Star Wars: The Clone Wars returns today to kick off the final season of the acclaimed animated series. And it’s doing so on Disney+, the company’s flagship streaming network that’s aiming to unite all of its titles in one location. But the Season 7 premiere of Star Wars: The Clone Wars also encapsulates a little bit of everything the series has gone through over the last 15+ years, starting with Genndy Tartakovsky‘s exploration of the title period in the Star Wars timeline, up through Dave Filoni‘s fan-favorite take on the material, and including the unfinished versions of episodes that were put on pause back when the series was kinda, sorta cancelled back in 2013; those episodes were then screened at a fan convention and on StarWars.com itself in 2015.
So why am I mentioning those episodes now, in this review of the “brand new” premiere episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars on Disney+? Because it’s not “brand new”; it’s finished, updated, or refurbished at best, but to call it “brand new” would be disingenuous. So if you saw “The Bad Batch” in its unfinished form five years ago, you pretty much know what to expect. That doesn’t make this finished version bad by any means, but it does serve to keep our expectations in check as to what Disney+ is actually offering here in Season 7. I speculated as to what that might be in a recent preview of this season, and regular contributor Rafael Motamayor and I discuss it further on an upcoming episode of the Saturday Mourning Cartoons podcast; stay tuned. Spoilers ahead.
As for the episode itself, it’s a curious way to kick off the new and final season of the series, but it also features some excellent additions to–and explorations of–the existing mythology. This adventure leaves Anakin and Obi-Wan on the sidelines and centers on Captain Rex and the newly arrived Bad Batch, who must infiltrate an enemy base on Anaxes. Rex is carrying some emotional baggage in this one, partially caused by remembering his fallen comrades like Fives, Echo, and Hevy, and partially caused by the fact that their forces keep losing to the Separatists despite Rex’s best strategies from his playbook. To change things up, they’ll have to call in Clone Force 99–the name is a reference to a malformed clone trooper who played a pivotal part in earlier adventures–also known as The Bad Batch.
Here’s a quick breakdown of The Bad Batch: They’re a team of “defective” clones with special traits, a team that has unconventional tactics and a 100% success rate. Team-leader Hunter was engineered to have heightened senses that make him much more reliable than even the best holo-maps when it comes to plotting out territory and making strategic decisions; he’s also the only one able to keep the other three in check. Wrecker possesses massive size and strength, Crosshairs can shoot just about anything from anywhere, and Tech can get the team into even the most secure locations. Their teamwork is bested only by their camaraderie. A shoutout to Dee Bradley Baker for doing the heavy lifting (sometimes literally) in this episode by voicing just about everyone, including the six or so clone troopers who all have to talk to each other with enough distinction in their voices to seem separate and unique.
Essentially, the plot follows Rex and Cody as they team up with The Bad Batch and their unconventional ways to bust through a line of battle droids and break into a Separatist base. They’re looking for intel regarding how the enemy forces keep staying one step ahead of the Jedi and Clones. Rex has it in his head that they are somehow using a former fellow soldier of his since all of their tactics seem to be from his own playbook. So while we get to enjoy 20-odd minutes of friction, fighting, and fun as The Bad Batch takes the spotlight, we end with a bit of a teaser that will send Rex and The Bad Batch off to Skako Minor seeking more answers and preparing for an unlikely rescue mission.
“The Bad Batch” is a great episode in and of itself, as is the four-episode arc that shares its title and completes this particular part of the storytelling. It’s also, arguably, a good way to welcome viewers back into The Clone Wars style, though it’s not a great introduction for newcomers since it doesn’t focus on any core characters; it’s a curious choice, for sure. What’s nice here is that Filoni’s unfinished episodes now have a polish and an update to them, and that fans are getting to see them fully realized. What’s a little disappointing is that 8 of these 12 episodes are likely going to be finished versions of existing stories, meaning that only the last 4 are likely to be new. And since they’re released weekly, we’ll be waiting about two months for those stories while retreading previously visited territories and once-told stories. That’s okay. I, for one, would love to see a “Bad Batch” spinoff series, be it a prequel tale or a continuing adventure, so hopefully fans out there feel the same way.
Update: Turns out we will be getting new content sooner than later!
Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Episode 705 – “Gone with a Trace”
Ahsoka befriends a pilot but must hide her Jedi past while trying to stop a dangerous droid.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Episode 706 – “Deal No Deal”
Trace makes a rash decision after learning what they are transporting is for the Pyke Syndicate.
Stay tuned for more on Star Wars: The Clone Wars as we hear it, but in the meantime, enjoy this four-week, four-episode arc with Rex and The Bad Batch as we settle in for a return to form.