After its explosive opening, Star Wars: The Bad Batch has hit a bit of a weird, interesting, and yet kind of frustrating rut. Now in a comfortable status quo of the “mission of the week” format, the series is using the structure to apparently catch up on familiar faces shrouded in a corner of the Star Wars galaxy left behind by its most tumultuous events.
Hot off encounters with Return of the Jedi’s Bib Fortuna last week, and The Mandalorian’s Fennec Shand the week before that, “Decommissioned” — the sixth episode — at first seems like a bit of a downscale in Clone Force 99’s antics. Having embraced Omega as a full-on member of the unit, and their new uneasy alliance with Rhea Perlman’s seedy Trandoshan contractor Cid, the team has settled into a new status quo of hanging around on Ord Mantell, waiting for the next job to kick in. That job takes the Batch to the ashes of the Clone War: Cid wants a lucrative Tactical Droid processing unit she’s located in a scrap facility on Corellia, thinking she can sell its valuable combat data on the black market. It’s more than just a relic of the recent war, however, and includes information the Empire is now hoping to sweep aside as it dismantles the galaxy’s most recent, fractured state and rebuilds it under its control.
It’s an easy enough mission and conveniently puts our heroes against the ire of police droids rather than organics press-ganged into the Imperial’s history-scrubbing program. Things get more complicated though when Omega spots some of the factory workers pilfering their target… and it’s none other than sisterly tag team Trace and Rafa Martez, last seen in Clone Wars season seven’s Ahsoka return arc. Long story short: everything starts going very wrong, very quickly. The Bad Batch and the Martez sisters have to try and work together to get out of the factory alive when the robo-cops come knocking and it’s here we get to the duelling frustration and fascination that has fuelled this most recent triptych of episodes.
The Martez’s prior appearance in Clone Wars allowed us as an audience, and Ahsoka herself, to examine a class of Republic citizens left out on their own by the Jedi’s distanced, often cold relationship with the innocents they were ostensibly protecting during the Clone War. Their return here in Bad Batch speaks to the idea of wanting to explore that further and not just to see if they’d learned from Ahsoka’s steadfast belief in people’s ability to do good in the harsh galaxy around them. It’s also about how that relationship with societal structure has changed in replacing a decaying, but (somewhat) good-intentioned Republic with an efficient, but brutal Empire. The lingering impact of the Clone War after its abrupt end, not just on the state of the world or factions of it like the criminal underworld Bad Batch has rooted itself in, but the people who were left behind by it, whether it’s Trace and Rafa or our current heroes, is an idea brimming with intrigue and purpose.
Alas, we don’t really get into it here, so instead it just comes off again as feeling like familiar characters showing up because Star Wars likes it when people you know from other Star Wars show up in the new Star Wars. The Martez sisters, at least, feel distinct from either Fennec or Fortuna’s role in the show so far. They’re both recently introduced characters with potential for further exploration, and tonally suited to the ideas that Bad Batch wants to explore, taking the sting out of Star Wars’ (and Star Wars animation’s, in particular) penchant for an increasingly insular worldview of the galaxy at large. What we get is a quick and easy alliance in part thanks to Omega warming up to the sisters, and ultimately, a happy ending as the whole group makes it off Corellia in… mostly one piece.
Hunter, still untrusting of just who Cid has the team working for, offers the data recovered from the Tactical Droid to Trace, believing that her intentions are probably nobler than Cid’s. Indeed they seemingly are, when after parting ways it’s revealed to us that the Martez sisters are working for a mysterious benefactor — one fighting back against the Empire, who might be interested in learning that there are some clones who have gone rogue from their new masters. It’s a good angle for the sisters’ Clone Wars arc to have taken: left behind by the Republic, they’re making their own way of doing good in the galaxy by taking what was left behind in the war to fight back against the new regime. But time will tell if The Bad Batch intends to build on that, or is simply satisfied with them showing up to make another connection to Star Wars’ recent past before going off on their way. What the show is clearly much more interested in following up on for now, however, is much more sinister.
For the past few episodes, the series has taken a distinctly unsubtle approach to suggesting that something is up with our dear big boy of the group, Wrecker; a persistent headache, at first played off as a momentary trauma, is now a lasting indicator that perhaps his inhibitor chip is not quite as inhibited as the team previously thought. Another head-thwack in “Decommissioned” — he really needs more padding in that helmet — pushes Wrecker closer to having his chip activate, slurring the infamous words that only good soldiers follow orders as he drifts in and out of consciousness for much of the episode’s climactic action sequence before recovering.
It would seem that as long as The Bad Batch is interested in, and inextricably attached to, the long shadow of the Clone War, then Order 66’s role in its final act of slaughter is going to be very much a part of that exploration — even as the show lays the groundwork for a galaxy of strugglers that move on from one conflict to another against the universe’s new masters.