Editor’s note: The below contains spoilers for Season 2 of Star Wars: The Bad Batch.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch often references other Star Wars content. Several popular characters return for cameos, and there are plenty of other references in addition. Where The Bad Batch is in the timeline and the fact that the main characters are clones lends itself to tie-ins with Star Wars: Clone Wars, but that is far from the only content The Bad Batch references. Season 1 includes several connections to Star Wars Rebels through the characters of Hera (Vanessa Marshall) and Caleb Dume (Freddie Prinze Jr.). But the newest episode of The Bad Batch returns to Star Wars‘ roots: the films of the Skywalker saga. This installment brings back the sport of podracing, which is familiar to fans of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. Though The Bad Batch referred to it as “Riot Racing” instead, there seems to be little difference between the two. Though podracing plays an important role in The Phantom Menace, in other Star Wars content, it tends to take a back seat to the larger conflicts. Yet The Bad Batch episode “Faster” puts it front and center once again. By focusing the plot of an entire episode on the sport, The Bad Batch gives more than a passing reference to the film, begging the question, is it finally time to be nostalgic for the prequel trilogy?
What’s the Big Deal With Podracing?
It makes sense for a single sport to be popular throughout the galaxy, but it all comes back to how significant it is to the story. In The Phantom Menace, Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) is a young kid born into slavery, but he’s a great racer. His talent and his master’s affinity for betting allow him to win his freedom in order to become the Jedi (and later, Sith Lord) with whom fans are familiar. Little did the characters know that a single race would have such a profound impact on the galaxy’s history. That truth makes the race itself an integral part of the film. Podracing isn’t in The Phantom Menace just to add lore to the world. Instead, it has a significant plot point.
So when The Bad Batch brought it back, they knew exactly what they were doing. Cid (Rhea Perlman) brings Omega (Michelle Ang), Wrecker (Dee Bradley Baker), and Tech (also Baker) to the track as protection because she anticipates trouble. And the race does not disappoint. Cid backs a new racer, TAY-0 (Ben Schwartz), a droid who fervently believes himself to be the best. Before the race, Cid makes a bet with her dangerous acquaintance, Millegi (Ernie Hudson). Millegi has the means to sabotage TAY-0, so Cid inevitably losses. Unable to pay her debt, she faces danger until Omega negotiates a double-or-nothing bet on the next race. Tech, Wrecker, and Omega set to work fixing TAY-0 and his ship while Cid is held hostage by Millegi. TAY-0 gets run over minutes before the race and, desperate to save their friend after her star racer can no longer participate, Tech climbs into the driver’s seat. He uses his quick thinking and love of calculations to win the race, saving Cid from Millegi.
Is Riot Racing in ‘The Bad Batch’ the Same as Podracing?
Despite their different names, the two sports are virtually the same. Of course, these races occur on different planets, but both are surrounded by betting and unsavory characters. The most significant difference is that riot racing appears more dangerous. The course provides moving obstacles during the race; literally destroying the competition is commonplace; and the announcer makes no secret that the audience is in danger as well. While Anakin claims he is one of the few humans capable of podracing, plenty of other species participate. But the drivers in riot racing are mostly droids. This difference indicates that riot racing is more lethal, as droids can be repaired where organic life forms cannot. While podracing had plenty of danger, riot racing amplifies it. The cheating, which is prevalent in podracing, also seems to be enhanced for riot racing, as seen by Millegi’s ability to order impediments to TAY-0 in the initial race. With riot racing, even being in the audience is a risk. The announcer notes that the stadium cannot be held responsible for injury as a spectator is knocked over, and later, TAY-0 is cut into pieces just because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Rare is any sport dangerous to watch, but riot racing certainly is. Essentially, riot racing is podracing but made more dangerous for everyone involved.
Who Is the Better Racer: Anakin or Tech?
Anakin proved himself to be the best racer in Mos Espa, but he never competed against Tech. The two protagonists have drastically different racing methods, but both seem to work. For starters, Anakin is more familiar with the sport than Tech. Anakin has watched it his entire life (though admittedly, that wasn’t long). He knew the game well, but Tech has a different background. The former soldier learned of riot racing the day before his race, though his familiarity with speeders was a bonus. Tech’s racing method is based on strategy and calculation, while Anakin relies on his force abilities to set him apart from the other racers. Both use their unique abilities to their advantage, so it’s hard to determine who would win in a competition between the two, though it might depend on how well-developed their abilities are.
Is ‘The Bad Batch’ Actually Sparking Prequel Nostalgia?
With the obvious callback to The Phantom Menace, The Bad Batch recalls a simpler time in Star Wars lore, before the Empire had taken control and when the Sith were supposed to be a thing of the past. But that’s not the only thing it reminds fans of. Many references within the show connect to the franchise’s popular content, but the prequels, which began with The Phantom Menace, received much criticism. Yet The Bad Batch harkens back to the film all the same. Perhaps, after nearly 25 years and plenty of other content to argue about, Star Wars fans are finally opening their hearts to the films.