It’s Time to Save the Clones

Star Wars: The Bad Batch: Season 3

How much Star WarsThe modern blockbuster: it's a concept so commonplace now we don't even think about the fact that before the end of the 1970s, this kind of movie -- huge spectacles, big action, massive budgets -- wasn't really made. That all changed, though, with Star Wars, a series of films that were big on spectacle (and even bigger on profits). A hero's journey set against a sci-fi backdrop, nothing like this series had ever really been done before, and then Hollywood was never the same. is too much Star Wars? I’ve watched a few commentators online ask this question in videos (because who, besides me, still writes articles?) and the general consensus has been that ever since Disney took over Lucasfilm there has been far too much Star Wars for audiences to care about. A key reason for this is because, at a certain point, pandering nostalgia bait can only carry you so far and most of what’s been released in the Star Wars universe has been pandering nostalgia bait, through and through. Obi-Wan, The Book of Boba Fett, Ashoka. Each were set to give us more of key characters we already knew and each really didn’t have a story that we could truly care about to guide us through the adventures.

Did we need to know where Obi-Wan was between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope? Not really, since we saw him on Tatooine at the end of one film and on Tatooine at the start of the next. Dude was on Tatooine. And, for the most part, that’s what the series says too. Ashoka takes the great title character and saddles her with a story that could have been resolved in a matter of seconds if any of the characters involved ever used their brains. “We have a puzzle box that could point the way to Thrawn and if the bad guys get it they could go and free Thrawn.” And yet, do they do the obvious thing and destroy the puzzle box? Nope. And so Thrawn escapes. And don’t even get us going on The Book of Boba Fett, which was so bored with its own character that it did two episodes all about The Mandalorian instead. Just… wow.

So yes, for the most part Disney has seemed to flounder when it comes to their Star Wars projects. Not all of them are bad, but for every Andor there’s a Sequel Trilogy no one enjoyed. For every Rogue One there’s a Solo waiting just around the corner. It makes it hard to care about whatever the next Star Wars thing is that’s coming out because, too often, the results have been underwhelming. That’s how a show like The Bad Batch can release three seasons over the years and still manage to fly under the radar for most people. “Yet another animated Star Wars? Meh, why bother?”

Thing is that The Bad Batch has actually been pretty good over the years. Yes, sure, the first season was a little uneven in places, and there were a few episodes here and there across all three seasons that felt more like filler than actual, necessary parts of the story. But when the show found its footing it managed to crank out solid stories set in the Star Wars universe without relying on established characters from the movies that have nowhere to go with their own tales because we already know how their stories end. It’s not nostalgia bait, and that goes a long way towards making The Bad Batch pretty watchable.

Season three picks up a few months after the end of season two, with Omega (Michelle Ang) having been captured by Royce Hemlock (Jimmi Simpson), so she can be held, and studied, at Hemlock’s secret imperial base. Hemlock, with the assistance of adult female clone Emerie Karr (Keisha Castle-Hughes), has been working on Project Necromancer, a secret project that involves the blood of clones, and the blood of young force-sensitive children, to do… something (presumably allow Palpatine to be cloned and live forever). Omega’s blood is the key, a fact that is discovered right before she manages to make her escape from the facility alongside another captured clone, Crosshair (Dee Bradley Baker).

Free of the facility, Omega and Crosshair get back to Clone Force 99, Omega’s found family. The others – Hunter, Wrecker, and Echo (all Dee Bradley Baker) are happy to see her but less happy to see Crosshair (who left the group and betrayed them a couple of years earlier). Still, the group is together again and they can work to try and keep Omega safe. Whatever the Empire wanted her for, and whatever special properties are in her blood, they have to find out. And they need to figure out where that secret facility is so they can get there, stop Hemlock’s research, and get all the other clones out of there once and for all.

Star Wars is home to plenty of found families. The trio from the Original Trilogy, the trio from the Sequel Trilogy (since it had to duplicate so many beats of the originals), the crew of Rebels, and so on. Found families feel powerful since they’re the groups these characters have chosen. Yes, sure, the crew of Clone Force 99 are put together by the Republic, and they’ve been together ever since because they work well together. They’re all, quite literally, brothers because they’re all based on the same DNA. But they could have gone their separate ways and lived their own lives (like many other retired clones). Instead they chose to stick together and fight, and the show is very good about letting us feel their bonds and understand why they are together. They all have love for Omega, and she’s as much a part of their unit as anyone. Even Crosshair.

The return of Crosshair to the group is a big moment for season three. It sets the plotline in motion, both for how they’re going to figure out the mystery of Omega and how they could find her if she’s ever captured again (which, I don’t feel like it’s a big spoiler to say she would be captured again since, of course, that’s an obvious main thrust of the season). He was on the other side of the conflict for a time, leaving his brothers behind. The fact that he then rejoins, and decides to stay with them, shows that he needed his family as well. It’s a big character moment for him, clearly illustrating his own evolution.

Omega has shown great evolution this season as well. By aging her up some and letting her take charge, the show clearly shows us how she’s learned from her brothers and become an effective part of their unit. She’s not just a little girl for them to protect but, in some ways, their older sister as well (which is technically true). It gives her more to do than be a damsel, letting her have agency over her own future. She becomes a reliable part of the story, a key engine of the plot, and someone to root for as well.

I do wish the show could have spent more time on Project Necromancer, though. It’s pretty obvious this will be the project that leads to, eventually, “somehow Palpatine returned,” but there’s never a clear connection drawn, or an obvious solution to the technical problems Hemlock was running into on the project, so if this is supposed to show how Paltapine could be cloned, that wasn’t clearly proven yet. This is more like a beta test of the idea, but almost like the show is purposefully sitting on it for a future series. Maybe it is.

The real weakness this season comes from the fact that the other two main characters, Hunter and Wrecker, feel lost this season. They’re there, doing their bit, but they don’t have major character arcs this time around, not like Omega and Crosshair. All they want is to find Omega and then help keep her safe, but there’s no major challenges for them, nothing to push them forward as characters and make them rethink any of their positions. They’re side characters in their own story, there to help fill scenes and make sure everyone does their part. I would have liked just a little more of them, honestly.

Still, the show does effectively carry out its major storyline. When Omega makes her escape, you cheer. When she goes off to be a hero, you’re there for the ride. When Crosshair steps up and says that he owes Omega one, you feel it. The show nails many of its beats, and provides plenty of solid action as well. It might not be perfect (I think the last season of The Clone Wars was far better) but even with its flaws it still stands as one of the better Star Wars shows Disney has produced. Considering how many false-starts and failures they’ve had in this universe, that’s not nothing.