The first season of The Bad Batch wasn’t perfect, but it might just be the best opening season of any Star Wars animated series to date.
Think back to the first seasons of The Clone Wars and Rebels. Yes, there were certainly good episodes and arcs, and a lot of the characters that were introduced went on to be highly beloved characters in the Star Wars universe. But if you compare the quality of the first season of both shows with later seasons, you’ll find that very few of the episodes from the first season compare in terms of depth and quality to later entries.
Episodes like “Ambush,” the Malevolence arc, “Lair of Grievous,” and the Ryloth arc are all examples of some great early story-telling and character building in the first season of The Clone Wars. However, those stories are countered by too much Jar Jar Binks and several droid-heavy episodes, leaving a mix of good and bad all throughout.
For Rebels, the opening two-part story was a great introduction to the series and setting of the Empire at the height of its power, but the series quickly lost steam with the third episode. Some high-quality episodes are scattered about the first season, such as “Rise of the Old Masters,” “Path of the Jedi,” and the final four episodes of the season. Unfortunately, there are several forgettable ones wrapped around those as well, and the more juvenile tone of the first season sets it apart from the rest of the series.
The younger “entry point” character for both shows also takes some getting used to and actually generally annoyed most fans in the first season of each respective show.
In The Clone Wars, most fans didn’t like Ahsoka Tano at first, finding her immature and aggravating at times. Similarly in Rebels, Ezra Bridger was viewed as whiny and actually a little unlikeable despite an interesting backstory.
Both characters, especially Ahsoka, went on to gain favor with fans as their respective series went on, but a lot of their early appearances were far from cherished at the time.
Then there’s the animation quality in the first season of both shows. Some of the animation woes for The Clone Wars can be chalked up to it being created in the late-2000s, but even with that in mind, some of the textures and action sequences are extremely lackluster. Rebels suffered from a lowered budget after the Clone Wars era of Star Wars animation, and that was very apparent throughout the first season. Plus, the art style itself, modeled after Ralph McQuarrie’s early concept art for A New Hope, was very divisive among fans.
The Bad Batch is stronger overall
Contrast all of that with the first season of The Bad Batch, which had a pretty consistent quality of episodes throughout, a likable new young character, and some of the best animation of any Star Wars show ever.
The opening episode of The Bad Batch started out with a bang emotionally, and it set a strong foundation for the rest of the season. The episodes that followed didn’t always reach that same peak, but the dip in quality for the first season’s “bad” episodes wasn’t nearly as precipitous as it was for The Clone Wars or Rebels.
While an episode like “Infested” felt like filler and a break in the action, there was still some quality world-building happening and nice character moments. That can’t be said for some of the most disliked episodes of the first season of The Clone Wars or Rebels.
Additionally, the introduction of Omega was handled carefully and came across much more naturally than the introductions of Ahsoka and Ezra. She didn’t feel somewhat shoehorned in like Ahsoka early on, and she wasn’t angsty like Ezra; instead, Omega’s compassion and curiosity were on display early and often, making her a much more empathic new addition to the story.
And when it comes to animation, The Bad Batch blows every other Star Wars show out of the water.
The only other animated Star Wars project that can even compare to the quality of The Bad Batch in terms of art and style is the four-part Siege of Mandalore finale of The Clone Wars. Some of the scenes and planets in the first season of The Bad Batch were truly picturesque. The action was always smooth and almost felt like live-action at times, and the lighting and texturing were top-notch.
Overall, all of that led to a highly consistent and very well-received first season of The Bad Batch.
To be fair, though, The Bad Batch was starting at a bit of an advantage for its first season compared to its predecessors. The Clone Wars may have had existing characters set as the stars of the show, but the animated series was a very different look on characters like Anakin, Obi-Wan, Yoda, and Padme. Rebels had to introduce an entirely new cast of characters as their main protagonists.
Meanwhile, The Bad Batch was able to use already-established characters as the main cast, and many of the supporting characters throughout the whole season had already appeared in other Star Wars properties. Viewers had a higher sense of familiarity with The Bad Batch than either The Clone Wars or Rebels at the start because of that.
The Bad Batch may not have taken as many risks in its first season as The Clone Wars or Rebels, but it has the best overall quality in terms of writing, art design, and consistency than either of those shows. That’s why it’s the best first season of any animated Star Wars show.