Review: The Bad Batch premiere is Star Wars at its most charming, action-packed best

Star Wars: The Bad Batch official poster. Photo courtesy of Lucasfilm.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch official poster. Photo courtesy of Lucasfilm. /

From the moment The Clone Wars logo burns away to reveal The Bad Batch title card and voice actor Tom Kane narrates a prologue for the end of the Clone Wars-set series, The Bad Batch grabs you by the heart and doesn’t let go. The new Disney+ series centering on experimental Clone Force 99 again takes us back to the prequel era and the beginnings of the insidious Galactic Empire, showcasing Star Wars at its thrilling, action-packed best.

The crew of the Bad Batch — Hunter, Tech, Wrecker, Echo and Crosshair — were introduced in a four-episode arc in The Clone Wars season 7. Fans fell in love with the ragtag group, which is made up of genetically modified clone troopers whose mutated abilities make them invaluable soldiers. Unfortunately for the Republic and eventually the Empire, the troopers of Clone Force 99 are fiercely independent, protective of one another and not as quick to follow orders as the “reg” clones.

By the end of their story arc in The Clone Wars, the Bad Batch added Echo to the ranks after a daring rescue from the clutches of the Techno Union, which tortured the ARC trooper and turned him into an android. Now, with Echo as more machine than human, Tech’s brilliant computerized mind, Hunter’s incomparable tracking and reflexes, Wrecker’s brute strength and Crosshair’s sharpshooting skills, the Bad Batch have it made fighting for the Republic.

But then the Clone Wars end, the Jedi are decimated after Order 66 and the Republic is forcibly molded into the fascistic Empire. Now, the Bad Batch is thrust into a new galaxy — one defined by rules, conformity and obedience, traits that aren’t high on Clone Force 99’s virtue list.

Star Wars, the bad batch
STAR WARS: THE BAD BATCH key art. Photo courtesy of Lucasfilm. /

The Bad Batch has all the trappings and tropes of a quintessential Star Wars series: galaxy-changing events, mismatched family dynamics and camaraderie, blaster fire-filled battles and scruffy, war-torn troopers trying to find how they fit in a new galaxy. There’s no grand, overarching story pitting Jedi against Sith or one about an unassuming youngster discovering their Force abilities (yet). But The Bad Batch smartly points the camera at the clone troopers who were, quite literally, created to be obedient soldiers in a yearslong war that’s now ended. The civil war that birthed Star Wars may already be brewing during this time period, but The Bad Batch begs the question: What happens to the troops after the war is over?

The premiere episode, “Aftermath,” is a sweeping, cinematic introduction to the post-Clone Wars era on the Star Wars timeline. The first scenes play out like a thrilling yet foreboding transition from The Bad Batch‘s predecessor, including a heartbreaking moment we’ve previously only seen play out in the pages of a comic. This scene — one of the most gut-wrenching in Star Wars — also seamlessly connects all three Star Wars 3D animated series helmed by Dave Filoni.

From there, the thrills are never-ending for the Bad Batch as they navigate the overnight transformation of their own clone brothers and the galaxy at large as the new Emperor Palpatine tightens his grip. Along the way, the Bad Batch learn more about their origins on Kamino and befriend a curious little girl named Omega, who instantly attaches herself to Hunter in another display of a quintessential Star Wars trope: the mismatched ties that bind.

The Bad Batch is at its best when it drops the troopers and other characters into historical Star Wars events, letting their unique skills and personalities shine amid events we already know the endings to. Though the animation is a crisper version of 3D Clone Wars style, The Bad Batch flows like a fresh take on a well-worn space fantasy. Sure, there are plenty of action sequences and scenes that tie the group to the galaxy’s overall story, but there’s also humor, silliness, surprising reveals and eerie moments that change what we think we know and understand about the Star Wars saga.

The 16-episode series is a thrilling yet intimate portrayal of a mismatched family unit trying to find their place in a galaxy that never truly welcomed them in the first place. It’s also just delightful to watch a bunch of rough-and-tough men becoming big, protective softies around a little girl desperate for connection and adventure.

The Bad Batch is a captivating series for new and old fans alike, one that quickly steps out of the shadow of its Clone Wars predecessor as a charming, exciting and essential asset to the Star Wars saga.

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The Bad Batch’s premiere episode, “Aftermath” is available to stream now on Disney Plus. The series’ second episode premieres May 7 with subsequent episodes dropping weekly on Fridays.