REVIEW: Star Wars: The Clone Wars (The Bad Batch)

Well with all this Star Trekkin’ going on right now with Star Trek: Picard, and how awesome a series that’s turning out to be right now, I almost completely forgot that this month, we get the final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which debuted on Friday. I would not have seen this for a while had I not been browsing one of my Star Wars groups just now to see if they’d shared a music video by The Hu. They had. But the silver lining was that I found out that The Clone Wars had finally debuted!

We’re getting the band back together!

For a small summary of what I thought of The Clone Wars, let’s just say that I am not a very big fan of the Star Wars prequels. In fact, they are the movies that birthed my inner critic. While I can appreciate the aesthetic of The Phantom Menace, the jumbled narrative of it trying to squeeze as much as it does into a two hour movie hinders the story immensely. Attack of the Clones is no better. If it weren’t for that awesome final act of the film, I’d write off Attack of the Clones as potentially the absolute worst Star Wars movie ever made. Revenge of the Sith I find myself in a minority on. Everyone calls it the prequel movie that’s actually really good. I highly disagree. I find it the most disappointing of the trilogy. Partly because I ruined my viewing experience by reading the novelization before watching the film (seriously, the novelization kicks ass), butI mean even without the novelization, the movie just doesn’t know how to handle its characters, making every decision in this movie feel so forced and uninspiring. Anakin’s conversion to the Dark Side of the Force remains one of the most underwhelming moments I’ve ever seen in all of Star Wars (and yes… the book does it better, don’t fucking say it doesn’t). You can say what you want about the sequel trilogy films, and the problems they admittedly have, but they are a much easier watch for me than the prequels, and I tend to care about what each character is going through in that trilogy more than I do the prequels.

“If you’re not with me, you’re my enemy!”
You know… because the audience is too dumb to piece together that you two aren’t best buddies anymore.

Enter The Clone Wars, which despite starting off with an absolutely forgettable movie (seriously, does anyone talk about that thing anymore?), exceeded pretty much every expectation I had. This show takes one of the most integral plot points of the entire Star Wars franchise, and runs off with it, crafting one of the most intriguing, well developed, tenderly handled animated shows I’ve ever seen. I was not expecting this level of excellence in a show that was taking place in the same universe of movies where someone literally says “I hate sand.” Hell, for as forgettable (or even cringey) as the opening movie is, it handles so much of the Star Wars universe rather nicely, and shows that it cares about how it handles characters like Anakin, Obi-Wan, and the new face, Ahsoka Tano, and that’s not to mention Asaj Ventress, who is easily one of my favorite characters of the franchise now. While the series definitely has its not-so-good episodes (usually those that focus on the droids, or Jar Jar Binks… yeah he’s in it too), this series would blow my mind with how it handled its stories, characters, concepts, it was so great that I actually almost want to refuse that it takes place in the prequel movie universe. There is no fucking way something this good takes place in a trilogy of movies that bad. And there is no way a paragraph will properly tell you how great it is. I’ve also recently started watching the spinoff, Star Wars: Rebels, which while not exactly the same quality material, is still pretty fun. If you have not seen this series, there is no better time to start! And this is coming from a die-hard Trekkie!

Moments like this are absolutely everywhere in the series. Anakin Skywalker truly feels like he is on the slippery slope to becoming Darth Vader. Asaj Ventress is also probably the best character of the series. I really hope we see her this season, though since her story ends in a novel, I’m not holding my breath.

With all this said, how is the debut episode of its final season?

I am happy to say that The Clone Wars doesn’t feel like it’s skipped a beat at all. By the time the familiar opening theme played, the little words of wisdom displayed on the screen, and the narrator set up the scene for the episode to play out, I was ready to take a nice big bite out of this Star Wars sandwich. I was happy to see that the voice-acting felt as lively as ever, and the animation feels strangely more fluid. I hear a lot of complaints about the animation in this series being hard on the eyes, and I just don’t see where it comes from. I personally enjoy it. It has a charm.

Now I’m going to get a little spoiler-y here so read on at your discretion.

Previously on Star Wars: The Clone Wars…

“The Bad Batch” begins an arc with the clone characters, Rex and Cody, as they discover that their friend, Echo might actually be alive. Echo was last seen in the third season, giving his life so his friends could get away. After the Clones find themselves on a losing streak on the planet Anaxes, due to droid army starting to better analyze tactics used by the clone army and better adapt them, Rex gets a gut feeling that his friend is alive when he realizes the Clone Army is using a lot of skillsets and Strategies he and Echo put together. So Cody and Rex enlist the assistance of Clone Force 99, otherwise known as the Bad Batch.

Think of the Bad Batch as a Clone Army A-Team, only more unstable. The team consists of four clones, with varying unique abilities that make the team a force to be reckoned with. One has super-human strength, one has enhanced eyesight, one has superior mapping senses, the other is a computer wizard, you get the idea, the show describes them as clones that are defective, but possess “desirable mutations”.

You’re playing with the big boys now…

Admittedly, this is an element of the episode that I have mixed reactions to. The characters are fun and all, but they’re a little too by-the-book in how they’re portrayed as characters. The computer wizard is super smart, the guy who maps out the area super well has a headband that very much makes him feel like a discount Rambo, you got the enhanced eyesight guy who is broody, doesn’t say a whole lot, but can snipe enemies really good, and then you got super-human-strength guy, who feels like a psychopath. Their ship is crashing, and he’s just laughing as it happens. Like a maniac. It just feels like they play too much like a character archetype. And this leads to some predictable clashes with the main characters which doesn’t feel that interesting. granted, I am happy they stay away from being too predictable in which their clashes only get them into trouble, only for them to understand and respect their differences and get out of trouble at the last moment, but honestly, had they gone this route, I would not have been surprised.

This debut episode for this final season doesn’t pull too many punches, it feels like a setup episode, which a lot of Clone Wars episodes are. If they’re going to be giving us the typical mini-arc stories this show is known for, I can expect things to pick up in the upcoming episodes, but that’s not to say this episode is dull, we get some fun action, we get a fun story, and it does leave me on a good note in which Rex makes a startling discovery (SPOILER) when he realizes his friend Echo might not be dead as once thought.

One thing I like about this show is that the clones of this show actually develop into characters that feel more fleshed out than typical clones.

I really need to credit Dee Bradley Baker, who voices all these clone troopers. I have no idea how he does it, but the guy knows how to bring out each performance as if it were an entirely different person. This cannot be easy. The guy is basically acting with himself a good amount of the time, likely listening to his own lines through a headset, and interacting with it as if it were someone completely different. I have no idea what he does to bring these performances to life, but he does it so great in this series, and it’s no different here. Granted, I think some of these Bad Batch clones have different voice actors, but Baker still puts up an impressive performance(s).

There’s not too much to analyze in this episode as it’s a pretty safe plot for the most part, in a show that’s only 30 minutes long, but as safe as it feels, I am very much looking forward to what this final season has to offer us. Already we have a hook for what to expect next episode with Rex maybe once more coming face to face with Echo, and while there hasn’t been any Jedi action yet, we know that later on, we’re expecting Darth Maul and Ahsoka Tano to make another appearance. Apparently, it’s also going to be exploring the Siege of Mandalor, which is an event that impacts the other Star Wars show everyone’s raving about, The Mandalorian, so why lie? I’m excited.

Yeah… I’m excited to see this.

I mean sure, Star Trek: Picard is still on the frontlines as far as my priorities are concerned, but I am happy to see this show finally getting some proper closure. This is a show that very much always felt like it got the short end of the stick when it came to properly finishing it. Season 5 was a good finale, but it still felt like something was missing. Season six was also good, but was hardly something I’d call closure. While I’m not going to say that this final season will be proper closure until I see how it finishes, I have little reason to be nervous about how it will end. This was a show that always managed to surprise me while I watched. There were times they showed something that was absolutely jaw-dropping in execution, and I have no doubt that this final season will have these moments as well.

How was this debut episode? It gets a thumbs up from me. As simple as it is, simplicity is not a bad thing. It’s a good way to get the fans of the show back in the mood, back in the groove, and it does a good job of showing that it’s got some cards to play still. I look forward to seeing how this season goes, and I wait with baited breath for this second episode to drop.

Bring it on!

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