Hunter is a soldier. It’s all he’s ever known. But a soldier without a war can be a perilous thing.
The path Hunter has led his Bad Batch down since the declaration of Order 66 has been fraught with peril. Pinballing from one planet to the next in a desperate scramble to elude the omnipresent Empire with a considerable bounty on their heads has ensured plenty of breathless pursuits and even more spent blaster fire. And then there’s the matter of his not-insignificant debt to the black market swindler named Cid. So far, Hunter’s instincts have only led his family to disaster.
Last week, Captain Rex offered Hunter a chance to go on the offensive for a change and he didn’t take it. A rebellion is growing under the boot of the Empire yet Hunter seems to want nothing to do with it. And instead of getting off Bracca after the successful extraction of the Batch’s dangerous inhibitor chips, where dodgy scrappers are everywhere and looking to make even more credits by dropping a dime on them—which is exactly what happened—Hunter decided to stay put and scavenge his way out of Cid’s pocket with a Jedi cruiser’s worth of proton torpedoes and other valuable armaments. For Hunter, it all comes down to opportunity.
“We’re soldiers, not arms smugglers,” Echo quickly reminded Hunter following a dust-up with that aforementioned crew of scrappy tattle-tales. “[Rex is] on a different path than us,” Hunter replied, a weak gambit which Echo quickly squashed: “We’re soldiers. What other path is there?” All Hunter can see is the safety he wants for his Batch, still ahead and maddeningly out of reach. And if Hunter, a gifted tracker and strategist, can no longer use his peripheral vision and see the bigger picture, then each new opportunity to obtain freedom is only going to sour into yet another quagmire. Luck is all the Batch has on this current path, not strategy. That can only hold out for so long.
Hunter’s luck finally ran out this week, as Crosshair made his return to Star Wars: The Bad Batch with a full complement of stormtroopers and his own formidable death squad at his back. That scuttled Jedi cruiser, filled with scads of valuable gear and just as many wrong turns, quickly became a trap that sent the Batch scrambling for escape. “Reunion”, directed by Steward Lee and written by Christian Taylor, was every inch a gauntlet, filled with staggering set pieces imbued with emotional heft and capped off by an ending that was certainly designed to gut every member of the Bad Batch faithful who saw it. You would think that the eponymous reunion of Crosshair, Hunter, Wrecker, Echo, Tech, and Omega might have been the show-stopping centerpiece of the entire episode. Instead, another toothpick-chomping hardass popped up and took off with the show’s heart in his hands.
We’ll come back to that.
Ensconced at the center of the debut season of The Bad Batch, the starship graveyards of Bracca have proven to be a thrilling (and visually gorgeous) playground of danger and ruin. As a monolithic backdrop to the Batch’s relatively minor skirmishes amid this expansive space opera, Bracca’s desolation has also been a fit representation of the destructive conflict at the core of Star Wars, one that paints a grim picture of history and serves as a warning to those who might learn from it. Omega got a good look at Bracca this week and, being the curious sort, asked Tech about the war. (Tech, being not a very poetic person at all, offered a reliably dry explanation: “It was a primary mission objective comprised of battles on various fronts.” Omega: “But what was it like?”) But then a sensor went off and three Imperial assault shuttles flew into view and suddenly Omega’s wartime lessons had to wait.
Crosshair made a big show of his return, too: squadrons of stormtroopers formed around his command shuttle as he strutted down its boarding ramp like some minor-league Vader. The Batch’s first mad dash to get their scavenged goods back to the Havoc Marauder led our motley crew to an artillery deck, which turned out to be yet another dead end for Hunter—only this time it came with a vertigo-inducing drop, just for variety. (Wrecker, who hates heights: “Okay. I’m not going out that way.”) It was here where the majority of the eponymous reunion between Crosshair and the Bad Batch took place, all too brief but just as painful as we’d imagined. “Look at you all. Scavenging like rats,” Crosshair observed coldly. “Pathetic.” Hunter and Omega’s attempt at reason—Crosshair, you’re being controlled by a computer chip!—was met with Crosshair’s equally chilly order to his small army: “Aim for the kid.”
“Reunion,” hardly satisfied with merely being the most exciting and emotionally daunting episode of The Bad Batch yet, went to the trouble of showing off the series’ most wildly exhilarating set piece yet: the standoff inside the Jedi cruiser’s ion engine, which fired up on the orders of Crosshair and threatened to scorch his former brothers (say nothing of Omega) to cinders. Instead, Wrecker’s purloined grenades shifted the Batch’s advantage, leaving a toasted Crosshair down for the count and the Batch scattered in the aftermath. And this would have been a suitably harrowing finale, too, but “Reunion” wasn’t quite done with us yet.
Hunter and Omega, having returned safely to the Marauder but separated from the rest of the Batch, came across Crosshair’s stormtroopers and found that they were no longer a threat to anyone. Suddenly, shockingly, Corey Burton’s flinty drawl entered our ears. “I’ve taken down so many clones over the years,” the bounty hunter Cad Bane said, toying with his signature toothpick. “Once you’ve figured out one, the rest are easy.” And with a whistle and a strum of a guitar, The Bad Batch transformed into a tense Leone-by-way-of-Filoni Western, with Hunter and Bane locked in a duel and Omega’s safety hanging in the balance.
Hunter is many things. Ruthless isn’t one of them. A soldier’s aim is often true, but a draw is another story entirely. When you draw for your daughter’s life—when you draw on Cad Bane—you can’t be a soldier anymore. And at that crucial moment, Hunter was a soldier.
It’s here where The Bad Batch ascended to a new strata of Star Wars drama. Shifting our point of view to Hunter’s, Hunter watched himself get dragged into the Marauder by Tech and Echo as Wrecker offered cover from Crosshair’s relentless stormtrooper barrage. This intimate creative choice revealed Hunter’s vulnerability, sure, but more importantly it underscored his failure—to see the big picture, to shoot first, to keep Omega safe. As the Marauder took flight, under fire and minus one crew member, the only thing on Hunter’s mind was how he could possibly make this right. More than a soldier, Hunter has finally stepped into his role as a father. Omega is his family and you do whatever it takes to protect your family. Until you can’t anymore.
- Um. Cad Bane solo series when, Mr. Filoni?
- Wrecker, now unburdened by his overeager inhibitor chip, showed Omega how to disassemble a thermal detonator. “There’s tons of live ordnance buried in this shipyard,” he said, “and if you trip over one you need to know how to disassemble it.” Information which may come in handy later in the season?
- Maybe I missed this last week, but Omega is accessorizing: now she has a neat utility bandolier/belt! (She could still use some armor, though.)
- “Reunion”, for all its high-wire pyrotechnics and heart-in-throat twists, finally began shifting the series’ central plot intrigues into overdrive. That meant a return to the stormy expanses of Kamino, where Prime Minister Lama Su and doctor Nala Se felt the pristine white walls of their cloning facility begin to close in around them. Admiral Rampart’s Imperial authority has only grown since last we visited Kamino, which chafed Su and his secretive, clone-centric plans; Rampart ordered Clone Force 99 dead, regardless of their scientific use to the Kaminoans. “It would be most beneficial to have them returned alive,” Su suggested to Rampart, who ignored that and ordered Crosshair to Bracca so that Rampart could finally scratch another Republic loose end off his list.
- “The Empire’s mission on Bracca poses a threat to our contingency plan,” Su told Se, revealing that the Kaminoans have been the monetary force behind the Batch’s recent bounty hunter woes.
- And Admiral Rampart lorded over Kamino’s clone facility this week, too: stormtroopers flooded the hallways, and Rampart, who I swear was standing tippy-toe when he addressed Prime Minister Lama Su, declared “from now on, I’m to be apprised of all matters here.” He’ll call his scarier boss, Su, if you don’t play like he’s in total control. He strikes me as the type.
- Omega: “I’ve never been inside an ion engine before.” Wrecker: “It would have been weirder if you had.”
- Kinda silly how Hunter and Tech would use flashlights once they’re out in the open, especially when they’re up against a cunning sharpshooter like Crosshair. “Try again, Hunter!” Crosshair said, hilariously.
- Cad Bane, answering Hunter’s question as to who hired him: “Son, that’s confidential information.” I could listen to Cad Bane talk his cowboy talk all day, but him calling Hunter “son” might be the best thing that’s ever happened to Star Wars.
- So how are you feeling right now, group? Does anybody have any clue what Wrecker’s “Plan 7” might possibly be? Will Crosshair become the resident Vader of The Bad Batch? Did that ending wreck you as it wrecked me? Let’s break out the hankies in the comments below.