‘Faster’ reminds us why we love Tech

(L-R): Hunter, Tech, Echo and Gregor in a scene from "STAR WARS: THE BAD BATCH", exclusively on Disney+. © 2021 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™. All Rights Reserved.
(L-R): Hunter, Tech, Echo and Gregor in a scene from "STAR WARS: THE BAD BATCH", exclusively on Disney+. © 2021 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™. All Rights Reserved. /

At the height of the Clone Wars, the difference between clones and droids was obvious.

There were the simple things like their armor and voices—Dee Bradley Baker can’t voice both sides of the conflict, after all! But there were more significant differences, too: Clones could respond to the needs of the moment without waiting for orders, adapt, think critically and with empathy and—after serving norm-bucking Jedi like Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano—survive and succeed against the odds.

Order 66 changed all that. With a flip of the proverbial dark side switch, Darth Sidious reduced the Grand Army of the Republic to little more than fleshy robots, more responsive—and perhaps deadlier—than battle droids.

And now, week after week, The Bad Batch calls those differences between clones and droids further into question. If, as Crosshair reminds us, good soldiers simply follow orders, then what use is a mind that learns and grows and questions? Why not just have an army of droids: loyal and without that pesky problem of questioning war crimes?

This theme is woven throughout The Bad Batch, and episode 4 of season 2, “Faster,” offers us a new take.

Surprisingly, it’s Tech—that Bad Batch member most infatuated with technology, statistics, odds, rules and strategy—that offers us a new glimpse of clone humanity. Tech, who often comes off a little too by-the-book, a little stiff, a little grumpy and perhaps just a bit condescending to others with minds less advanced than his.

Tech who feels a little like a droid—a droid that might enjoy reminding you when the odds are not in your favor and doom is likely on the horizon.

In fact, when he meets the droid-turned-racer, TAY-0—voiced by Ben Schwartz—it’s the droid who comes off more relaxed. He’s a superior racer, after all, with flawless strategy and a winning record. No one can calculate the odds in real-time like TAY-0.

Until a little foul play on the track and a little bad luck in the stands take TAY-0 out of commission right before the episode’s consequential race. Cid’s life is on the line, and the Batch have pledged to free her.

It’s Omega who insists the Batch stand up for their friend, but it’s Tech who volunteers to get in the racer and take TAY-0’s place. He’s been studying the track and its racers; he can compute data in real-time. He’s confident he can win.

Here’s the thing: Tech still has a little droid-esque flair to his performance in this episode. You might say to never tell him the odds, but he’s been calculating them the whole time. He’s reasonably confident he can do what must be done.

But what separates our hero, Tech—and those clones who continue to shake out of the Order 66 fog—is what Commander Cody realized in season two’s third episode: “We make our own choices—and we have to live with them.”

Choices. Live with them.

Tech chooses to help Cid—even if he’d rather disassociate with the would-be gangster. He doesn’t get in that racer at anyone’s instruction; he’s not programmed to win. He learns what’s necessary to help someone in need.

And, ultimately, he can’t be put back together as TAY-0 is time and again. When he makes that choice to plunge into the side tunnel—hoping for a shortcut and well-aware of the danger—he knows that the stakes are high. If The Clone Wars taught us anything, it’s that these clone troopers do have unique, irreplaceable personalities—and Clone Force 99 all the more so. They can’t just pop off the production line like another batch of droids.

In the end, TAY-0, our droid foil, doubted Tech could win. But it’s TAY-0 who lost—even with all his superior programming. He didn’t have the je ne sais quoi that Tech possessed—that all the clones possessed at their best, that essence of humanity—and didn’t have the wherewithal or even the courage to try something new, something dangerous.

Perhaps, ultimately, he didn’t have the right incentive: the choice to help a friend.