Plot: Months have passed since the events on Kamino and the Bad Batch continue their journey navigating the Empire after the fall of the Republic. They will cross paths with friends and foes, both new and familiar, as they take on a variety of thrilling mercenary missions that will take them to unexpected and dangerous new places.
Review: Before Disney+ brought Star Wars into live action with The Mandalorian and the various subsequent series and spin-offs, fans of the iconic franchise were deeply invested in the animated series The Clone Wars. Dave Filoni, the man who Star Wars fans know can do no wrong, had the opportunity to deliver a satisfying conclusion to The Clone Wars as well as explore new stories in Tales of the Jedi as well as The Bad Batch. The first season of this clone-centric series brought a fantastic crew of characters to the forefront while expanding the universe in other non-Jedi directions. The new season of The Bad Batch continues the story of the title crew of troopers as they become more invested in rebelling against the Empire while also protecting Omega from harm.
The second season picks up right where the first left off and starts with the Bad Batch undertaking a heist of Count Dooku’s war chest. Pitting the Batch against a battalion of clone troopers offers some solid action but makes this heist the third or fourth such plan on a Disney+ era Star Wars series. Hopefully, this doesn’t become a cliche fallback plot device like the sky beams in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Luckily, the episode works well as a propulsive and action-packed kickoff to the season. and continues serially across the following episodes. While each episode does focus on a new subplot, the overarching narrative of the Bad Batch escaping from Order 66 and the Empire while learning more about themselves and Omega continues to be a main force in the story.
The sixteen-episode second season, fourteen of which were made available for this review, are easily some of the best work in Star Wars animation to date. It still amazes me that voice actor Dee Bradley Baker voices not only the main characters but multiple supporting roles as well. In some episodes with a heavy clone trooper cast, Baker is voicing anywhere from ten to dozens of characters in a half-hour episode. Giving each a distinct lilt to their voice is a challenge unto itself, but voicing Hunter, Wrecker, Tech, Crosshair, and Echo as unique characters is an impressive undertaking. With Michelle Ang reprising her role as Omega, this season feels like a natural continuation of the first with the stories flowing from one right into the next.
The significant element of this season is the phasing out of the clone troopers in favor of the classic stormtroopers as the primary military force for the Empire. As the clones are hunted down, along with the remaining Jedi, this gives our characters a unifying reason to band together. It also affords the inclusion of characters like Clone Wars’ favorite, Commander Cody, who plays a vital role in these episodes. The animated Star Wars series have always done well in using veteran voice actors over stunt casting, and this season is no different. While some famous faces do lend their voices, like Wanda Sykes in the early episodes, many of the voice talents here seamlessly blend into the story rather than give us the feeling we know who the famous face is behind particular characters. This gives us a chance to appreciate many Star Wars cameos like Mas Amedda, Admiral Tarkin, and cool characters like Wookie Jedi youngling Gungi.
Dave Filoni’s series skews darker this season than it has before. The Bad Batch has always been a bit different than The Clone Wars, but this season is easily the most mature of the animated properties to date. Towards the middle of the season, the stakes increase, and new antagonists enter the fray. The last episode made available for this review sets up the potential for a huge two-episode conclusion to the season, hopefully leading to an even bigger third. It works as well as it does because the writers of this series don’t rely on legacy characters to drive the narrative but instead make the primary clones here individual beings instead of copies of each other. As cool as the clones have been before, by making them all have distinct voices and personalities, this feels like an entire cast of Star Wars characters diving deeper into the mythology of this era.
The Bad Batch continues to prove that Star Wars animation is not just for kids and is much more nuanced and layered than the average cartoon. This season gets much muddier regarding the impacts of war, the stakes of rebellion, and the meaning of family. Omega and her siblings forge a tighter bond in these episodes and become much more like a family than I expected them to. Dave Filoni’s creation is precisely the type of story that George Lucas would have told, and it manages to tell it without feeling indebted to nostalgia. The Bad Batch, in many ways, is a superior series to The Clone Wars because it eschews the constraints of legacy characters in favor of a bold story that enhances the feature films without getting stuck on continuity.
The second season of The Bad Batch premieres on January 4th on Disney+.