(+++ WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Star Wars: Bad Batch S01 Ep.01 +++)
Any new show has to do a number of things before the curtain comes down, and The Bad Batch is no different. In fact, one could argue that any new characters brought into the Star Wars universe has to work even harder to land with hardcore fans. Just ask any of the cast from the last trilogy.
But I am happy to report that The Bad Batch did a great job of setting up the series, establishing the characters and giving the fans enough familiarity and Easter eggs in it’s extra-length debut episode to keep everyone happy. Even if it did insists on including not one but two precocious kids. But then, while this will appeal to longtime Star Wars fans like me, it’s also aiming to be an all-ages series too. So, there’ll always be kids. And besides which, the clone child, Omega (Michelle Ang), whom the gang met on Kamino certainly prevents the whole show from being a boy-heavy affair. She’s certainly the spunky kind of kid that would have appealed to my daughter when she was younger, just as Rey appealed to her in the last trilogy. So, good work, Disney. And the second youngling is a well placed Easter egg for well-versed Star Wars fans as many will recognise this Padawan as none other than a young Kanaan Jarrus (Freddie Prinze Jr.) from Star Wars: Rebels.
Set in the aftermath of the tragic Clone Wars – or more precisely during the events of Revenge of the Sith and at the exact time the newly self-appointed Emperor Palpatine give out Order 66 – we meet the Bad Batch (all played by voice actor Dee Bradley Baker). A bunch of genetically modified and mutated clones, which explains why they don’t succumb to Order 66. Well, not all of them.
The Bad Batch are seemingly made up of generic archetypes, with names to match. But, it’s all a smokescreen. There will be time for character development in future episodes, but this first one is all about action and getting up the various dynamics on both the small scale and big scale, with an Empire on the rise and a certain Admiral Tarkin coming to visit the cloning facilities on Kamino to assess the ongoing viability of using clones. Well, we all know how that one works out. But then that can be said for the bigger story too. It’s in the journey there that the fun and thrills are to be had. And who couldn’t get excited by the return of Tarkin, who seems as though he will have quite the role to play? It certainly leaves you wonder who else will show up? And it’s not long before that one’s answered too, with the inclusion of freedom fighter, Saw Gerrera (Andrew Kishino). It’s yet another one of many moments clearly baked into this series to please various fanbases and ages.
It’s this balanced mix of both old school references and all-new characters and locations that contributes to a successful first episode. And, in using locations so closely linked to the prequel trilogy, shows like this and Rebels, help rehabilitate the once-scorned prequels. Although, I have seen more than one fan reassess these films as a result of the last trilogy stinking worse than a Wookie’s armpit.
As for the quality of the animation? Well, this is Disney who own Pixar and ILM, so want do you think? It’s amazing and when the Bad Batch are suited and booted, you would be forgiven for forgetting thus is a cartoon. Although the textures used for skin don’t seem to work too well. And I know the nerds at Disney know how to do textures like this. So, it must be down to an aesthetic choice for some reason or other.
In this first episode alone we get to relive the excitement and tragedy of Order 66, we witness an audacious jail break and one of the Bad Batch turning on the others, as well as a fist fight in a canteen! That, and the establishment of a new set of characters who have enough personality about them that I’m invested enough to definitely be watching the rest of this promising new series.
The Bad Batch S01 Ep.01 is available now on Disney +