Following the impactful seventh and final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, in terms of both the series and its hardscrabble cast of characters, Star Wars: The Bad Batch has always had its work cut out for it. Mere seconds into the series Clone Force 99 was already scrambling to find purchase during the execution of Order 66, the most dire moment of the wars when the Republic’s fate was decided and the galaxy was changed forever. In the chaos the self-styled Bad Batch lost one of their clone brothers, Crosshair, in what turned out to be a difference of philosophy rather than the efficacy of their Kaminoan-installed inhibitor chips. Once Hunter, Tech, Echo, and Wrecker escaped Kamino with the young clone Omega in tow the members of “Experimental Unit 99” got to work finding a new identity living in the shadow of the Empire.
For Crosshair, this work came easily. Good soldiers follow orders and Crosshair is a good soldier to the Empire. He asserted his command over a new squad and did as he was told, no matter how cruel or merciless his task was. Hunter found adapting to a post-war reality more difficult: with a young charge on board the Havoc Marauder looking for guidance and acceptance, Hunter attempted to find his inner dad but ultimately discovered all he would ever have to be for Omega was a brother. (This week it was revealed that Hunter is actually Omega’s little brother; something to chew on until season two.) As for Echo, he quietly became the moral center of the Batch (when the show remembered that he was even there), nudging Hunter to do the right thing even though Hunter’s screwy instincts often made him do otherwise. Then there’s Omega, who began the series not really knowing what she wanted but was wise enough to know she wanted more than what Kamino had to offer. She charted the stars with the Batch, became a minor crossbow-wielding warrior, and made some friends along the way. As for Tech and Wrecker? They rolled with the punches, filling out the background in team shots and occasionally doing something cool from episode to episode, like Wrecker socking a baby rancor in the maw or Tech spinning the Marauder in crazy maneuvers like Anakin Skywalker reborn.
The Bad Batch has always been great at spectacle, but revealing hidden character depths? That’s another matter altogether. “Kamino Lost”, directed by Saul Ruiz and written by Jennifer Corbett, brings season one to a close and the strengths and weaknesses of The Bad Batch reveal themselves in full. A strength: The Bad Batch is capable of achieving exhilarating dramatic heights even when it’s only putting in minimal character work, and when Vice Admiral Rampart pummeled Tipoca City into the sea last week it was hard not to feel gutted when the episode suddenly cut to black and there was a full week to worry over whether or not every member of Clone Force 99, Crosshair included, would make it out of Kamino alive. What’s more, Rampart’s latest order suddenly made The Bad Batch a critical turning point for the wider Star Wars saga; the cloning facility of Kamino fell into the ocean and we watched the Clone Wars era wash away with it. (Though Disney Plus’ upcoming live action Kenobi series, as well as the upcoming live action Ahsoka series, will likely have Clone Wars-related business to settle.) As far as an exhibition of its strengths are concerned, “Return To Kamino” was a powerhouse reckoning that set up what should have been an emotionally daunting and narratively satisfying finale.
“Kamino Lost” brought more of the series’ weaknesses to the fore. Most notably, the drama surrounding the fate of medical droid AZI-345211 (etc.) ends up being more impactful than the fates of the Bad Batch, Crosshair included. The oh-so helpful droid puts his headlight-eyes to work finding a way out of the submerged Tipoca cloning facility and even places his own mechanical existence at risk navigating the Batch to the surface. But when those headlights go out and AZI drifts away, Omega decides not to accept the droid’s sacrifice and goes for a swim after him. So here comes Crosshair, who stops Hunter from making the same egregious mistake and pulls out his sniper rifle (from where is anybody’s guess), firing off a life-saving grapple that pulls both AZI and Omega to safety.
It’s the episode’s most stirring sequence, but Crosshair’s brief flirtation with heroism feels like it’s supposed to serve season two instead of this finale, or even this entire season. Later, when everyone is safe and dry on the sole landing platform in all of Kamino, Crosshair makes it abundantly clear where his allegiances lie: “I’ve made my decision.” (Hunter seems to have had his fill of Crosshair, at least: “We weren’t going to leave you behind,” he says, maxing out his charity to his murderous former brother who has done nothing but try to kill him all season. “If you want to stay here and die, that’s your call.”) If Bad Batch season one wasn’t setting up a redemption arc for Crosshair why does he go to the trouble of saving AZI and Omega? Did this act come from a place of genuine concern for Omega, who made at least two attempts to appeal to his basic humanity this week, or was it simply because Omega and AZI dug Crosshair out of the rubble and prevented him from drowning? When Omega thanks him for the rescue, all Crosshair can muster is “Consider us even.” So it’s the second thing, then.
“You’re still their brother, Crosshair,” Omega says, her last parting shot. “You’re my brother, too.” And then the Marauder takes off and Crosshair is left to his own thoughts (chief amongst them hoping that an Imperial shuttle happens by and picks him up). Perhaps Crosshair is still torn between his loyalty to the Empire and what remains of his love for his brothers and perhaps he is not, but we’re not getting anywhere near figuring that out. At least, not in 2021.
Even with its stunner of an opener, where we go inside Tipoca City and feel last week’s laser barrage far more intensely, “Kamino Lost” feels like it’s revisiting well-trodden ground, particularly when it comes to Hunter and Crosshair who once again row over who is right and who is wrong even with an entire ocean and a giant, hungry sea turtle threatening to swallow them whole. (Though it is pretty darn cute when the bickering bros get sardined into a medical tube later on.) The episode makes attempts to find a little more closure for the clones and their former Kaminoan home (even after it’s settled on the ocean floor) by stashing the Batch in their former barracks for a fleeting moment of relative safety. It’s a symbolic location that dredges up a lot of hurt feelings between Crosshair and Hunter, further underscoring the point that neither Hunter nor Crosshair, nor any clone for that matter, can ever go home again. Figuratively and literally, the show makes abundantly clear, “home” is gone.
Still, it’s a new dawn for the Batch, represented by the first nice day the eternally stormy Kamino has ever had onscreen. As Omega surveys the smoldering ruin that used to be her home in broad daylight we’re left to consider the various successes and shortcomings of Star Wars: The Bad Batch.
This finale is a mixed bag, a fitting representation of how wildly uneven the quality of this debut season has been. We’ve spoken before about the rhythms of Star Wars animation, how it gets hung up on Easter eggs and lore expansion and fan favorite cameos at the expense of the story it’s telling at any given point. In the case of The Bad Batch, by the time the final credits roll it’s clear that a planet received more closure this season than any of the show’s characters, yet at the same time it’s hard not to appreciate how reverential it all feels. You take the good with the bad. More good than bad is how gorgeous this entire season was: from concept phase to storyboarding to final render, The Bad Batch is hands-down the best looking Star Wars animated series to date, intimate and weird like The Mandalorian and in its best moments it can visually hold its own with the wild alien environments of The Last Jedi and The Force Awakens. Star Wars animation looks incredible. Now let’s see if it can tell a story that packs the same punch as The Clone Wars in less than seven seasons.
Right now it’s not looking like that’s going to happen any time soon. Season one of The Bad Batch closes, but there is no final look at the Batch safe onboard the Marauder, charting a new course to who knows where, closing out their story on their terms. There is no final heart-to-heart between Hunter and Omega, or a chance, at least, to truly understand what the heck is going on inside Crosshair’s head. Instead, the final shot of our Batch was provided at a distance, showing them depart Kamino with Crosshair left behind to stew over the events of this tumultuous last day and what his Imperial future holds for him. Will he be friend or foe the next time he sees Hunter? Even that has to keep for now; the last last sequence to this debut season instead takes us to a mountainous Imperial outpost, where Nala Se is expected to do big and exciting (and presumably dangerous) scientific things for the Empire. Instead of closing things out with Lucasfilm’s Dirty Half-Dozen we instead tee up for the adventures to come on a grim, foreboding note, a fittingly impersonal finish to a series that has so far largely dodged vital character moments to make room for everything else in its toy box.
- Hey, we made it! 16 weeks and 16 recaps on and here we are at the end. Thanks for taking the time each week to catch up on The Bad Batch with me, for offering up your takes and generally being awesome readers. I love Star Wars and I know a lot of you do, too. It’s been a lot of fun being able to share it with you.
- Special thanks to my editor, Danette Chavez, who whips my copy into shape and keeps me on deadline. Working for The A.V. Club has been a blast, and Danette makes it that much better.
- It tracks that Omega would trust her heart’s impulses over cold logic, but trying to rescue AZI was about as reckless a move as she’s ever made. That droid better end up doing something medically important and/or miraculous next season, I swear.
- The remaining clones on board Rampart’s star destroyer must feel pretty ambivalent about being a part of the destruction of their home. The voice on one trooper seems to confirm it: “The cities have been destroyed sir. All… Kaminoan facilities have… collapsed… in the sea.” Brutal.
- AZI, to Crosshair: “Greetings, CT-9904. You survived the aerial bombardment but are now moments away from drowning.” Somebody get that droid some AA batteries!
- Say! Some of the other Batchers got to chime in this week: “All that time, you didn’t even try to come back,” Wrecker points out to Crosshair, ruefully. “We still would have taken ya.” Tech’s assessment: “Crosshair has always been severe and unyielding. It is his nature. You cannot change that.” Then, in Tech’s very Tech-y way, he offers a subtly indirect challenge/dig to Crosshair: “He cannot change that.” (Echo remained largely silent during this sequence.) Can we please, please, have more character work with Wrecker, Tech, and Echo next season? I didn’t realize how starving I was for Tech to be a person until he scorched Crosshair like that.
- I just remembered that Cad Bane was in this season. Remember Cad Bane? And Fennec? Wild times.
- Nala Se has arrived at her new home, a well-fortified Imperial outpost. Her greeting: “We are all admirers of your scientific talents. The Empire has big things planned for you.” Two guesses as to what those “big things” are going to be?
- So how did season one of Star Wars: The Bad Batch stack up for you, group? Did the visuals dazzle you as they did me? Which cameo was the most superfluous? Are the Batch still going to schlep for Cid in the second season? Let’s give each other a proper farewell in the comments below.