Long before season seven was confirmed or the first trailer released, when The Clone Wars finishing was a pipe dream, Lucasfilm released animatics at Star Wars Celebration of one arc around a group of enhanced clones. Months after, these animatics found their way online for more people to see.
So many years later when the much anticipated seventh season released its first episode and it was the beginning of the same arc many fans had already watched (albeit with finished VFX), there was some disappointment. The big marketing push for season seven was Ahsoka and Maul fighting on Mandalore (which had already been referenced in the Ahsoka novel) and many were eager to get there. In the end, “The Bad Batch” proved to be an important arc for Clone Captain Rex going into the last four episodes of the season and series.
With the interest in The Clone Wars at an all-time high, thanks to The Mandalorian and the live-action introduction of Ahsoka and Bo Katan to the wider audience, The Bad Batch might be a lot of Star Wars fans first animated series (seven seasons is a lot to ask of new fans who are interested in watching the show but might not have the time to watch all seven seasons of another animated show). If that’s the case, I recommend watching the four episodes in season seven introducing the team (“The Bad Batch”, “A Distant Echo”, “On the Wings of Keeradaks”, “Unfinished Business”).
If you are or know someone that will jump into The Bad Batch with fresh eyes, there are a few things to know: the Bad Batch’s formal name is Clone Force 99 (which is mentioned in the first episode) but there is significance to the number “99.” Clone 99 was a clone with genetic and physical defects that prevented him from being in the field, resulting in 99 being confined to maintenance duty on the clone’s home planet Kamino. He formed a friendship with members of the Domino Squad, including Echo, who is also a main plot point in this arc and whose story will feature heavily in The Bad Batch as the team’s newest member. Ultimately, 99 died assisting his brothers in arms during a Separatist attack on the Kamino facility. It is also possible that, because of 99’s efforts and sacrifice, the Kaminoans/Jedi were more open to using other clones with defects in battle.
The arc centers around Captain Rex suspecting that the recent string of losses by the Republic is due to the Separatists having access to their battle strategies. More specifically, strategies that Rex authored himself along with Echo…who is believed to be dead. Still, it is a nagging feeling that Rex has but keeps mostly to himself, not trusting his General (Anakin Skywalker) and only confiding in Commander Cody, who brushes it off as wishful thinking; however, Jedi Master Mace Windu gives Rex, Cody, and Anakin the go-ahead to lead a mission behind enemy lines and infiltrate a data center to get answers on Separatists’ intel and enlist the help of Clone Force 99/Bad Batch.
While most of the time spent in the first two episodes is learning each of the member’s quirks and skillsets (the dumb/strong one, the smart one, the straight shooter/mean one, and the leader), there is also evidence of the emotional toll that the long war, and many losses, has taken on soldiers who were created solely to fight. That it does not get easier and, in fact as Cody puts it, “sometimes in war, it’s hard to be the one that survives.” Rex has suffered tremendous loss and is one of the last survivors of his original squad so, when there is a possibility to bring back an old member, he also has to challenge others to trust him.
Trust is a big theme for this arc and the Bad Batch, who don’t seem to trust other clones, have lessons to learn as well which will likely carry over into the series. The four episodes are all under 30 minutes each so it is a quick watch/refresher to get ready when the show starts Tuesday, May 4th. The premiere will be a 70-minute episode (common for the animated Star Wars series premieres) followed by another episode Friday, May 7th, and each Friday thereafter. If you have extra time, I would also recommend the final four episodes of season seven to get an idea of where things stand in the galaxy at large, although I am sure there will be a summary presented in some form at the beginning of the show. While the arc was not the best of the season, it very well could stand in contrast to a far superior series.
And if you are waiting until the whole show is on Disney+, then you still have all of May to watch this arc. Happy watching!