Perhaps the most relatable theme ever to grace Star Wars and one that is fairly prominent in this season of The Bad Batch. Knowing whom you do business with is a tough lesson almost everyone will learn in their lifetime, and, in the Star Wars universe, that lesson can be fatal.
The Bad Batch and Cid
The Bad Batch has the sense to know that they do not want to be in service to the Empire. And along their journey, they stumble upon a Cid, a Trandoshan bar-owner who was an informant of the Jedi. Cid would feed information on the underworld to the Jedi for credits but, since the Empire put the Jedi out of business, she has found other means of work: mainly running smuggling jobs out of her bar.
After Cid helps get information on Fennec Shand in exchange for pulling a job, she coerces them to continue working for her with a thinly veiled threat of knowing Omega is valuable to someone. Even though it is not completely their choice, it works out as they get much needed credits. However, they continue to do jobs that weigh on their consciousness. The first is freeing Muchi from Zygerrian slavers in the episode “Rampage.” While they are under the impression that Muchi is a person, she turns out to be a Rancor. This causes additional problems for the team, namely Wrecker having to battle Muchi for dominance until they both collapse from exhaustion. Echo doesn’t want to be involved with slavers, and Hunter is irritated that they didn’t know Muchi was a Rancor. Cid omitting information is a regular occurrence, either intentionally or because she does not have all the information.
In “Decommissioned,” the team is sent to a factory on Corellia to retrieve a tactical droid from the Clone Wars. Given that the Imperial army consists of clones, the value of tactical droids who have strategic plans fighting them has increased. While trying to retrieve one, however, they run into two strangers also after the tactical droid. These two turn out to be sisters Trace and Rafa, who, like the Bad Batch, were introduced in the final season of The Clone Wars. Their arc involved a similar lesson in learning whom you are doing business with, and their arc has led them to fight back against the Empire. They have (off-screen) gone on the journey that the Bad Batch is now embarking on. Rafa calls out that the team does not even know where the tactical droid would be going if handed over to Cid. In the end, Hunter decides to give Trace and Rafa the information from the droid Tech downloaded. The good deed pays off, and Rafa tells her contact, who ends up being Captain Rex, about the rogue clones. From that point on, the team does question Cid’s motives and challenges her occasionally. They do not quit working for her even though Omega helped pay off their debt in episode ten, “Common Ground.” At some point, they will have to reconcile whether they still want to play mercenary or for Cid or go their separate ways.
ES-01 and the Empire
On the Imperial side, Admiral Rampart is spearheading Project War-Mantle, replacing clone troopers with conscripted soldiers. In episode three, “Replacements,” Rampart presents his case to Tarkin in the form of a group of conscripted stealth soldiers that look similar to Death troopers. Tarkin assigns the team, under the leadership of Crosshair, a mission to finish what the Bad Batch could not in “Aftermath.” They are ordered to Onederon to eliminate Saw’s fighters.
Before the mission, we meet ES-01, who sees the Empire has a secure job where he gets paid, fed, and has a roof over his head, which is more than the Republic ever did. He acts every bit the part of an antagonist for Crosshair, mocking the clone as a relic. However, in a twist, ES-01 stands up to Crosshair when the latter orders them to kill civilians using Saw’s fighters for transport. ES-01 protests that they “signed up to be soldiers, not an execution squad.”
He tries to override Crosshairs orders, telling the other soldiers to ignore his orders. He is promptly executed by Crosshair for not following orders. The rest of the soldiers are put on notice and ordered to complete the mission, which they do in one of the more brutal (but still Disneyfied) scenes. Despite the uneven pacing of the story shared with Omega and the Bad Batch, “Replacements” is the best example of the subtle evilness of the Empire. By promising young soldiers a purpose, then forcing loyalty through fear, the Empire made hundreds of thousands (probably millions) of “willing” participants in their atrocities. And you can see the beginnings of those tactics here. As ES-01, unfortunately, found out, there is no such thing as a free meal with the Empire.
Roland, Cid, and the Pykes
Roland Durand, the son of crime boss Isa Durand and Cid’s former client, pushes her out of her smuggling business in “Infested” and starts making deals with other syndicates. One of these is the Pyke Syndicate, with whom Star Wars fans are familiar in connection to Spice Smuggling from Solo: A Star Wars Story and The Clone Wars. Infamous as one of the more brutal operations in the galaxy if you cross them, which both Roland and Cid do (though Cid tries more covertly). In an attempt to get her smuggling business back, Cid forces the Bad Batch to help her steal a shipment of Spice Roland has acquired for the Pykes, with the attention of putting him in debt with the organization. The Pykes would remove Roland, and Cid would be back in business…if things went according to plan. Unfortunately, several errors occur on both sides. Cid and the Bad Batch lose the Spice in an enormous hive cave while being chased by Roland’s men. Then, Roland and his men make the mistake of drawing their blasters on the Pykes and threatening them when the deal goes south. Roland’s men are wiped out and Roland is taken prisoner, but the Pykes also take Omega prisoner to get Cid and the team to retrieve the Spice.
Roland, in a bid to impress his crime boss mother, overplayed his hand with the Pykes, and almost got himself killed. And even though she knew the extent of the Pykes’ ruthlessness, Cid took a gamble, but she also put Omega and the guys in danger. Despite the foolishness, everyone made it out fine, although Roland did get one horn cutoff for his insubordination. A lasting reminder that the Durands will never be in business with the Pykes again.
The Kaminoans and the Empire
Kamino made its first appearance in Attack of the Clones, introducing the clones and their genetic model Jango Fett. The Kaminoan cloning technology made a significant difference in the Clone Wars on both sides. For the Republic, the clone army allowed them to stay in the war long enough to lose everything (including the Jedi). For the Separatists, it weakened their forces significantly, allowing dark side Anakin to deal the final blow by murdering the Separatist leaders. In the end, the only winner was Palpatine’s Empire, which was able to ascend quickly, having clones on the ground in most of the galactic worlds. And the Kaminoans, specifically Prime Minister Lama Su and Nala Se, were key figures and one of the few beings to know about the inhibitor chips. But there are no Kaminoans post-Clone Wars. They are not around during Imperial Reign, although their technology is during The Mandalorian and the Sequel Trilogy. And, in The Bad Batch, we finally get our answer to why. Shortly after Order 66 and the execution of the Jedi, plans to replace clones with conscripted soldiers are put in motion by Admiral Rampart. Most of the plotting occurs in the backdrop of season one but culminates in the Empire canceling their contracts with the Kaminoans. Prime Minister Su attempts to retrieve Omega, whom we learn is a first-generation clone (like Boba Fett), to make more clones and try and win back Imperial favor. When that fails, and it becomes clear that the situation is dire, Prime Minister Su tells Nala Se to gather necessary personnel and ready them to flee Kamino. Nala Se, unaware of the danger, says they can make contracts with other entities. But Prime Minister Su understands:
“The Empire is not like the Republic. We have empowered them to our detriment. I fear they will destroy us rather than allow this operation to continue.”Lama Su, War-Mantle
The Prime Minister made a deal with a devil that has now turn the tables. When Nala Se gets caught gathering personnel, Admiral Rampart confronts Su, who tries to cover his tracks. Rampart says that he has use for a scientist like Nala Se, but not for a politician and that his services are no longer required. Admiral Rampart leads Nala Se away, and the doors shut as two soldiers have blasters raised to the Prime Minister. His fate is not confirmed, but considering we never see him again, he was likely executed. The cloning technology was a point of pride for the Kaminoans, and they tried to play both hands during the Clone Wars. Now their technology is in the hands of the Empire, and Topica City is gone. Lama Su overvalued his importance to the Empire, and now the Kaminoans appear to be extinct.
The Syndulla Family, Ryloth, and the Empire
The Kaminoans might be the first species that learns that doing business with the Empire is a bad deal, but they are far from the last. We know that Ryloth and the Twi’leks will be exploited during the Imperial reign, and we see the beginnings of that this season. The Empire attempts to get the populace on board first with the apathetic Senator Taa, which fails. General Syndulla, weary of war from the Clone Wars and wanting peace for his people, tries and works with the Empire, despite all signs that the Empire is occupying Ryloth with nefarious intentions. When they attempt to capture his daughter, Hera, Cham, and his wife Eleni are framed for an attempted assassination on Senator Taa and imprisoned. Both Taa and Cham (who are enemies) are on the receiving end of a bad Imperial deal. Senator Taa, who tries too hard to win favor with the Empire, is ultimately used as a pawn to undermine General Syndulla. Ryloth is collateral, and we know from references in canon that the Twi’leks will be enslaved.
Many bad business relationships ended during the first season of The Bad Batch. Some in death and others just a parting of ways. Others have yet to resolve, and characters like Roland will surely return. But they have been entertaining to watch while providing valuable life lessons in the best way: with space battles, blaster fights, and double-crossings.