It’s more than a little distressing that Wrecker’s headaches have become our primary source of dread in Star Wars: The Bad Batch. The jolly giant of Clone Force 99 is handy in a pinch, a goliath who can sock a baby rancor in the maw one minute and plow through a small contingent of police droids the next. He’s great with kids and his home decorating skills are a glory to behold! But the second those headaches begin to flare up, all the fun gets sapped from this Clone Wars spin-off as we collectively hold our breath and wait for the other shoe to drop.
Wrecker got bonked on the head really hard this week, which brought the Bad Batch’s formidable ace in the hole to his knees as he struggled against his Kamino-installed inhibitor chip—the same chip that turned his brother-in-arms Crosshair towards the Empire during the series premiere six weeks back. “Good… soldiers…” he uttered under his breath, the words coming unbidden, a dire sign that Wrecker’s days as a devil-may-care rogue trooper were swiftly coming to an end.
Naturally, he shook it off just when his family needed him the most, because there are still 10 episodes yet to fill and it wouldn’t do to let Wrecker’s seemingly inevitable reprogramming disrupt the series’ trajectory this early in the going. Still, Wrecker’s noggin was the biggest item on the docket for “Decommissioned”, a mid-stream episode directed by Nathaniel Villanueva and written by Amanda Rose Muñoz that nudged the series’ central arc a millimeter or so along while giving our eponymous clone squad something to do in the interim. Plus: guest stars!
That’s right, Rafa and Trace Martez, last seen trying to carve out their own place in the galaxy before disappearing entirely from the seventh season of The Clone Wars, popped up in the same Corellian decommissioning facility as the Batch just when it looked like Hunter and his running crew were finally about to pull off a caper without a hitch. (And where would be the fun in that?) It would seem a wild coincidence that the Martez Sisters and the Batch would convene just as Hunter’s new mercenary gig with Cid was beginning to bear credits, but prodding primary characters towards their true purpose appears to be Rafa’s and Trace’s storytelling function (at least for now). They brought Ahsoka to a better emotional place just in time for the Clone Wars’ thrilling climax; it’s only fitting that Rafa, who appears to be working for the burgeoning Rebellion, would not-so subtly coax Hunter to finally get his act together and go on the offensive against the Empire. “In the end, we all choose sides,” Rafa said to the Batch’s leader in the episode’s final moments, just before she sold him out to her mysterious Rebel contact. (He remained offscreen, a frustratingly repetitive bit of plot trickery courtesy of the braintrust behind The Bad Batch.)
So what brought the Batch to Corellia in the first place? New mercenary work from the shady tavern owner Cid, who tasked Hunter, Tech, Echo, Wrecker, and Omega with the retrieval of a Separatist tactical droid before it was smelted in a decommissioning facility 40 or so miles from Han Solo’s house. (One presumes.) The droid’s programming would fetch a hefty price, Tech notes, which sparks the possibility that more people than just Cid’s black market customers might want to obtain it. Enter: The Martez Sisters, who play a game of droid-head football with the Batch before their antics bring a small armada of police droids down around their heads.
“Decommissioned” might serve a purpose to the larger narrative ambitions of The Bad Batch, at least in terms of Wrecker’s current brain boggle and Hunter’s struggle with finding safety and security for his Batch, but these moments clang around the hollow confines of the episode’s central (and prolonged) action set piece and its empty melodrama between the Batch and the Martezes. (Were we to believe that these two disastrous family units wouldn’t find a common purpose before long?) There’s nothing wrong with a bit of running-and-gunning from Star Wars, especially when battle droids are involved (Matthew Wood’s lovely droid banter delivered the episode’s best line: “Did we win?”). But “Decommissioned” glosses over crucial bits of information to focus on the adventurous presence of its guest stars.
Keeping its bigger dramatic stakes at bay to hit its season length is beginning to feel more like a bug for the series than a feature. For instance: the episode doesn’t take Hunter’s learned lessons from his botched retrieval mission back to Cid, who clearly isn’t keeping his best interests at heart. (“You knew how dangerous the information on the tactical droid is, but you didn’t know who you were giving it to?” Rafa asks Hunter at one point.) Nor does the episode explore how Wrecker overcame his inhibitor chip’s latest, and most belligerent, attack on his good nature—a solid character moment for the show if there ever was one, only it never gets brought up.
The Bad Batch is still shuffling the non-Hunter/Omega members of Clone Force 99 around the series’ periphery to their detriment. Tech, Echo, and Wrecker, no matter what they endure from episode to episode, always end up filling out the background before the credits end. Doesn’t this family unit talk to each other? Tech, your brother Wrecker is having headaches! Hunter, Crosshair’s chip turned him against you and it’s looking like it could happen again! Yes, the Batch needs money, and sure, there are bounty hunters and an entire Empire breathing down their necks. But all the credits in the galaxy won’t buy Wrecker back if he finally glitches over to the dark side.
- Cid, to Omega: “You’re releasing too soon because of those weak noodle arms! Build up your strength.” And then Cid takes the crossbow and nails three bullseyes in rapid fire. Keep an eye on Cid, I’m telling you.
- Somebody help me out here: Tech says the Empire uses clones, therefore obtaining tactical droid programming is crucial to their totalitarian efforts, not to mention incredibly valuable. But the Separatists, who used droids to wage war, served Palpatine—or, rather, Sidious—during the Clone Wars, right? So wouldn’t the Emperor have access to their droids now that he’s consolidating his power? Also, who is using battle droids in combat against the Empire now that the wars are over?
- It’s like poetry, it rhymes: Tech piggybacks the Marauder on an Imperial freighter in order to infiltrate the decommissioning facility, just like Han Solo piggybacked on an Imperial Star Destroyer to escape the Empire in Empire Strikes Back. (“This old trick?” asks Wrecker.)
- Am I nuts, or did those police droids look a lot like Jabba’s supervisor droid EV-9D9 from Return of the Jedi?
- Rafa: “We need a diversion.” Trace: “We need a diversion.” Rafa: “Is there an echo in here?” Echo: “Yes.” Oof.
- Hooray for Omega, who had trouble aiming her new crossbow at the beginning of the episode and suddenly found her inner sharpshooter when the danger was at its most pitched. She was hurling laser arrows with strength and confidence, yes—but did this newfound proficiency come from her clone programming… or something else?
- R7 is Ahsoka’s astromech droid, or at least he… used… to… be? Last we saw of R7, he was a pile of scrap, having sacrificed himself in defense of his beloved Jedi friend in the Clone Wars S7 episode, “Victory and Death”.
- Well, what do you think, group? Who was Trace’s contact? Could it be Bail Organa? Rex? How did the Martez sisters come across R7? Anyone else get serious Toy Story 3 vibes from that smelting pit? Let’s spin some wheels in the comments section below.