Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for The Bad Batch Season 2.
The Bad Batch has expanded the role of the identical clone soldiers even further than The Clone Wars was able to do. While many storylines in The Clone Wars focused on the soldiers and fleshed out their personalities, we’re now finally getting to see how the clones are steadily conformed into the dull-minded stormtroopers of the original trilogy. The number of clones who have managed to have their inhibitor chips removed is relatively low, and most now find themselves scrubbed of their individuality under the Empire. One of the ways that the Empire has stolen the soldiers’ culture from them is by removing distinctive armor features.
The Bad Batch has slowly shown how over time, the clones have become cycled out by the Empire in favor of conscripted soldiers who can easily be trained, brainwashed, and unquestioning in their service to Emperor Palpatine. While clones are loyal to a fault, there are many that remember their service in the Clone Wars and the bravery of the Jedi leaders that they served under. In The Bad Batch episode “The Solitary Clone,” Crosshair is informed that many clones are starting to question their fealty and reject their new roles as the instruments of fascism. Even Commander Cody, one of the most experienced combat veterans in the Grand Army, has gone missing as he searches for a new path.
Cody, like many of his fellow veterans, has uniquely colored armor that reflects his position of command. The coloring of each clone’s armor will indicate rank, but it also allows them to express themselves based on their experiences. One of the most enjoyable aspects of The Clone Wars was getting to see new clone characters pop up, and pick up on their characteristics based on the color of their armor. Seeing these distinctions stripped away in The Bad Batch reflects the loss of identity that men in combat endure under the command of a tyrant.
The Early Days of the War
In Attack of the Clones, the 10,000 clone soldiers sent to Geonosis to rescue the Jedi that are held in Count Dooku’s (Christopher Lee) arena have mostly white armor, which isn’t very different from the stormtroopers in the original trilogy. While there is a commander with yellow stripes that briefly receives orders from Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson), his distinctions are only noted to establish his position. Some of the early content in the “Legends” canon identified a clear hierarchy for the colors’ meaning; standard troopers wore white, sergeants wore olive green, lieutenants wore blue, captains wore red, and commanders wore yellow.
Although some of the early “Legends” content, such as the Republic Commando series, gave some of the genetically-enhanced and specialized clones a touch of personality, not much was learned about the average soldiers; outside of Anakin’s second-in-command Alpha, who shares a few humorous exchanges with his superior, the clones retained the conformity that was reflected by their identical armor. However, The Clone Wars certainly changed that by expanding the individuality of the clones even further thanks to the incredible voicework of Dee Bradley Baker, who was responsible for bringing them all to life.
As is seen in both The Clone Wars and Revenge of the Sith, the color of the clones’ armor is meant to reflect the Jedi leaders that they serve under. Each Jedi Master or Knight that has the rank of “General” is given a legion of clones. The blue-striped soldiers of the 501st serving under Anakin, like Captain Rex, wear blue; the orange-striped soldiers of the 212th serving under Obi-Wan, like Cody, wear orange. The correlation is also reflected in the clones’ behavior. While Cody is a strict rule-follower who plays things by-the-books like Obi-Wan, Rex is a bit of a maverick and risk taker like Anakin. Seeing Rex and Cody bicker back-and-forth feels like a recreation of their Jedi counterparts’ dynamic.
The armor color serves as a good identification of what you can expect from the character; if a blue-plated clone trooper shows up, you can expect them to be a bit more brash and free-spirited. The clones’ armor changes at many points during The Clone Wars, but it always retains its original colored stripes. When the 501st battalion is sent to the snowy planet of Orto Plutonia in the episode “Trespass,” their upgraded snow-protective armor still has the same blue marks; this also carries over during the midway point of the war when the clones are switched from the Phase I style suits from Attack of the Clones to the Phase II style gear from Revenge of the Sith.
These distinctions make the Order 66 sequence even more haunting. One of the most striking images in Revenge of the Sith is seeing Anakin and the blue-stripped soldiers of the 501st marching towards the Jedi Temple to massacre its inhabitants. Seeing the Jedi younglings slaughtered (in a sequence that’s even more unflinching in Obi-Wan Kenobi) is even more disturbing when it’s coming from clones renowned for their friendliness.
The Imperial Age
Although the clones retained their original armor in the early days of Order 66, it soon went under some serious revisions under the Empire. It’s decided early on by the Imperial leadership that the Empire will no longer use the cloning process on Kamino, which ages soldiers at half the rate and requires an extended period of maturation and training. In the Season 1 finale of The Bad Batch, “Kamino Lost,” the facility itself is actually destroyed. Even before the clones are officially “retired,” the Empire is swift in making sure that their loyalty is beyond question.
The removal of armor color distinctions shows that the clones no longer have an individual leader who they can look to for inspiration; they all have the same white armor because their only loyalty is to Emperor Palpatine. It’s particularly disturbing to see Commander Cody without his orange armor, as he was the only clone in the Star Wars prequel trilogy who had a significant amount of dialogue and screen time. This erasure of individuality is extended to the removal of identifying tattoos, piercings, and other customizations that the clones made to their bodies.
Star Wars has always been a very political franchise, so it’s interesting to see the further examination of fascism that has occurred in The Bad Batch. Total control to a radical leader is not bred overnight, but it starts with seemingly inconsequential steps of stripping away individualism. The recoloring of the armor is just another step in moving as far away from the idealism of democracy as possible.