I reviewed the first season of The Bad Batch episode by episode as part of my ongoing Serial Consumer series. It became exhausting. The first season isn’t bad, but it wasn’t especially great, either, and frankly grew tiresome the more I had to think about it week to week. I had a similar experience covering The Book of Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi through the serial lens, too, so I skipped weekly coverage of Andor, and wouldn’t you know it: I had a much better time that way as a viewer. I still wrote about the episodes Disney previewed for me but never felt the need to return to the rest. Looking down the barrel at a second season of The Bad Batch, I resolved to simply cover whatever was provided and then enjoy the rest as a fan. No obligation to do anything other than enjoy it.
Then Disney provided me with the first 14 episodes. There are 16 total episodes. Essentially, press received the entirety of the season up to the prologue of the final two-parter.
So I binged them.
I binged them hard.
And I loved them.
This review will avoid spoilers but reference events and tease some of what’s to come. My goal is to convey just what makes this season superior to the first and why fans who felt similarly “meh” about that sequence of episodes should feel safe to dive right into this one. If you’re spoiler-phobic, however, please feel free to skip reading this.
Season 1 Recap
The first season was structured around the Bad Batch — Hunter, Tech, Echo and Wrecker — fleeing the Empire in the immediate aftermath of Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith. They adopted Omega, the final Clone of Jango Fett and the only one with a swapped biological sex, but that choice brought them even more trouble: Not only were they wanted by the Imperial forces for deserting, they were also pursued by bounty hunters hired by the Kaminoan Cloners, who wanted the secrets contained in Omega’s DNA. The most dramatic element of their fugitive status was the loss of Crosshair, their brother, who chose to stay with the Empire out of loyalty.
There were some interesting ideas introduced in Season 1, particularly in regard to how the Clones responded to Order 66 — where they were programmed to murder their Jedi friends — and an almost-immediate dismissal by the Empire after that in favor of human recruits.
Unfortunately, much of Season 1 settled into a strangely slow approach, never really letting any of the core four Clones develop much within the overarching story and saddling them with a semi-A-Team mission structure — working out of a criminal bar and taking on missions to make ends meet. Although there were definitely highlights of the season, it’s largely frustrating and forgettable. The missions were not very dramatically compelling and the lack of character development meant the show seemed to reset to default after every major event. Rather than growing as characters, the Batch just seemed to learn parenting is difficult with each and every adventure.
The finale dealt with the destruction of Kamino by the nefarious Admiral Rampart, but despite the seismic consequences of that event, it all fell a little flat.
Season 2 is an immediate improvement over Season 1, with a two-part premiere episode that takes the Batch to raid the late Count Dooku’s war chest on Serenno. The high concept of this mission is total fan service to fans of The Clone Wars and Tales of the Jedi but totally sensical within the context of this era in the Galaxy (the premiere pushes the timeline forward just a little past the first season but not much). The premiere episodes also introduce Echo’s primary conflict this season: He thinks his squad needs to be doing more for Clones displaced by the Empire rather than simply trying to lay low and survive. Echo was given major short shrift in the first season, and this is the start of an arc that helps define him for bigger things to come.
Structurally, Season 2 is similarly episodic to the first season. Like its predecessor, the two-parter gives way to a Crosshair solo mission in Episode 3, “The Solitary Clone,” which happens to re-introduce a major fan-favorite character. After that, we get the weakest episode of the season (with real ramifications nonetheless) and a few very, very fun standalone adventures before a two-parter that digs deep into the politics in a way reminiscent of Andor and focused on Clone post-war benefits. From that point forward, the season starts to feel like a long-form story; an immediate two-parter deals with the fallout of the midseason finale and then further adventures start to hint at the scope of what is happening to Clones around the galaxy. Let’s just say the Empire has unconventional uses for them.
The Clone Question
It’s here we get “The Outpost,” which might be one of the finest hours of animation produced in the Star Wars franchise … if you’re a fan of Clones. I should preface that my love for this season is heavily influenced by my fundamental interest in the concept of the Clones and the Clone Wars as envisioned by Dave Filoni, Jennifer Corbett and Brad Rau. Lucas flubbed the Clone Wars concept back in Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones, making for an odd and confusing conflict that was only clarified in the animation years later.
There is no reason to watch The Bad Batch if you’re not already locked into this side of the Star Wars franchise. If you’re curious, though, about what makes them so interesting, here is a quick rundown: The Clones are genetically designed to be soldiers, but as soon as they enter conflict, they start to live, breathe and develop individual personalities. The conflict between their innate design as cannon fodder and their development of self is very interesting and frequently explored in the Star Wars canon. The Batch make for an intriguing window into the Clone situation because they were all experiments designed to start out as individually capable, and their emotional reaction to regular Clones contains not a little bit of condescension — which puts them on par with a lot of the galaxy, whether they understand that at first or not. There are no Clones in the Original Trilogy era, which means something happened to them between Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope.
The implied tragedy of phasing out a species of humans built for war and then left by the wayside is fascinating material for a science-fiction story to mine, and I think Season 2 starts to do so brilliantly — namely in “The Outpost” and its direct, emotional engagement with those ideas. Again, I’m hesitant to spoil specifically who is in the episode and what happens, but I can’t emphasize enough that it will be a big deal to the fans who have connected with this element of the series.
One major question on fans’ minds is whether Season 2 features very many cameos by other characters from across Star Wars canon. The second season of The Mandalorian really spoiled folks by operating as a collection of standalone pilots for future series leads like Ahsoka and Boba Fett. But the introductory season of The Bad Batch wasn’t innocent either, bringing along Fennec Shand, Cad Bane, Hera Syndulla and even hinting at fan-favorite Clone Commandos Delta Squad.
The answer here is: No, no and no. There are very, very few cameos by major characters in Season 2. Fans know from the advertising that we see Clone Commander Cody and Clone Commander Rex, but other than that, anyone expecting this to further the ongoing stories of other Disney+ Star Wars series will be majorly disappointed. The tradeoff of Season 2 feeling more focused on its characters and the themes it introduces is that it has less need to throw cameos at the audience and see what sticks. This season is so good you won’t miss them, anyway.
Like I said, the purpose of this preview is to give excited fans a look at what they can expect from the rest of the season without spoiling anything. The first 14 episodes are a dramatic improvement over the first season, with creative adventures, real stakes and interesting developments on questions core to the Star Wars canon. They’re light on cameos but heavy on character. For anyone wondering if the animation is as good, I think it’s better than the first, and the musical score is, as always, top-notch thanks to Kevin Kiner. Given where the finale seems to be heading, I hope Season 3 is already in development to round things out.
Ah, hell. For those who want even more teases, let me throw these out there: Kashyyyk. Mutants. Monsters. Commandos. Mad scientists. Mutiny.