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The Media Man Reviews: The Bad Batch

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Oh Disney Star Wars, you are such a roller-coaster of quality, I swear.


This era of Star Wars is capable of simultaneously making top-tier content worthy of the Star Wars name like Rebels, Jedi Fallen Order, Jedi Survivor, Tales of the Jedi and the first two seasons of The Mandalorian, and making bottom-tier content unworthy of carrying the franchise's legacy like the sequel trilogy, The Book of Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi, The Mandalorian Season 3 and Ahsoka. The Acolyte's recently been setting the internet on fire with heated opinions about it, but I couldn't care less about that thing. It's another Disney+ live-action Star Wars show, so chances are its hot garbage and I've made it clear already I'm done with that side of the franchise. The animation side on the other hand, that's where most of the good stuff seems to lie nowadays, and the subject of today's review is no exception.


Staring in 2021 and concluding as of May this year with three seasons and 47 episodes, The Bad Batch was a spin-off that many fans saw coming after their debut in their own arc in the final season of The Clone Wars. Given Dave Filoni and his track record with Clone Troopers in the latter show, this was a spin-off that had much potential and is one of the few Star Wars media to come out in the current era that both fans and critics seem to enjoy. I can't tell you enough how refreshing it is to see a piece of modern Star Wars media that fans don't rabidly hate for once. See Disney, we ARE capable of liking what you produce! If you put more focus on making good content instead of arguing with people and calling them racist or sexist because they don't like what you make, then the fans will love it and praise you for making it! =P


Anyways, I was late to the party when I finally got down to watching The Bad Batch. I did want to watch it, don't get me wrong, but I either didn't feel motivated or was watching other things at the time. Upon hearing that Season 3 was the last one, I decided to just let it finish so I could binge-watch the show at once. This is why this review is of the series as a whole rather than season by season.


So why is The Bad Batch one of those rare diamonds in the rough from Disney Star Wars? What made it so good that it's worthy of the Star Wars name? Read along and you'll see...


Section 1: The Story


Each season tells its own story and I'll summarize them as best as I can, then say what was good or bad about them.


Season 1 is about the Bad Batch trying to find their place in the galaxy after the Clone Wars ended and they find themselves on the run from their former ally Crosshair, as well as bounty hunters trying to snatch Omega.


Season 2 is about the Bad Batch carrying out jobs for Cid while also discovering conspiracies involving clones and the Empire that show their situation isn't getting any better now the war's over.


And Season 3 is about the Bad Batch trying to rescue Omega after she's taken prisoner by the evil Dr. Hemlock and experimented on as part of something he calls "Project: Necromancer".


Now going into this show, I didn't know what to expect other than "it's about the Bad Batch", and needless to say, I feel it delivered quite well on its premise here. A show focused on a group of clones adjusting to a post-Republic world and the rise of the Empire is a fantastic concept for a series and it made for an engaging watch from beginning to end. Through the Bad Batch and their many jobs they have to carry out in order to get paid, we get to see how the clones are as much victims of the Empire's formation and takeover of the galaxy as everyone else is. The Clone Wars got particular praise for the characterization of the Clone Troopers and how they were handled, and this show is no different in that regard. Hell, I'd almost consider this series three extra seasons of The Clone Wars given its mostly focused on clones and the tone of the series is near-identical to the latter show! We even get episodes that don't feature the main characters and instead focuses on other characters at the time, just like how The Clone Wars would do so. While it may not have a series of multi-episode arcs like the former show did, this show still has an over-arching plot that keeps things interesting and makes nearly every episode feel important to watch. While there's some that aren't as important as others, I never felt like there were episodes that felt pointless or anything. Every episode featured in all three seasons either expands on the world of Star Wars, develops the characters or furthers the story in some way.


I also like how the tone of the show is mostly serious with some occasional light-hearted moments here and there. A premise like this shouldn't be all fun and games and the dark tone is used well here in showing us how serious the situation is while also showing us how dire things are for the characters. Yet it never feels excessive or that it's going too far in that direction. I read somewhere how Dave Fiolini regrets that the tone got progressively darker in The Clone Wars and he feels that maybe contributed to its premature cancellation, so I wonder if this show was him trying to make up for it (although he didn't actually write for the show aside from co-writing Episode 1, there was a team of other writers working on this show instead). While I never felt The Clone Wars went too dark (and besides, its Star Wars, the tone's supposed to be like this!), I think I see why he felt that way and I wonder if he feels this show handled the tone any better. As I said, I feel it was handled well, never once getting too goofy or too serious and the show even ends on an optimistic, open-ended nature. The Bad Batch get their happy ending (except Tech, he dies in Season 2), Project: Necromancer is delayed and Omega leaves to join the Rebellion, leaving the door open for future stories to be told with her.


I also like how the theme of this show is finding a sense of belonging. Soldiers who have known nothing but warfare for years having to find their place in the world now there's no longer a war is a pretty heavy subject to tackle and a show like this was the right place for it, no question about it. We see many clones struggling to find a purpose for themselves now the war's over and the Bad Batch are pretty much trying to find a life for themselves now they're in a post-Republic world with most of their friends and commanding generals either dead, missing or in exile and a new government that sees no value in their continued existence. I'm sure there's many parallels to real world instances were soldiers struggle to adapt to a post-war world that can be made with this show, and it really adds a lot of meat to this story. I feel the show was at its best when it was exploring this concept and showing how the clones struggle to adjust to the new Empire and the end of the Clone Wars.


And I also felt the show was at its best when it came to developing the bond between the Bad Batch and Omega. They may be a squad of defective Clone Troopers, but this show shows so well that they're more than a squad: they're a family. It adds a lot of heart-warming moments that make the show a little sweeter to enjoy, as well as give us some levity during the darker moments of the series. The more we see of these characters together, the more we feel their bond and I loved it so much.


So overall, The Bad Batch succeeds where most recent Disney Star Wars projects have failed: it tells a good story with a good pace and a decent episode count so it doesn't drag or feel too fast. But of course, no show is perfect so now I must talk about some of the problems this show has.


First of all, the premise is recycled from The Mandalorian. Like, it's pretty much note-for-note the same premise: you have a kid who's looked after by a mercenary in a suit and helmet (Grogu and Din Djarin for The Mandalorian, The Bad Batch and Omega for The Bad Batch), the kid is special in some way, the villains want the kid because of how special they are, their plans involve cloning midi-chlorians and the show follows a job-of-the-week formula for a while before moving onto something else. It's LITERALLY the same thing here! But while this is a criticism at how recycled this show feels, I will say that I feel The Bad Batch handles its premise better than The Mandalorian did. It's a case of "I can do what you can do but only better". Not only is the pacing much better than The Mandalorian by a country mile, but the show has more interesting stuff to offer given it has more episodes to make use of its premise with, the villains show up more often so they actually feel properly integrated into the story instead of just being there like Moff Gideon often felt like, Omega has more of a personality than Grogu does and doesn't feel like she's just there to be cute and while The Mandalorian had two good seasons and one bad season, this show has three good seasons. While the show could've been more inventive, at least it gets to show us a premise like The Mandalorian executed to its full potential.


But while I can turn that criticism into a positive, I can't say the same for some other problems The Bad Batch has. Namely how the premise kinda falls apart when you start asking the very obvious question of "How can Omega have a high midi-chlorian count if she's cloned from Jango Fett and not a Jedi?" I'm pretty sure midi-chlorians can't be cloned and I'm also pretty sure Jango Fett doesn't have a high midi-chlorian count, so Omega shouldn't have that. Jango Fett ain't no Force user and he certainly ain't no Jedi! I don't know if this is a plot-hole or not, so I want to know if this is actually possible and does make sense. Can anyone clear up for me in the comments below? Please? That'll be very helpful.


I also kinda agree with everyone that the first season was a bit over-reliant on guest appearances from other characters like Cad Bane, Fennec Shand, Hera, Saw Garrera and more. Captain Rex and Senator Chuchi were alright and made sense to appear as often as they did here, but Season 1 kinda gives the feeling that the writers didn't think the Bad Batch could handle their own show, and thus kept having other characters show up just to entice viewers. Thankfully they downplay this in Seasons 2 and 3 and let the batch stand on their own, so this isn't a problem throughout the show.


One thing that did annoy me is the pacing of Season 3. It's like they felt they didn't have enough plot for the season, so after Omega and Crosshair escape from Tantiss, a few episodes later they have Omega get captured again and need to escape, again. It just felt repetitive to me and wasn't necessary. Either Omega should've been captured and not escaped the first time, or they should've not had her get caught a second time. It should've been one or the other, not both.


As is, I don't have much to complain about with the writing in this show. This is top-tier Star Wars content and it has me wondering why this era of Star Wars can't do this all the time...


Section 2: The Characters


These are characters I feel Star Wars fans will consider all-time greats as time goes by.


Given they're the titular protagonists, may as well start with The Bad Batch themselves. The group consists of Hunter, Tech, Wrecker, Echo and Crosshair (all voiced by Dee Bradley Baker). The batch are a cool squadron of clones that have fun dynamics with each other and always look awesome while in action, even if they pretty much suck at carrying missions out covertly. XD While the Batch are mostly defined by their primary character trait with Hunter as the serious but good-hearted leader, Wrecker as the boisterous and trigger happy bruiser, Tech as the overly-logical tech genius and Crosshair as the cynical, grouchy sniper, Echo is sadly the least developed and interesting member of the batch. He's so one-note compared to the rest of his team that I can't even describe his personality. It's clear even the writers found him uninteresting because they write him out of the show (in a REALLY rushed and forced way no less!) and only have him come back on occasion. And honestly? I barely even notice he's gone half the time. It says a lot when if Echo died instead of Tech, I would've felt his absence much less by comparison.


Out of the entire squad, Crosshair by far has the biggest character arc and undergoes the most amount of change while the rest more-or-less start and end the show the same as they were. His character arc can best be described as "What if we did Prince Zuko's arc, but with a clone trooper instead?" He firmly believes that "good soldiers follow orders" and sees the Empire as simply the new status quo that he has to follow. But he soon sees that the Empire doesn't give loyalty to others, it only demands it, and Crosshair is simply disposable to them, which fuels his decision to return to the squad in the end. It was an effective arc and it made Crosshair an interesting, multi-layered character to witness throughout the series. I'd even say his focus episode of Season 2, The Outpost, is one of the show's best.


And now I must talk about the latest member of the Bad Batch, Omega (voiced by Michelle Ang). Omega is a curious case, for she's a female clone and as mentioned earlier, she's revealed to have a high midi-chlorian count, which I have questions about. Anyhow, Omega is adorable and endearing for how sweet and innocent she is what with being a kid and all, and some of the best moments of the show come from her interactions with the squad and the developing relationship she has with them. Omega's my kind of nice girl character in where she just seems to have a positive impact on the people she interacts with and people take a quick shine to her when they meet her. I always love it when characters do that. Why else do you think I like Kiki and Liko so much? I do agree with some fans that yeah, the show is a bit overly focused on her to the point where "Omega" would probably have been a more fitting title than "The Bad Batch". The show really does feel like it's more about her than them at times. Still, at least Omega's an appealing enough character for me to let it slide. This show wouldn't have been as enjoyable without her in my opinion, so I'm glad she's here and I enjoyed her development over the series with her brothers. Oh and hot take: Omega is the superior kid character to Grogu. I will DIE on that hill! =P


As for villains, Crosshair initially serves an antagonistic role until his heel-turn in Season 1 and part-way through Season 2. But we do have true villains in the form of Admrial Edmon Rampart (voiced by Noshir Dalal) for Season 1 and half of Season 2, but he ends up being replaced by Dr. Royce Hemlock (voiced by Jimmi Simpson) for the rest of the series after he's exposed as a war criminal and arrested. Rampart is as generic and basic as they come as a villain, just a typical admiral who abuses his authority whenever he can. Dr. Hemlock by comparison is far more interesting. Whenever he was onscreen, I was always captivated by this guy due to his sinister, soft-spoken voice that's like a creepy whisper, his intelligent nature where he's prepared for nearly every outcome and just the fact that whenever our heroes had to deal with him, it meant things were about to get serious. He maybe a typical mad scientist archetype character, but he's still a very creepy, sinister villain who made the show more interesting to watch whenever he would show up and I'm glad he replaced Admiral Rampart after the Truth and Consequences episode. I can't help but wonder what he'd think if he saw Project: Necromancer somewhat come to fruition at the time of The Mandalorian...


We have Hemlock's assistant, Dr. Emerie Karr (voiced by Keisha Castle-Hughes). Her arc is...puzzling to me. She's shown as this stone-faced, emotionless assistant to Dr. Hemlock who seems unfazed by what he's doing to her brothers (she's also a female clone like Omega is) and even tries to put them at ease so they'll put up with his experiments. But then when she's shown the vault for the first time and she sees he's experimenting on children, that suddenly makes her turn on him and she feels he's going too far. I'm sorry, but I didn't buy this redemption one bit. She should've been a willing accomplice beginning to end, or at least shown more signs that she was disturbed by Hemlock's work in order for this heel-turn to make any sense at all.


I also felt Nala Se's (voiced by Gwendoline Yeo) heel-turn didn't feel very earned either. In The Clone Wars, she was devoted to the cause to the point she orchestrated Fives's death just so he couldn't tell everybody about the inhibitor chips and potentially expose Order 66 before it happened. Yet here, she's suddenly one of the good guys now and we're supposed to feel sorry for what's been done to her. I'm just like "Serves you right. Bet you wish you didn't get Fives killed now, don't you?" =P One of these days, Disney will be able to give us a female character with a well-written redemption arc...


For the first two seasons, we have Cid (voiced by Rhea Perlman). She's basically there to give the Bad Batch jobs to do so they can make money and she can make money too and then by the end of Season 2, she sells them out to the Empire and much to my annoyance, she basically gets away scot-free. I would've preferred it if she died honestly, although CX-2 does imply he tortured her badly to get the information he needed out of her. Still not enough if you ask me. She shouldn't have got off so easy.


We do get a nicer accomplice of the Bad Batch with Phee Genoa (voiced by Wanda Sykes). She's a pirate who seeks the thrill of adventure and always seems to have a tall tale to tell. It's thanks to her that the Bad Batch find a place to happily retire to when she takes them to Pabu, so that was nice of her.


The rest, we get a lot of familiar faces in guest roles throughout the series with Captain Rex, Senator Chuchi (voiced by Jennifer Hale), Cad Bane (voiced by Corey Burton), Fennec Shand (voiced by Ming-Na Wen), Asajj Ventress (voiced by Nika Futterman) and Emperor Palpatine (voiced by Ian McDiarmid) being the most noteworthy ones. Not only do their appearances make the show more enjoyable, but the writers tend to make the most out of them too with Captain Rex being part of the subplot involving the clone conspiracy or especially Palpatine's appearances where he manages to steal the show despite only being in a scene or two. These characters aren't just there for fan-service, they make their appearances count whenever they show up.


The Bad Batch has a lot of characters both old and new to enjoy and the batch themselves proved without a doubt that they can carry their own show.


Section 3: The Animation


It never ceases to amaze me how much the animation has evolved since the early days of The Clone Wars and has become as gorgeous to look at as it has now.


When we first got The Clone Wars animation style, I always felt it was a weird choice to adapt the 2-D Genndy Tartakovsky style into computer animation since that art style only looks good on paper and certainly doesn't translate that well to 3-D. The characters just always looked odd to me with their somewhat wooden looking faces and weird proportions. Count Dooku's head especially really stuck out like a sore thumb. All the aliens and machines looked fine at least, but not so much the humans. Over time, the style has evolved and now looks better to the point we have this series in where the humans don't look like wood-carvings (though the chins still look odd to me) and the art-style looks more suitable for 3-D animation than before. The character designs look so much better than they did in The Clone Wars thanks to looking a little more realistic but still having that cartoon-y style to emphasize how this is animated. And I always love seeing the world of Star Wars depicted in animation because the medium REALLY takes advantage of what a premise like Star Wars presents us and at times tends to make it look better than what you'd get in live-action, especially in terms of action scenes.


But before that, let's go over the characters. Everyone we see here is distinct and easy to recognize with each member of the Bad Batch having their own unique facial features, facial structures, body-shapes and sizes so they don't just all look the same. It's what makes them stand out from the Clone Troopers in where they pretty much all look the same while the Bad Batch, as defective clones with their own rules to follow, all look distinctive. Particular standouts for me are the burn marks on the side of Wrecker's head, Crosshair's distinctive target scope scar over one eye (how appropriate for a sniper), Tech's goggles, Echo's pale skin and cybernetic enhancements and Hunter's face tattoo. It's very easy to recognize each member of the batch and tell them apart because of how distinctive each one is. Naturally, Omega's the most distinctive of the group due to being a kid and also female. I like how she has a more androgynous design instead of looking obviously female. I'd say it fits given she's cloned from a man and so she'd look a bit boyish in appearance. Though if anyone has any lingering doubts about Omega's gender, we DO see her as an adult woman at the end of the series and she's clearly developed a bit by then. So yeah, she's female, no doubt about it. XD I can also say I quite liked seeing Fennec Shand depicted in this animation style too. Needless to say, Ming-Na Wen looks good as a cartoon character, but I think Mulan already proved that. ;)


Of course, this is Star Wars, so we see a wide variety of aliens here too and just like in previous animated shows, they all look amazing when depicted in animation here from the reptilian Trandoshans to the skull-faced Weequays to the hairy Wookiees and the dinosaur/dog like Lucra hounds. We even see the return of the Zilo Beast and it looks amazing in this show, depicted as this giant, dinosaur-like creature that wouldn't look out of place in a Godzilla movie. Now imagine Godzilla vs. the Zilo Beast... ;) Not only do all the creatures look great with their distinctive designs and unique colour palettes, but the textures on them look spot-on too, whether they have leathery skin or scales or fur or whatever. I really do feel that animation does Star Wars more justice than any live-action production can do, because with animation, all the creatures and aliens feel more like living, organic beings and not people in costumes and because the entire world is animated, they don't stand out like they would if they were CGI characters in a live-action production.


And of course, we see plenty of different planets in this series, which brings me to what else is awesome about the animation: the backgrounds. The amount of detail everywhere is insane, and the realistic textures and lighting effects make the backgrounds almost photo-realistic with how incredible they look. The standout locations for me include Pabu and Tantiss. Pabu is depicted as this lush, beautiful paradise that looks like some kind of Mediterranean village by the sea and it's no wonder the Bad Batch decided to retire there in the end. It sure looks like an inviting place. By contrast, Tantiss is anything but. I love the absolute genius design behind the place as it's this prison set in a mountain and on the outside, it still has foliage growing everywhere while on the inside, it's this sterile, grey, featureless place like what you'd expect from an Imperial facility. It's like the outside's meant to hide the fact this place is a prison and that it's not as welcoming on the inside. It was a fantastic design for a prison and I applaud the concept artists for conjuring up a design like this.


With this being animated, of course the action scenes take advantage of that. We see the Bad Batch get into all kinds of close calls and scrapes with lots of gunfire, explosions, giant machines and ships shooting at each other and some occasional hand-to-hand combat and it all looks fantastic whenever the action gets going. One the most notable set pieces is in the Season 2 finale when the batch have to fight the Empire on a cable car that's slowly falling to bits all around them. It was an intense climax that unfortunately ended in Tech's demise, and they executed it so well. Star Wars is a franchise that is often about the action, and this show delivers on that in spades.


Overall, I honestly don't have anything to criticize about the animation here. It gives Star Wars a great look and makes the show visually appealing and exciting to watch with its gorgeously detailed, lush backgrounds, expressive characters and cool action scenes. It's the whole package of what we love about Star Wars, great visuals and cool action scenes to bring these stories and characters to life...


Overall


If you're feeling letdown by most of the content this era of Star Wars has to offer, then The Bad Batch will no doubt feel like a very welcome breath of fresh air. The story may feel recycled from The Mandalorian but is otherwise engaging, the tone is consistent and fitting for the kind of premise the show has, the characters are enjoyable and the animation and spectacular. It feels as if I can only count on the animation side of Star Wars to tell good stories at this point, because that side of the franchise is the only side consistently producing good content. If you're a fan of Clone Troopers and love The Clone Wars, then you may love this series too. The Bad Batch may be a bunch of defective clones, but they didn't give us a defective show by any means...


And that's it for this review. I hope you enjoyed it and I invite you all to share your thoughts down below. Do you like The Bad Batch? Which season is your favourite? I'd love to hear.


Next week I'll be reviewing the latest season of Doctor Who. See you then media fans!

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