone unit on the lam from a newly-forged Empire looking to put the kibosh on all manner of clones—and they apparently have unfathomable plans for your new clone charge who is definitely more than what she appears to be—leap-frogging from one planet to the next just to get a little breathing room would seem essential. Not to mention exhausting.
Hunter, Echo, Wrecker, Tech, and Omega have charted a tireless zig-zag course during these first four episodes, bopping from Kamino to Saleucami to a barren moon and, this week, to Pantora, in the hopes of finding a moment to get their bearings since the declaration of Order 66 flipped everything upside down and installed the brutal Emperor Palpatine to a place of Imperial permanence. The Bad Batch, formerly Clone Force 99, have rebelled against their Kaminoan programming and are now considered serious liabilities to a new galactic order that doesn’t tolerate dissent. So, naturally, rest doesn’t come easy.
Making matters worse: the Batch is out of food and the Empire has made their hunt for Omega and her found family public by tossing them onto a wanted list, which brings a thrilling Star Wars inevitability to The Bad Batch: bounty hunters.
As everyone knows (and Omega soon finds out), bounty hunters only make the galaxy that much smaller. And so we have “Cornered”, a rollicking, speeder-powered episode that escalates the already fraught dramatic stakes by taking a fan favorite mercenary and slotting her into an era when she was younger and more ruthless: Fennec Shand, portrayed here by Ming-Na Wen (as she was on The Mandalorian). More on Fennec in a bit.
The Batch’s need for provisions is a strong impetus for this episode’s melodrama. It ratchets up their desperation and justifies rash decisions (such as landing on a moon potentially teeming with all kinds of scum and villainy) as the Republic is no more and the Batch’s unlimited tap for resources has dried up. And since clone troopers were never known for being flush with credits Hunter is forced to find a spot where he can discreetly hock what remains of their dwindling arsenal for food and fuel. Enter: Pantora, a strategic moon during the Clone Wars rife with space ports and markets, the next logical pit stop for Hunter and his family—and, thus far, the most dangerous. (“In and out, quickly and quietly,” Hunter insists, not realizing what show he’s on.)
Pantora is a refreshing visual shift for The Bad Batch. A vibrant and lively leap away from the gun-metal grays, clinical Kaminoan whites, and oppressive cosmic blacks we’ve seen so far in this series, Pantora’s deep urban canyons beam with neons and rich alien life. It’s a fun environment to watch Hunter, Echo, and Omega wander through on their quest for credits and, soon after, it becomes a perilous, kaleidoscopic gauntlet where one false turn can lead to catastrophe.
That peril would seemingly come from Pantora’s strong Imperial presence. Inside the marketplace where Hunter needs to procure some grub for his crew (especially for the famished Wrecker) there lies a chain code outpost, which both asserts the Empire’s control over this system and blasts out some nefarious pro-fascist propaganda. (Admiral Rampart makes his holographic appearance here, as he did on Saleucami.) Armed troopers march the causeways to applause and acclaim. This makes the Batch’s margin for error even smaller, doesn’t it?
It does, and it doesn’t. After all, plowing through a horde of stormtroopers (are we calling them that yet?) is easy as a Naboo picnic for Hunter and his motley crew, that’s been well established. No, the real threat this week comes from a devious port worker and a hard-as-nails merc trained in all kinds of warfare and other unknowable (though certainly just as lethal) x-factors. “This is Raspar Six at Ro station,” the wormy port worker transmits almost immediately after being bribed by Tech, which says a lot for how much credits can buy on Pantora. “Word on the channels is you’re looking for a certain modified Omicron-class attack shuttle.”
He’s transmitting to Fennec, who glares at a hologram of Omega and has every intention of procuring this bounty by any means necessary. With that an incredibly meta (but no less dramatic) piece to this week’s episode locks into place: a test of fan loyalty, with Omega at its center.
Fennec, a terrific character last seen scouring the Western space-scapes of The Mandalorian alongside Boba Fett, has a built-in fan base that could rival (and even potentially surpass) that of the Batch. Blasting her way into this prequel series, Fennec has an opportunity to establish her wildly notorious reputation as an assassin of the highest order, which, in this context, makes her the bad guy (at least for one episode). Pitting Fennec against, say, Hunter, is already a dicey proposition on paper—who do we really want to see win that fight?—but seeing it play out in a duel with Omega literally standing between them is enough for any sensible Star Wars fan to do backflips in their living room.
“Cornered”, which was directed by Saul Ruiz and written by Christian Taylor, plays with our emotions even more in an earlier scene where Fennec approaches a lost Omega with a smile and an offer of purloined food. “It’s okay to break the rules sometimes,” Fennec says to the impressionable Omega, who’s grateful for this help even if she doesn’t fully trust that blaster under Fennec’s duster. Surely there’s space in The Bad Batch for Fennec and Omega to have an adventure or two together, isn’t there? But then where would that leave Hunter? And Wrecker? And—oh, I’m so confused.
- The Batch’s first choice for a hiding spot, Idaflor, is marked as uninhabited, but isn’t that more conspicuous? Wouldn’t the Empire scan that ‘uninhabited’ planet and find lifeforms, Hunter? “The Hoth system is supposed to be devoid of human forms” and all that? Eh? Eh???
- Wrecker: “Why’d you tell me we’re out of rations? Now I’m starving!”
- Echo: “You stick out too much.” Wrecker: “Oh, you don’t?!” Echo: “Not dressed like this.” *pulls down mask* Perfect.
- Gonky is so helpful as a walking workbench, I love them.
- Proprietor, who purchased Echo this week : “You’re not a droid!” Echo: “You got me for a bargain.” Echo knows his own worth, good for him.
- Dee Bradley Baker’s droid cadence is cute, in an ironic sort of way. Echo: “Yes. What-ev-er. You. Require.”
- Wrecker vs. Fennec. Two hits: Wrecker hits a wall, Wrecker hits the floor. (He was really hungry!)
- What kinda droid is Clink? An astromech with arms and legs? Where have we been stashing him??
- Fennec really set out to make those red cords in her hair work, considering we now know she’s been wearing them for almost 30 years.
- What say you, group? Are you in the market for a Fennec/Omega team-up series? Who’d win in a sniper contest between Fennec and Crosshair? Isn’t Fennec the most? Let’s talk about Fennec in the comments below.