Watching “Common Ground” felt a lot like watching “Rampage.” They share many similarities: both find the Bad Batch running a mission for Cid, Echo is not happy about it, and Hunter is too busy worrying about protecting Omega. It feels like a step back in progression and almost like the middle part of a bigger arc. But there are still some things to discuss:
Old Wounds from Old Times
The episode starts from a new perspective other than the Bad Batch or Crosshair. We meet Senator Avi Singh from Raxus, who is pressured to speak on behalf of the “righteous” Empire. He has a change of heart mid-sentence and calls the Imperials what they are: colonizers. He is promptly taken away by Captain Bragg; however, his droid GS-8 escapes and sends out a distress call, and you can guess who is going to answer that call. If you watch The Clone Wars, you might remember Raxus as the planet where we first meet Lux Bonteri and his mother, Senator Mina Bonteri. That arc saw Ahsoka Tano learn that there are good people on the Separatist side, and we return to Raxus so Echo can learn the same lesson.
Echo has thoughts and feelings about the Separatists, having fought them relentlessly during the Clone Wars and being captured and experimented on by Separatists forces. Understandably, Echo would not want to help one, and that sentiment deserved more exploration. The team has to fight against their clone brothers to rescue a Separatist, and that can’t be easy, though it is interesting that they make a point to stun the clones and not kill them. It contrasts with the Empire, who have no problems firing shells on Imperial soldiers to take out their enemies. The Empire is already displaying the characteristics that made them vulnerable during the Rebellion, namely viewing their workforce as expendable. In the end, it all wraps up too neatly. Echo encourages the reluctant Senator to escape with the ever-present line “Live to fight another day.”
If we were following The Clone Wars structure, this whole episode would have been spread out into two or three episodes and explore Echo’s justified distrust of former Separatists. I respect that The Bad Batch is not The Clone Wars Part 2 and doing its own thing, but episodes like “Common Ground” show the weakness of serial works that wrap up conflicts within one episode. Echo also keeps getting shortchanged on needed character development and, since they have not announced a season two yet, we have six more episodes left and very little Echo to show for the time already spent.
Who’s the Adult and Who’s the Child?
I don’t understand how Dejarick works. At least I don’t understand why we always see the last moves of the game, and the winning player always seems to have more moves than the loser. But Omega understands how it all works which is all that matters. Dejarick is usually onscreen as downtime for characters, but here it is used for story progression. Omega turns out to be a strategic genius and, after rescuing herself from Cad Bane, she uses her skills to pay off the Bad Batch’s debt to Cid. The group returns with the Senator to see a crowd gathered around the Dejarik table and Omega beating her final opponent. She’s made enough money to pay off their debt, and she never even had to leave Ord Mantell.
For a show that explores the theme of adapting to new situations, Omega seems to be excelling more than the rest of the Bad Batch. She has learned from her mistakes and is thriving while Hunter and the others are running in circles. Omega gets left behind because Hunter doesn’t want to take her to an Imperial-occupied planet even though she has proven herself. So she negotiates a better deal with Cid that gives them autonomy. It is a great spin on the “protecting the special child” trope in Fantasy/Sci-Fi stories, and the rest of the team should start realizing that they could learn from Omega. If The Bad Batch wanted to take a dark turn, this weakness could have fatal consequences for the guys, and Omega could be the only one that comes out of the show alive. Even if that scenario doesn’t happen, there is no doubt she would do just fine on her own.
This episode introduces another droid superstar in GS-8, voiced by Sian Clifford from Fleabag. I wouldn’t mind seeing the character again, and there might be something special about RA-7 protocol droids because one of the best side characters of Rebels was AP-5, another RA droid, voiced by Stephen Stanton.
I’ve mentioned this before, but I continue to be impressed with the cinematography of this show. There is a shot where Hunter slides under an AT-TE while shooting at clone troopers that feels like an action moment one might see in a John Wick film. It is short but impressive and, even though this episode was not my favorite, there are always unique and exciting production elements that I’ve never seen in Star Wars.