Serial Consumer celebrates and interrogates Evan’s relationship to franchised media and his addiction to purchasing its licensed products.
It’s important to say upfront that if you aren’t already interested in George Lucas’s weird vision for The Clone Wars (and Filoni’s interpretation of those ideas in Rebels), The Bad Batch will have little to offer you. This is a Star Wars tale aimed at a specific generation of fans. That’s OK. For my money, it’s already superior in depth, style and promise than The Mandalorian, which has had trouble establishing a consistent level of depth and production quality. Perhaps that’s the problem with live-action having a wider audience. The Bad Batch is a niche, and I am the target audience.
Kid Show War Crimes
After a relative breather in its second episode, “Replacements” brings The Bad Batch back to several plots set up in the premiere. We reconnect with Crosshair on Kamino, where Imperial Vice Admiral Rampart is introduced as the champion of enlisted soldiers replacing clones. As an audience, we know Project War-Mantle is the shape of things to come, which makes the clones’ plight all the more tragic. They’re soldiers without a war to fight, with chips in their head that force them to serve an Empire that doesn’t want them as it tightens its grip on the galaxy they helped save.
Crosshair’s mission back to Onderon is a dark one, although not any darker than The Clone Wars was willing to go in its final seasons. Lucas was inspired by the Vietnam War when he made the original Star Wars, and it’s no secret the Empire can be seen as a stand-in for American military might. They’ve always been anti-war films. “Replacements” makes the comparison directly when Crosshair and his Elite Squad massacre a group of civilians. His squad tries to reject his orders at first but they ultimately comply. They even use a flamethrower.
In the old Expanded Universe, Stormtroopers and other Imperials were explicitly coded as a human (white) supremacist organization. This was an extrapolation of the non-inclusive villain casting in the original trilogy and also made the Empire an even closer allegory to Nazi Germany, which was certainly a less troubling statement in American media than poking at our own country’s gaping cultural wounds. In The Bad Batch, the Elite Squad is a diverse group of recruits, which tells audiences that you can aspire to be a fascist no matter how you look or identify. People complain about “woke” Star Wars, but in truth, it’s a lot closer to Lucas’s original counter-culture inspirations. We’re all capable of great good or great evil.
In any case, I’m glad my brother found me three Elite Squad figures, which is apparently the appropriate number to own. If only they’d release that Imperial Crosshair figure to go with them …
The rest of the Batch — Hunter, Tech, Echo, Wrecker and Omega — crash-land on a moon and experience the usual “heroes trapped on a moon with a crashed ship and strange creatures” story, although the resolution to this is a lot less horrifying and dark than The Mandalorian‘s spin on the same concept. Emphasizing Omega’s empathy for the wild creature while Crosshair is off committing kid-show war crimes is a solid touch.
Circling back to Lucas’s concerns with our innate morality: The chips present an interesting wrinkle in that storytelling with which past Star Wars stories have rarely contended. Tech mentions that the Batch still has chips in their heads that simply malfunctioned due to their augmentations. The chips are still there, however, which creates a question of whether their actions could eventually become influenced by Imperial orders. But do the chips truly remove freewilll? Is Crosshair completing his missions by any means necessary because he’s ordered to or because that’s who he is? In what way do the chips override the free will of the Clones who are victims to them? What about the Bad Batch? Questions of free will versus self-determination make the balance between good and evil, and the essential choices of Star Wars, a little more complex and compelling than they’ve been in the past, and using the Clones as a battleground for those ideas is inspired. They spent seven seasons gaining their own names, fashions and stories; what does it matter now?
I’m excited to see where the Kamino story goes. Is there going to be a Clone uprising? Is this setting up the Cloner stuff in The Mandalorian? Time will tell, and I’m really excited to see where everything goes.
Oh, and Kevin Kiner’s music is top-notch.
This past week, I received a shipment courtesy of a friend who was at Galaxy’s Edge. He was there on a light-traffic day and managed to snag me the fairly difficult-to-find Ahsoka Tano Clone Wars Legacy Sabers. They’re fabulous, complete with color-changing blades. Green (for Clone Wars seasons 1-6) or Blue (for the final season of Clone Wars). I’m really fond of these hilts, and, of course, my son was excited to play with them. These are my 10th and 11th hilts, respectively.
- Darth Maul (The Phantom Menace) (2 sabers)
- Obi-Wan (Menace & Attack of the Clones)
- Mace Windu (Clones)
- Anakin (Clones, hilt only)
- Ahsoka (Clone Wars) (2 sabers)
- Luke (Return of the Jedi)
- Kylo Ren (The Force Awakens)
- Skywalker Saber (The Rise of Skywalker)
- Custom (Galaxy’s Edge)
I have a lot of friends who are traveling to Galaxy’s Edge this year as part of their post-pandemic vacationing and I’m hoping they can send me similar shipments — particularly hilts from Count Dooku, Rey and Leia. I often joke with my wife that there’s a limit to the number of lightsabers I’d like to buy, but in truth, there isn’t. That said, only one hilt from the movies has yet to see physical form in some fashion that I hope desperately to one day own: Qui-Gon Jinn’s saber from The Phantom Menace.
- 6” Rampart — $20 (available for $25 preorder, but not worth $25)
- 6” Imperial Crosshair — $20 (he’s coming later this year)