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Star Wars: The Clone Wars ends its Bad Batch story arc with a big ol' bomb

Illustration for article titled iStar Wars: The Clone Wars/i ends its Bad Batch story arc with a big ol bomb
Image: Disney (Disney Plus)
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Perhaps I provided too high a grade for the previous episode, but I also mentioned that this “Bad Batch” story arc had already played its limited hand by that third episode. Any conflict between the “regs” and the Clone Troop 99 was minimal and/or nonexistent, which left only the action and visuals to sell to its audience. I suppose I adjusted my expectations to what best to expect from this narrative, and “Unfinished Business” kind of validated that adjustment. Without enough action to let the animators and directors do their best work, we’re left with a flailing, clunky, random assortment of obstacles that every single character gets through unscathed (arguably except for Anakin, which I’ll get to in a bit). The most pressing question–if Echo’s captivity and brain-manipulations altered his loyalties–is resolved in seconds, with a solid no.

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In fact, Echo is totally fine as far as the episode presents it. His harrowing experience doesn’t seem to effect his mentality, behavior, or abilities one bit. There’s scant debate over whether his time in Wat’s custody may have compromised Echo’s loyalties, and the episode doesn’t even kind of make it a potential issue. There’s a moment where Echo, hacking into the algorithm’s relay system after he, Anakin, Rex, and the Batch sneak aboard Admiral Trench’s ship, may have betrayed his squad. That tension barely lasts twenty seconds. Echo manipulates the algorithm, and where the algorithm’s signal originates, to trick Trench into sending most, if not all, the battle droids to the assembly plant on Anaxis, where Obi-Wan and Mace Windu are making a semi-last stand. Then he sends a direct electromagnetic pulse-type signal to completely disable every single one. It’s effective, sure, but there isn’t even a hint that Echo isn’t one hundred percent on the up and up. Why even bring up that conflict in the first place?

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Heck, by that time, the episode is essentially over, but with a whole other eleven minutes to go, the writers ratchet up the tension by bringing in a bomb. It’s such a strange decision. So much could have been about Echo and his questionable status and allegiances, but it’s just not. Instead, it’s a ticking time bomb situation, where Echo provides all the numbers to Windu so he can disarm it–all but one. Echo is electrocuted before he can provide the final number. Admittedly this does raise the stakes, but only a bit, partly because of meta, extenuating circumstances (we know Windu lives through this entire show), but also because the bomb comes out of nowhere and seems too over-the-top for the circumstances. Of course they’ll pull through. The way they do it, however, is the only interesting part of the episode. Anakin confronts Trance face-to-(spider)face, and doesn’t hesitate to straight-up slice off a number of the admiral’s tentacle to force the final bomb-defusing number out of him. Anakin’s slide into the dark side is a significant part of the entire saga of The Clone Wars, but there’s something specific in how he just turns off/on his cruelty here, dismissing Trance’s whole Jedi-peacenik speech with one violent slice, and then similarly executing him with some weird quip to boot. It’s a development that needs its own entire episode, even story arc, to parse. Here it just feels like a sudden moment that comes out of nowhere in an episode that should be about Echo, the Batch, and Rex. (Some of the musical cues during this moment also seem way out of place.)

Illustration for article titled iStar Wars: The Clone Wars/i ends its Bad Batch story arc with a big ol bomb
Image: Disney (Disney Plus)

The bomb is disarmed, and with that issue out the way, we just watch Clone Troop 99 escape, and it’s just a couple of relatively bland hallways shootouts. Sure, Wrecker and Tech have a bit of a competition going on on who can take out the most droids, a small thing that would’ve been cute to see develop across all four episodes. Here, it comes out of nowhere and kind of seems silly to do at this point, another time-waster for time-wasting sake. Wrecker just smashes through a bunch of Clankers; Tech tosses a bunch of small mirrors around and shoots one, single blaster shot at them, the shott bouncing off each mirror and taking out dozens of droids at once. This would have been pretty cool if the episode didn’t show a smaller version of this move two minutes earlier. Wrecker does get to blow up the separatists’ armada, and I’m not sure how detonating one ship leads to the destruction of all the ships, but whatever.

“Unfinished Business” ends on an off-kilter note, with Echo opting to join the Bad Batch instead of staying around with Rex and his team. This decision makes sense in purely structural, clinical terms, but with no insight or exploration on how Echo or Rex actually feel about rejoining the “regs,” this choice completely lacks any weight or reason, logically or thematically. “Unfinished Business,” implied by its title, feel undercooked and incomplete, both from a narrative perspective and from a character one. It never quite gives the Bad Batch much to do, it short-changes Echo and Rex, and ultimately, fails to even provide a thrilling ending.

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But hey, Ahsoka should be coming into the picture very soon.


Stray observations

  • Let’s say, for the sake of argument, Echo was struggling to stay committed to the Republic, the brain-washing directly effecting his loyalties, to the point that Rex even had to start distrusting him. It would have been a painful, emotional conflict between the two, but also would have added that much needed weight to Echo’s final decision to join the Bad Batch. He and Rex could have come to an understanding, a heart-to-heart about loyalty, trust, brotherhood, history, and how that will always be unstable after everything he’s gone through, and joining the Batch was the safer option, a place where he’d find a much more comfortable role. I know we aren’t supposed to review what we “should” have wanted, which is why I placed these comments here, but... still. What could have been...
  • Other than that time Hunter rode that dragon creature and stabbed a few Clankers... did he even do anything? He was supposed to have superior senses but as far as I could recall he never used to them to any advantage?
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Contributor, The A.V. Club, with a clear preference for all things cartoons; check out his main blog at http://www.totalmediabridge.com.

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