A band of industrious adventurers discovers markings and mysteries etched within a long-forgotten map. The map? It leads to a place that has been all but ignored for generations, a desolate terrain ravaged by fire and time and fear. There, upon the horizon is a mountain and within it, the treasure—and a trap. But the prize is too great to ignore, a treasure sought after by countless adventurers, one known simply as the Heart of the Mountain.
But beware: Laying claim to the Heart of the Mountain awakens a dragon of unquenchable anger and unspeakable violence.
Oh—did you think I was describing The Hobbit? This is just the setup for episode five of The Bad Batch’s second season: “Entombed.” And would you know, the Batch does get entombed in that very mountain, Skara Nal, while searching for their prize!
Intrepid treasure-hunter-slash-liberator-of-ancient-wonders-slash-pirate, Phee Genoa—voiced by none other than Wanda Sykes—is the one who realizes that the junky compass Omega brings back from a mission with Wrecker is in fact the key to the adventure. She spies the coordinates to an uncharted planet, and Omega can barely contain her enthusiasm.
“It could be fun!” Omega says to a sour-faced Hunter. The Batch, currently between missions, agrees to the adventure. After all, Phee is an expert; this has to go better than the last treasure hunting expedition.
But of course, it doesn’t and for all sorts of new and interesting reasons. It’s impossible not to think of Indiana Jones while watching the Batch and Phee navigate the increasingly deadly array of traps within Skara Nal meant to thwart the ambitious adventurer. The scene brings to mind another Star Wars story, too: Delilah S. Dawson’s novel Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire, which saw Resistance spy Vi Moradi navigating similar traps in Batuu’s ruins in search of treasure. Both the Batch and Vi find themselves wondering what the ancient civilizations that set these traps were thinking—and protecting.
But as soon as Phee muttered the name of the legendary treasure within Skara Nal—the Heart of the Mountain—my mind went straight to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and stayed there. For all the parallels we might see between Indiana Jones and the Batch defying deadly traps in search of treasure, I think it’s The Hobbit that holds the key to unlocking this episode.
In Tolkien’s classic, greed and desolation mark the Lonely Mountain, the ultimate destination for the band of dwarves plus a hobbit. The dwarves delved too greedily and too deep and drew the attention of the dragon, Smaug. As a result, Smaug drove the dwarves from their home and made the once-dwarf kingdom his own, razing the land around it and preventing any life from returning.
As in The Hobbit, so too in The Bad Batch: Greed is marked by desolation and destruction.
In The Hobbit, it’s the dwarf Thorin Oakenshield who is hellbent on recovering the Heart of the Mountain—also known as the Arkenstone. It holds familial significance; it will justify his claim to return as King Under the Mountain. But as he gets closer to reclaiming it and once it is in fact within his grasp, he becomes possessive; he won’t let it go. All of his subsequent decisions are made out of fear of losing his prize—and clouded by suspicion that everyone is attempting to steal it from him.
It’s Bilbo Baggins—our titular hobbit—who sees Thorin’s greed for what it is and acts. The events of The Hobbit come to their epic conclusion only because that Heart of the Mountain is taken away from the one who so coveted it.
And in both stories, the greed that drives our heroes to steal these wonderous treasures unleashes the destructive power of a dragon.
So, as in The Hobbit, so too in The Bad Batch: Removing the Heart of the Mountain within Skara Nal awakens what appears to be some sort of mechanical dragon, a beast that blasts raw energy across the planet. Clearly, this was the source of the planet’s destruction. Replacing the Heart of the Mountain appears to be the only way to quell the beast.
There’s no true Thorin Oakenshield in “Entombed,” but there is clearly a moment when Phee weighs the pros and cons of making off with the Heart of the Mountain, a clearly foolish attempt to outrun wanton destruction and death. Hunter, Omega and the rest play the part of Bilbo, forcing her hand and returning the Heart of the Mountain to its rightful place. They may leave treasureless, but they at least are able to leave.
So, how does The Hobbit illuminate The Bad Batch? Greed awakens dragons—both literal and figurative—and leads to destruction. In The Hobbit, the destruction wasn’t merely the land and homes and lives around the Lonely Mountain; it also included relationships between the company of dwarves and hobbit. Rather than possessing the treasure, the treasure possessed Thorin—and nearly did the same to Phee.
If there’s a moral, maybe it’s this: Let dragons continue slumbering. No treasure is worth the physical, interpersonal and spiritual destruction such beasts can cause.