The Bad Batch: Tech’s death and the neurodivergent community

Tech. Image courtesy
Tech. Image courtesy /

This article has major spoilers for The Bad Batch episode “Plan 99”

It was only a few weeks ago when I wrote a piece about how excited fans were after The Bad Batch episode “The Crossing.” During the conversation with Omega, Tech confirmed that he was neurodivergent, the first on-screen character in the franchise to do so. It was a major moment for representation that resonated with so many fans.

Well-written neurodivergent, specifically autistic, characters are a rarity in media. In 2021, GLAAD reported that only 3.5% of scripted characters were disabled. It’s important to note that percentage also includes physical disabilities too. GLAAD noted in their report, “This number continues to severely underrepresent the actual U.S. population living with disabilities.”

Neurodivergent characters in animation have been on the rise in the last decade. Usually, these characters are often PSA-like episodes or for very young audiences. Fully fleshed-out characters who simply exist as part of the narrative are much harder to find, though that has been starting to change recently. Some notable examples of characters purposely written to be neurodivergent by neurodivergent creators are Luz Noceda in The Owl House, Entrapta in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, and Norma from Dead End: Paranormal Park. All three of these characters are female. Finding male neurodivergent animated characters is even harder. It’s exciting to see more representation, though as the GLAAD report stated, it’s still greatly lacking.

This is why Tech’s confirmation as neurodivergent in “The Crossing” was such a big deal. Along with the rarity of the representation to be blatantly confirmed, it was a first for on-screen Star Wars. The work with Tech’s character in season two is impactful. We got a sense of who he is, the depths of his love for his family, and his skills as a person. Also, it was great to see him get a love interest with Phee Genoa. Usually, romance goes to neurotypical characters like Hunter, so it was wonderful to have that story with Tech.

All of this gives me so many mixed feelings about Tech’s death in “Plan 99.” Though to be clear, I personally don’t think Tech is dead. In season one, Hunter fell off an entire mountain and didn’t have a scratch. The only person who confirmed Tech’s death was Doctor Hemlock, a villain, and Hemlock could be lying. Crazier things have happened in Star Wars! For the purpose of this article, I will discuss my mixed feelings as if Tech is actually dead.

When there are so few characters in media of a severely underrepresented group, major deaths like this can be incredibly hurtful to a community. It’s hard to finally be seen in the series you love only to have it ripped away. This is not to say that neurodivergent characters can’t die. It’s more that when you’re in a 3.5% group in media, you feel that death even more. If they killed off Hunter, he’s a dime a dozen character. There are a plethora of neurotypical characters like him. There aren’t many characters like Tech, which puts a much bigger spotlight on the group he represents. It’s so frustrating to get stellar representation confirmed only to have him ripped away six episodes later.

If there is any comfort in this, it’s the fact that Tech chose the sacrifice himself. This isn’t a case of “fridging” where Tech was killed unnecessarily for man pain. This isn’t a “Bury Your Gays” trope where Tech was immediately killed off after being confirmed neurodivergent. This was Tech, with his own autonomy, making a choice that was powerful and purposeful. It wasn’t a senseless death. It wasn’t a death to launch another character’s story. It was his and his alone. That does make it easier.

It’s hard grappling with the death of characters we love. But when it’s a character from an underrepresented group, the weight of the death hits harder. There are so few neurodivergent characters in media, and we lost the only on-screen example in Star Wars. It’s a major blow to representation in a galaxy far, far away.

I hope Tech will be the first of many neurodiverse characters in this franchise. But if he is really dead, it’s a demise that will be felt by this fan for some time.