Hello and welcome to the first installment of Laughing Place’s regular recaps of the new Disney+ series Star Wars: The Bad Batch from Lucasfilm Animation.
The first episode of Star Wars: The Bad Batch, entitled “Aftermath,” opens with the familiar logo to the show’s predecessor Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which burns away to reveal the Bad Batch logo. We’re then treated to a similarly recognizable introduction narrated by voice actor Tom Kane, reminding us that the Republic’s forces are mounting victories against Separatist armies across the galaxy. On the planet Kaller, clone troopers fight alongside Jedi Knights against General Grievous’s remaining battle droid battalions. Jedi Master Depa Billaba (Archie Panjabi) waits for her Padawan learner Caleb Dume (later to become known as Kanan Jarrus from the animated series Star Wars Rebels— Freddie Prinze Jr. reprises that role here) to bring reinforcements to the front.
Suddenly from out of the snowy forest hills comes a giant rolling boulder, which takes out a group of battle droids. Then the titular Bad Batch AKA Clone Force 99 (Hunter, Wrecker, Tech, and Echo– all voiced by actor Dee Bradley Baker) come running out of the trees while their squadmate Crosshair (also Baker) fires on the droids from the top of the hill. The Bad Batch makes easy work of the droid army and its hovertanks, which they attach to each other with cables as Wrecker pushes them over the edge of a cliff. Depa and Caleb watch from afar as Clone Force 99 emerges from the ensuing smoke post-battle as Hunter suggests General Billaba order a counterattack on another approaching droid battalion.
Depa orders the attack while Wrecker reconnects with Caleb and Billaba asks her apprentice to introduce her to his new friends. Depa compliments the team on their work and asks them to explain where her actual reinforcements are. Hunter says they were rerouted to the capital, so they’re stuck with the Bad Batch (or “all you need,” if you believe Wrecker). Tech interrupts to say the Republic army may not need any of them, as the Clone War might soon be over, since he heard via intelligence comm chatter that Obi-Wan Kenobi found General Grievous on Utapau. Billaba suggests they focus on the task at hand, and agrees with Dume to let Clone Force 99 do what they do. “Only if I can go with them,” adds Caleb.
As the team heads off into action leaving Depa behind, her clone commander receives the holo-transmission from Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (recycled audio of Ian McDiarmid from Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith) telling him to “Execute Order 66.” Caleb Dume stops in his tracks as he senses something amiss, and turns around to see his master battling her own clone troopers. Overwhelmed by their numbers, Depa falls in battle as Caleb is too late to help her. “You must run!” shouts Billaba before she screams in pain as she is murdered by the clones. The Bad Batch arrive back on the scene but Dume no longer trusts them. He runs off into the woods as our protagonists debate what just happened. The members of Clone Force 99 seem largely unaffected by Order 66 thus far, and the team splits up as Hunter and Crosshair attempt to track down Caleb while the others investigate the “reg” troopers’ actions.
Hunter and Crosshair find Caleb hiding in a tree and Hunter tries to coax him down, though Crosshair suddenly decides to take a shot at the Padawan. Caleb jumps away and Hunter is exasperated at Crosshair: “What are you doing?” “Following orders… good soldiers follow orders.” Wrecker tells the reg clones that Hunter is handling tracking down the Jedi, but they insist they must take care of it because their orders came from the supreme chancellor himself. Tech communicates the clones’ orders to Hunter, who argues further with Crosshair as they encounter Dume again. Caleb fights back with his lightsaber, blocking Crosshair’s shots and knocking the sniper rifle from his hands. Hunter throws away his own blaster to demonstrate he doesn’t mean the Jedi any harm, but Dume runs away again anyway.
Hunter corners Caleb at a waterfall and the latter accuses the former of killing Depa Billaba. “The others did. I’m just as confused as you are,” says Hunter in his own defense, and he tries to persuade Caleb to come with him. “I can help you.” But other clone trooper voices start approaching and Caleb gets spooked, Force-leaping over the river and escaping into the wilderness. Crosshair reaches the waterfall and Hunter tells him Caleb didn’t make it. They leave Kaller and return to their base on Kamino, where the team says they haven’t been in “a long time.” On their ship the Havoc Marauder, Crosshair asks Hunter if he’s sure the Padawan died when he fell into the chasm, which Hunter confirms. “Usually when someone falls you look down, not across,” counters Crosshair. As the ship approaches Kamino, Clone Force 99 is asked for a clearance code, much to their surprise.
The Havoc Marauder lands and the Bad Batch are puzzled to find shock troopers patrolling the base. One of the Coruscant Guard tells them the war is over thanks to General Grievous being defeated and the Separatist leadership collapsing. Hunter frowns as some clones walk by with a stretch carrying a fallen Jedi, and a lightsaber drops from under the sheet. On the way back to their barracks, Clone Force 99 discusses how all the other clones are acting strange. In their quarters, Wrecker marks eleven more successful missions on the wall, though Crosshair says they failed to meet their objectives on Kaller because Hunter let the Jedi escape. “I don’t like to think of executing our commanders as a mission objective,” says Hunter.
The Bad Batch tries to figure out what happened to the “reg” clones, with Tech explaining that they were engineered to follow orders without question, though Clone Force 99’s manipulated DNA makes them immune to the effects of the programming. Echo’s experiences also wiped out his behavioral presets, though Crosshair sure seems like the only member of the squad to be under Order 66’s influence. All clones on the station are called to a meeting, where they watch Palpatine’s speech as the Sith Lord claims the title of emperor. The regs erupt in applause as Palpatine declares the Republic’s transformation into the first Galactic Empire, which further convinces Tech that their minds are programmed.
Later in the hallway, the Bad Batch are debating the merits of an Empire when Hunter realizes they are being followed by a new character named Omega (Michelle Ang)– a young girl who seems to know and admire the team’s members. A Kaminoan scientist named Nala Se (Gwendoline Yeo) approaches and tells the group that Omega is her medical assistant and that they have work to do. Omega is led away by Nala Se, though she’s clearly intrigued by Clone Force 99. “This day keeps getting weirder and weirder,” comments Hunter. Another ship arrives on the station and in it is Admiral Wilhuff Tarkin (Stephen Stanton), who meets with the Kaminoans to tell them their clone production program may be coming to an end. “Your contracts were with the Republic, which no longer exists,” says Tarkin. He says conscription soldiers could provide a similar service as the clone at half the cost.
The Kaminoans claim the clones’ efficiency and skill are superior to any normal soldier, to which Tarkin responds, “I shall be the judge of that.” At the mess hall, Hunter reports to the rest of the Bad Batch that an Imperial officer has arrived to evaluate the clones. Omega enters and joins the group as they eat. “I like you. You don’t fit in around here either,” says Omega, as some reg clones pass by and mock “the Sad Batch.” Omega throws food at one of the clones, demanding they apologize. “I like this kid!” yells Wrecker, who throws an entire tray at the trooper, causing a brawl to break out in the cafeteria. Tarkin watches from above as the clones fight each other and Echo gets knocked out in the ensuing chaos. He wakes up to find Omega and a medical droid named AZI-3 (Ben Diskin) watching over him, and the rest of his teammates enter the infirmary to check on him.
AZI-3 tells the Bad Batch they are “genetically defective clones,” which they are not shocked by in the least. Echo tells the group he saw Admiral Tarkin, who is “not a big supporter of clones.” Clone Force 99 is summoned by Kaminoan Prime Minister Lama Su (Bob Bergen), and Echo insists she tag along as she helped start the fight, though Hunter sends her away. “Our squad’s nothing but trouble. For your sake, keep your distance.” The Bad Batch is directed to a training facility, as Tarkin has requested to see more of the squad in action. On the training grounds, Tarkin tells the team they are being evaluated in combat efficiency, and of course they mop the floor with the drones, so Tarkin orders the Kaminoans to switch to Dark Trooper-like droids with live ammunition.
Wrecker gets his bell rung during the subsequent battle, but the group realizes they have to dispose of their training blasters and work together to take out one of the droids in hand-to-hand combat so Tech can reprogram it to fight for them. Tarkin appears impressed by Clone Force 99’s ability to improvise and use unorthodox tactics, and he asks the Kaminoans for additional information on the team. They tell him only five enhanced clones remain, but that they could be an asset to the new Empire. Tarkin is concerned by their disobedience and disregard for orders, and asks if they successfully executed Order 66. Lama Su assumes they did, but Tarkin tells them to assume nothing, believing the Padawan to have escaped on Kaller. “Let us see where the loyalty of these clones truly lies.”
The Bad Batch return to their barracks, angry that Tarkin used live rounds on them. “There’s a fundamental difference between taking fire in battle and being used for target practice,” says Tech. Tarkin appears in the doorway and compliments the group on their impressive display in the training facility. He gives them a new mission, saying the Empire has tracked a group of Separatist insurgents to the Onderon sector, and tells them that neutralizing this threat will cause them to be looked upon most favorably as he further assesses the needs of the Imperial army. So Clone Force 99 loads up the Havoc Marauder with weapons and explosives from the base’s newly stocked armory and heads to Onderon, but not before Omega warns Hunter that Tarkin has it out for the team. “He doesn’t like clones. I don’t trust him,” says Omega.
Omega wants to join the Bad Batch and leave Kamino with them, but Hunter insists she’ll get used to the changes and leaves without her. The Havoc Marauder lands on Onderon, where the squad can’t find any trace of battle droids, though they do come across a rebel encampment with 25 inhabitants, including children. Hunter gives the order to stand down, though Crosshair wants to finish the mission and take out the insurgents. Suddenly the group is surrounded by rebel soldiers with blasters pointed at them, and Hunter decides to surrender and hear them out. At the camp, the group meets Saw Gerrera (Andrew Kishino), who Tech recognizes as having been trained by Captain Rex and General Anakin Skywalker. Gerrera deduces that the Empire sent the Bad Batch to wipe out his insurgency, but Hunter says they expected to find battle droids, not civilians.
Hunter looks around at Saw’s companions and asks who these people are. Gerrera tells him they are “villagers, croppers, former Republic fighters” who are all now displaced refugees in the wake of Palpatine’s governmental siege. Tech says he heard the Jedi made an attempt on the emperor’s life, but Saw refutes that claim. “With the Jedi decimated and the clone army under his command, Palpatine will have control over the entire galaxy. Unless we stop him.” Gerrera says the Clone War may have ended, but a civil war is about to begin. Saw’s forces are leaving to make a rendezvous with other rebels, and he gives the Bad Batch the option to join them. “You can either adapt and survive, or die with the past. The decision is yours.”
As Clone Force 99 leaves the camp, an Imperial probe droid follows them. Crosshair again wants to complete the mission, but Echo says he won’t eliminate innocent civilians. Hunter and Crosshair have it out about the former’s decision to disobey Tarkin, until Hunter spots the probe droid and blasts it out of the sky. “We’re being followed,” he says. The group concludes that they’re being spied on, and Hunter tells his teammates about Omega’s warning. Tech says he’s figured out that Omega is likely an enhanced clone with heightened sensibilities, having analyzed her DNA, and Hunter decides they have to return to Kamino to rescue her, though Crosshair is vocally opposed to the idea. “She’s one of us. We’re not leaving her there,” says Hunter, and Crosshair reluctantly boards the ship with the rest of the squad.
Back on Kamino, Omega and AZI-3 explore the Bad Batch’s barracks, though AZI-3 says Nala Se instructed them to stay in the medical wing. Omega finds a datapad with an image of the team, while AZI-3 concludes the space to be unfit for habitation. A shock trooper opens the door and finds the two interlopers, taking Omega into custody and disabling AZI-3. Meanwhile, the Havoc Marauder returns to Kamino to find a deserted landing platform. Hunter orders the team to split up, find Omega, and meet back at the ship, but the group is ambushed by a battalion of shock troopers, with Admiral Tarkin following close behind. “The Empire does not tolerate failure, Sergeant,” Tarkin says to Hunter, elaborating that the probe droid’s report was quite detailed and he knows they’ve been collaborating with Saw Gerrera. “I assume you know the punishment for treason.”
The shock troopers take the Bad Batch to the brig, where they are reunited with Omega. “I warned you not to come back,” she says, though Hunter says they had to because they were looking for her. He invites her to join them when they break out, but Crosshair is not happy about the entire situation. “Good soldiers follow orders,” Crosshair repeats, confirming his reaction to Order 66. “Every choice you’ve made since Kaller has been wrong… you’re becoming a liability.” Hunter says they can debate his choices later, but for now they should focus on escaping. Omega tells Crosshair she can tell he is angry and she “knows what he is going to do,” but then she asks him not to do it. “I know it’s not your fault. You can’t help it.” A shock trooper enters to take Crosshair away, though Wrecker tries to intervene to no avail.
Medical droids scan Crosshair’s brain, and Nala Se says his genetic mutations have altered his inhibitor chip, but it still appears to be working. Tarkin tells Nala Se to intensify the chip’s programming, and the droids zap Crosshair with lasers as he winces in pain. In the brig, Tech remembers the Kaminoan facility doesn’t have a reinforced prison as it was built prior to the Clone Wars. Hunter has Wrecker bust through the wall while the others form a wall to block the shock trooper guards from seeing. Tech removes the broken panel and Omega volunteers to squeeze through the new hole to reach the control console and lower the ray shield. The guards notice that Omega is gone and that Wrecker is leaning against the missing part of the wall. Omega deliberately falls through a ceiling tile on top of the troopers, knocking them to the ground.
She pulls the lever, opening the cell, but the guards grab her. Fortunately, now the Bad Batch is free and Wrecker knocks out the guard holding Omega. Tech stuns the remaining trooper and the team goes off in search of Crosshair. They make their way through the base with Omega mimicking Hunter’s movements, and she tells him their gear might be in the hangar. They reclaim their equipment and weapons, and Hunter orders Tech to power up the ship while the rest of them go after Crosshair. “I don’t think we’ll have to go far,” says Omega, as she evidently senses Crosshair entering the room a couple seconds before he does, accompanied by half a dozen more shock troopers. Crosshair tells Hunter he should stand down. “We should’ve killed that Jedi. You disobeyed orders.”
“I did what I thought was right,” responds Hunter, and a blaster fight breaks out between the two groups when he refuses to surrender. The shock troopers throw smoke grenades into the hangar, limiting visibility, though Crosshair uses the heat vision in his rangefinder in an attempt to snipe the other members of the Bad Batch. Wrecker clears the smoke by clanging two big metal panels together, but then he’s winged by a blaster shot from Crosshair’s rifle. Omega wants to help Wrecker, but Hunter says Crosshair is using him as bait and stops her. The shock troopers begin the process of closing the hangar bay doors, but Nala Se overrides the controls from her laboratory. The group scrambles onto the Havoc Marauder while dodging blaster fire, and Omega even helps disarm Crosshair. The ship takes off with our heroes safely aboard as Crosshair resentfully watches them go.
In a private meeting between the two, Nala Se tells Lama Su that Crosshair’s inhibitor chip augmentation was a success but the other members of Clone Force 99 escaped along with Omega. Lama Su says not to tell the Empire anything until their intentions are made clear. On the Havoc Marauder, Echo injects Wrecker with medication for his arm and Echo helps him reunite with his tooka-cat doll. Tech further examines Wrecker’s injury while Omega visits the cockpit, in awe at the vision of outer space surrounding her. “Your first time in space?” asks Hunter. “First time anywhere,” admits Omega. Hunter asks her where she learned to make such an impressive blaster rifle shot, to which she replies, “I don’t know. I never fired a blaster before. I guess I got lucky.” Hunter says the plan was originally for the group to go off on their own and lay low, but with Crosshair gunning for them they may have to seek out help from a friend. They set a course for J-19 and jump into hyperspace, to Omega’s wide-eyed amazement.
New episodes of Star Wars: The Bad Batch will be released Fridays, exclusively on Disney+.
Mike serves as Laughing Place’s lead Southern California reporter, Editorial Director for Star Wars content, and host of the weekly “Who’s the Bossk?” Star Wars podcast. He’s been fascinated by Disney theme parks and storytelling in general all his life and resides in Burbank, California with his beloved wife and cats.