The first two episodes of The Bad Batch Season 2 hit Disney+ on Jan. 4, with new episodes weekly. Below is a spoiler-free review of the first 14 of 16 episodes.
The artists formerly known as Experimental Clone Force 99 are bringing their distinct brand of chaos back to Disney+ for Season 2, mixing familiar one-off missions with a growing dread that something very bad is coming for all clone troopers in the Star Wars galaxy. There’s lots for fans to enjoy here, but Season 2 – at least the first 14 of 16 episodes provided for review – really shines when it dives deep into the greater effects the Empire had on the galaxy during the Dark Times.
If there’s such a thing as a formula for episodes of The Bad Batch, that formula is certainly back to work in Season 2. That means missions, lots of them. No longer employed by the Empire, Hunter, Wrecker, Echo, Tech and Omega are just out here trying to survive – eking out a living doing odd jobs and mercenary missions while trying to avoid any…Imperial entanglements.
Season 1 closed showing the destruction of Tipoca City and the entire cloning facility on Kamino, while also stealing and appropriating all of the cloning tech and capturing the Kaminoan Nala Se and forcing her to work on new secret cloning projects for the Empire. Season 2 picks up in the wake of these developments, and since the Bad Batch was there to see it all go down, it gives the Empire another reason to track them down and wipe them out.
Season 2 structures its storytelling in largely the same way Season 1 did: each episode is a mission and they’re all pretty self-contained story arcs with a few larger stories going on in the background throughout the season. The mission-to-mission arcs are fun, even if they get a little repetitive as the season moves on, but the real draw are those big background arcs.
One of those larger arcs deals with the state of all clones in the galaxy. The Empire just destroyed their home and is now talking about replacing them with conscripted forces. None of this adds up to anything good for the clones and The Bad Batch know it, and that’s generally what drives the season: it puts The Bad Batch in a precarious position just knowing what the Empire is capable of and willing to do to achieve its larger objectives. The problem is that those larger objectives don’t involve the clones, which means they are in danger along with all of their genetic brothers.
This is obviously a major problem for The Bad Batch but it generally shows something that Lucasfilm is getting better at as we go along: using street-level characters to show exactly why everybody in the galaxy hates the Empire so much. After all, you can just be going about your daily business and find out you’re an enemy of the Empire and also they’re trying to wipe out your entire bloodline. As a Star Wars fan, I don’t have the same kind of attachment to The Bad Batch characters that I do with, say, Din Djarin and Grogu, but seeing the clones get run through the wringer by The Empire after fighting to create The Empire is one of the most interesting story points this series has to offer.
Just like any other Star Wars project, there are cameos. Captain Rex, Commander Cody, and Emperor Palpatine have all been teased in the marketing buildup, as has Gungi, the Wookie Jedi (and apparent Order 66 survivor). It’s very likely that there could be some more in the final two episodes of the season. Lots of Star Wars cameos are empty fan service and let me tell you, I still love that kind of stuff. I’m the kind of person who goes nuts over seeing Dr. Evazan and Ponda Baba randomly show up in Rogue One, even though it was pretty forced and clunky. But the cameos in The Bad Batch Season 2 don’t work that way – Rex, Cody, Emperor Sheev, and Gungi all appear because they’re directly related to the larger story arcs going on in the background. These are meaty cameos, which are the very best kind.
Where Hunter was the defacto protagonist of Season 1, Season 2 focuses on Omega, who has become an effective bounty hunter/mercenary herself and a valued member of the squad. It’s a great change.. Of all of The Bad Batch characters, Hunter can frequently be a bit wooden and stale and even though Omega is Hunter’s space kid, she’s way more interesting. She’s learned a lot with her time with The Bad Batch and let’s not forget that this kind of thing is in her blood. She is Boba Fett’s sister, after all (kind of).
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Another great shift in Season 2 is focusing on Omega’s relationships with other members of the squad, namely Tech and Echo. There are lots of Omega/Tech scenes that are really fun, as Tech doesn’t show much feeling, while Omega is this wild amalgamation of all of the clones. It’s a blast to watch them both improv their way through missions and begin to rely on each other.
Former Bad Batch member Crosshair, meanwhile, ended Season 1 taking a massive L in a skirmish on Kamino and then being rescued from death by The Bad Batch. He’s still working for the Empire and is still hunting his former brothers but he’s also getting a close-up look at what the Empire is really doing with the clones.
Of course, Crosshair has his own way of looking at things, but even he is starting to see the writing on the wall for all of the clone troopers, not just himself. And though each of these characters, including Crosshair, have limited abilities to see what’s really going on, we – the viewers – are given a broader picture of what The Empire is doing. There’s a reason why you don’t see clones anywhere in the Original Trilogy, after all.
Just like Disney+’s wonderfully nuanced Andor, The Bad Batch focuses on a time in the Star Wars galaxy that hasn’t fully been fleshed out yet: The Dark Times, or the years between the establishment of The Empire and the destruction of the first Death Star at the Battle of Yavin. Yes, Lucasfilm has played in this part of the timeline before with Solo and Rogue One, but The Bad Batch and Andor make the case that a serialized story on Disney+ – rather than one 90-minute film – is an ideal way to explore the impact the Empire had on the galaxy.
And while Andor illustrates how the Empire oppresses everyday citizens of the galaxy, The Bad Batch is a welcome focus on the other side of the coin: how The Empire is screwing over the clones.
As far as production quality, Star Wars fans already know what to expect; The Bad Batch employs the same visual style and language as The Clone Wars, which by now has become a staple for Lucasfilm animation in the same way that Bruce Timm’s art style was used as the aesthetic go-to for the vast majority of the DC Comics animated series and films. And that Clone Wars-style animation just keeps getting better and better, with The Bad Batch Season 2 as the most recent example.
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