Over a year after the jaw-dropping season finale, which saw the fall of Tipoca City, The Bad Batch is finally back for its second season, reuniting audiences with Clone Force 99 as they try to make a life for themselves in the wake of Order 66. Now that the Empire thinks that the Bad Batch is dead; Hunter, Wrecker, Echo, Tech (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker), and Omega (voiced by Michelle Ang) have newfound freedom to venture out on their mission of the week for Cid (Rhea Perlman) without imminent fear of death. Not that they don’t have their fair share of death-defying moments throughout the first 14 episodes of Season 2.
The Bad Batch is up against steep competition when it comes to Star Wars programming, as its premiere sees it bridging the gap between Andor’s season finale and the return of The Mandalorian. After a shaky Season 1—which saw fans calling out its whitewashed animation designs and the storytelling, which often left something to be desired—The Bad Batch has corrected at least one of those issues.
While the 16-episode freshman season benefited from its emotional connection to Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Season 2 really hones in on the Bad Batch and their interpersonal relationships and personal character growth. Balancing six central characters is no easy feat, especially not for an animated series with an under-30 minutes runtime. This unfortunately meant that the first season often overlooked integral character beats and rushed past much-needed conversations in an effort to wrap up highly complex adventures and missions.
With its sophomore season, the storytelling is much tighter, and it also gives its characters room to make mistakes and grow from them, rather than just brushing past conflict and differences of opinions. However, in order to achieve this, The Bad Batch opts to remove one of those central characters to make room for others to shine. While the titular Bad Batch of genetically modified clones is an ever-present part of the season—including their Empire-supporting brother Crosshair—their youngest member, Omega, is the heart of the series. In the time between Season 1 and Season 2, she’s aged and matured, and while she still sees the world through rose-colored glasses, across the first fourteen episodes, she learns that actions have consequences. Taking her in changed the course of the Bad Batch’s fate, just as teaming up with them has changed her future, and those choices are not without fallout.
The Bad Batch is at its strongest when Omega is learning more about herself, the Batch, and the galaxy’s oppression and treatment of Clones, which becomes a prominent plot point in the latter half of the season. Watching her childlike naïveté slowly be stripped away really underscores the perils of this period of time for anyone, regardless of whether they’re rebels or a band of clones.
As with Season 1, the new season is still very driven by the planet/mission/monster of the week plot device, but there is a central story that is threaded through each episode which helps to tie everything together. With Cid’s new compatriot Phee Genoa (Wanda Sykes) looking for new get-rich schemes and treasure hunting, the Bad Batch go on their fair share of misadventures that feel like Indiana Jones-style romps. These tales help to deep-dive into the lore of Star Wars, but they haven’t yet proven their purpose to the overarching story of The Bad Batch. But there are episodes that solely serve the plot, reveling in the chaos of Imperial control, and revealing that even unlikely characters are capable of realizing the true evil of the Empire—all it takes is a little nudge.
While Bob Chapek was wrong about animation being just for kids, The Bad Batch, and its predecessor The Clone Wars, are aimed at Star Wars’ younger demographic, and its storytelling reflects this. Even when it addresses large-scale moral dilemmas, the harsh realities of oppression, and lofty ideas about agency, they’ve been packaged in a way that is palatable to a TV-PG audience, and it’s unfair to expect a series like this to go in the same direction that live-action has ventured. The Bad Batch’s stunning animation, paired with the brilliant orchestrations of Kevin Kiner, often strengthen weak spots, lending the atmosphere and tonal qualities required to carry heavy, emotion-driven moments that lack the dialogue they may need.
Still, colorism poses a challenge for The Bad Batch, which hasn’t been fully corrected in the second season. The root of the issue lies in the fact that all the clones—including the Bad Batch—are made from Jango Fett’s (Temuera Morrison) genetic makeup, which means they should resemble the Māori actor who originated the role. While there does appear to be some color correction compared to Season 1, and a clear effort to steer away from the stereotypes masquerading as character traits that they started with in The Clone Wars, there is still room for improvement.
The Bad Batch is a welcome return to Star Wars’ animated world, one that does seem to be slowly integrating itself with some of the storylines that are playing out in other arenas (namely, The Mandalorian). As with almost any series, there are highs and lows—but Omega manages to hold things together with her drive to do right by everyone she meets, whether they’re a friend or foe or someone somewhere in between. Redemption, transformation, and metamorphosis play a large part in the latter half of the season, which, in its own way, redeems the series as a whole.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch Season 2 premieres January 4 on Disney+.