To celebrate May 4, known as Star Wars Day, Disney+ debuted a new series called Star Wars: The Bad Batch, a spinoff of the popular animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The pilot episode is a full 70 minutes long, in stark contrast to its origins in The Clone Wars, where episodes ran at about 25 minutes.
The pilot episode does a decent job giving a crash course in relevant Star Wars history. If you’re not a big fan, you’ll still likely be able to follow the plot, though I don’t recommend this episode as a starting point for viewers new to Star Wars. This series seems to answer a plot hole in the lore that has yet to receive a popular canonized response — what did the Empire do with the clone army, and why did they switch to the comically inferior stormtroopers?
Perhaps that question hasn’t been answered because it doesn’t need to be. Frankly, this new series is inherently flawed. We’ve already had seven seasons of an animated show focused on clone troopers, and Star Wars Rebels is another animated series that depicts the beginning of the rebellion against the Empire. Now this new animated show is simply a synthesis of these two ideas — clone troopers rebelling against the Empire. I understand the desire to link The Clone Wars and Rebels together since they take place during adjacent eras in the fictional universe, but this well has run dry.
This new show follows Clone Force 99, a group of clones born with experimental faults that grant them special abilities. Each member is a cliched archetype — there’s the brooding leader, the stone-cold sharpshooter, the idiot brute, the twisted cyborg and the erudite hacker.
In all 70 minutes of runtime, the plot barely moves. When it does, it’s predictable. It starts off strong, with the Bad Batch trying to find their place in the aftermath of Order 66, a directive biologically programmed into all clone soldiers ordering them to betray and execute their Jedi leaders. By the halfway point, I was ready to stop watching. Everything following the initial conflict felt extraneous or overdeveloped. I don’t think a single line of dialogue mattered except for Admiral Wilhuff Tarkin’s words and the final conversation between Hunter and Crosshair. Dialogue aside, Echo could be completely written out of this episode and viewers wouldn’t even blink.
Admittedly, I did not have high hopes for this spinoff. When I first saw the Bad Batch during their story arc in season seven of Clone Wars, I was disappointed. I finally understood why older Star Wars fans so vehemently dislike Jar-Jar Binks and the Ewoks, because they clearly pander to the younger viewers of the franchise. Having grown up watching the animated series, it was a letdown.
My disappointment lingers. Conceptually, the series fails, and I’m not sure how it can develop without repeating ideas already realized. There are a few positives here — engaging action, mysteries to be answered (what’s up with Omega?) and beautiful animation. There’s just no spark of ingenuity. Star Wars began as a fantasy tale of a farm boy, a wizard, a rogue and a princess. Old motifs were reimagined to be unrecognizable from previous renditions. Where’s the creativity here?
The beauty of Star Wars is that it’s a universe so big, anything is possible. Why do showrunners and other content creators in this saturated franchise insist on inundating fans with the same tropes already explored time and time again? The Mandalorian was a fresh, new look at characters on the fringe of Star Wars lore — while still paying its fair share of fan service — and it was immensely successful. There needs to be more innovation in this franchise, and there’s certainly room for it.
The Bad Batch is not the answer. There’s no novelty, just cut-and-paste dialogue and character development. As a children’s series it is sufficient, but at its best, Star Wars entertains all generations. Besides, the main viewership of this show are likely fans of Clone Wars, like me, who are now adults. If they wanted to create a children’s show and encourage a new generation of fans, they should’ve still created something completely different that isn’t reliant on old storylines and background knowledge.
As a lifelong fan of the franchise, I’ve just grown tired of exploits like The Bad Batch. But since I’m a lifelong fan, no matter how bad Star Wars gets, I’m still compelled to watch it.