This episode has one of the most intriguing openings of The Bad Batch. It begins with a clone trooper running from massiffs on a forest planet. He is stunned and captured by other clone troopers. It is not Ryloth, so Captain Howzer was immediately taken off the table. But it is another clone trooper clashing with the Empire that leads the Bad Batch to a secret Imperial base in a hollowed-out mountain. I like the outcome of this episode but have mixed feelings about the journey. Let’s discuss “War-Mantle”:
Interesting Places But Less Interesting Familiar Faces
Captain Rex makes a brief appearance but long enough to drive the plot and the team to Daro to rescue an old friend designated CC-5576. Daro is another beautifully animated location introduced and, when the team arrives, they find the beacon but no clone. Hunter senses that the clone was hunted (ha!) and captured. After Hunter, Tech, and Echo sneak into the base, they find the clone’s location, and the clone turns out to be…Gregor. Another The Clone Wars/Rebels character. And my eyes rolled. While some fans complained that Hera’s appearance was forced, it was a satisfying storyline that showed character growth in Hera, Omega, and Hunter while exploring clone dissent from the Empire. This appearance is more like a clumsy plot device that only serves to get Hunter captured.
Plus (spoiler alert), Gregor is not a significant character in either The Clone Wars or Rebels, so having the team spend time breaking him out to explain how he ends up with Rex in Rebels is a waste of perfectly good prison break. You know what would be a great prison break? If Hunter felt compelled to go back to Ryloth and free Howzer and his men, then he was captured. The stakes were already established, Howzer is a favorite of people who are already watching The Bad Batch, but might not have watched The Clone Wars or Rebels. And it would not be a shoehorned attempt at adding a minor character to the mix. At best, Gregor serves as an exposition tool to explain Project War-Mantle to the team. And Dee Bradley Baker does a great job portraying Gregor’s beginning stages of kookiness that is evident as an older clone in Rebels. Other than that, this is one waste of an appearance.
Quantity Over Quality
Project War-Mantle, also the title of the episode was mentioned in episode three, “The Replacements.” War-Mantle was an Imperial Project mentioned in Rogue One and in the novel Catalyst. But in “The Replacements,” we find out that it is the Imperial intention to replace the clone troopers with conscripted soldiers. And like Order 66 over the final season of The Clone Wars, that initiative has been hovering over the entire season of The Bad Batch as an inevitability. I assumed the transition would happen in a second season, but the Empire has been training replacements on secret bases, like Daro and probably other planets across the galaxy.
Echo is disgusted when Gregor tells him clones are being replaced and states “numbers aren’t everything.” But Echo does not yet know what the viewer does: that the Empire will be run on quantity because resources (including soldiers) are replaceable. And Crosshair has knowledge of this but does not seem concerned. He may think he is immune to being replaced, but if Crosshair is still replaced by his team members in the end…well, that would just be poetic. After all, numbers are not everything, but they are something.
It had to happen eventually. All of the heroic missions the team has undertaken, against Hunter’s better judgment, finally caught up with them. The end result is Hunter is captured by Imperial forces and will likely be used as bait by Crosshair to draw the other team members out. The emotional payoff of Hunter and Omega’s relationship was heartbreaking as Omega begs Hunter to order the team back to Daro to rescue him. And it presents an interesting scenario and challenge to the Bad Batch leader. This is probably the only time in his life that he has been without his team. He is also face to face with a former team member, with who he has been at odds since before Crosshair was brainwashed. I am sure most people are expecting an action-packed episode next as the remaining Bad Batch regroup and plan to get Hunter, but it would be great if things slowed down and we get a conversation with Hunter and Crosshair. It will likely be a mix of both, and it was smart to isolate Hunter, so he can face Crosshair alone.
Exit Lama Su and Possibly the Rest of the Clones
With Project War-Mantle being his design, Admiral Rampart has been undermining the Kaminoans in various ways. Now the Empire has officially canceled their contracts with the Kaminoans, and clones are leaving the facility. Lama Su, understanding that they have emboldened the Empire at their own expense, instructs Nala Se to gather medical personnel so they can depart. When Nala Se is found out, Rampart confronts Lama Su. The Prime Minister tries to play it off, ensuring that he will punish Se, but there is a twist. Rampart tells Lama Su the Empire has use for scientists, but not for a politician, and informs the Prime Minister that his services are no longer needed. The doors close, and we are to assume that Lama Su is executed.
This was expected as the Kaminoans are not around during the Imperial era, but questions remain: Where are the “viable” clones, as Rampart calls them, going? What is happening to the ones who are not viable? Is the Empire going to hang on to the young clones who are also leaving Kamino?
The lifespan of a clone is shorter, but clones like Rex and Gregor are still around well into the Imperial era. The Empire may just kill the rest, given that there are clones like Howzer and his men who refuse orders. That would also be tragically poetic if the clones were to suffer the same fate as their former allies, the Jedi. Echo notes that the encryption codes on the base are new, and Gregor notes that clone codes do not work. The Empire has no intention of keeping the clones around, so we are still waiting for their exit.
There are a couple of stats listed by Echo when he hacks the base system: 50 Clone Commandos and 1,000 TK Troopers, the latter a designation not familiar to Tech. It is a small window between this period and Rebels where we do not see this trooper armor; however, there is a Star Wars Republic Commando game coming, and the armor looks similar. The game is during the Republic era, so it could just be an Easter egg…or an opportunity to sell more toys.
We finally get to see a Gonk droid serving its purpose. Three cheers for Gonky!