With the tenth episode, “Retrieval,” in the rearview, our feet are firmly planted in the second half of the second season. Omega is gaining lessons of the week from various missions. However, this second two-parter ends with more of an “eh” than “yeah,” with just too little time to do justice to the topic.
Child Exploitation in Star Wars
As the team tries to figure out how to get the ship back, Omega realizes what we all did last episode: Gonky is on the Maurader. And they can track him if the ship is still on the planet. It is a “well yeah” moment that is convenient to get us to the action, which takes place in another mine full of child workers. The poacher that took the Maurader is Benni Barro (a great Star Wars name), and we learn quickly that he is a starving child. When he returns with the Maurader, he spots a ration in the corner and lets out an almost heartbreaking sigh of disbelief, dusting it off and devouring the food.
This moment stuck out to me, and I wondered why. Perhaps it is because I do not recall ever seeing such an authentic reaction from hunger in Star Wars. The scene contrasts with a later one of Mokko gluttonously tearing through his excess food like he is in a competitive eating contest.
Mokko, whose species is a mystery, is taking a lesson from the Empire, using competition to keep these child workers from realizing that Mokko is exploiting them. He holds the truth about the mine being more profitable and only giving the “winner” food. And Benni is so invested in the hope that he will be a top earner that he cannot hear anything else until the evidence is before him. When Benni helps Omega and the Batch get into the mine to regain their ship, they stumble upon the output logs.
I will likely do a separate post on this topic because it comes up so often in Star Wars across all mediums.
But what this episode does differently is worth noting. Benni refuses to believe he is in an abusive relationship, a trauma bond (aka Stockholm Syndrome). Benni still trusts Mokko will do right by him and goes out of his way to try and win his favor, including alerting Mokko of the trespassers.
Benni’s betrayal keeps things interesting, but Omega does not get too angry. It is a sign that she is growing and understands the complex attachment Benni still has with Mokko. She lets things play out and gives Benni the information he needs to come to terms with the reality of his situation. But even when a confrontation sends Mokko falling to his death, Benni is shaken and sad. Although the sadness strangely goes away in the last few minutes when Benni says that the others will share the profits moving forward, this is where I cede the fact that this is geared toward kids.
By the way, if Benni sounds familiar to you, you might be a gamer. The veteran Yuri Lowenthal, who voices Peter Parker in Sony Playstation’s Spider-Man and Spider-Man Miles Morales, voices the thief.
Benni wanting to stay in the mines and on the planet is refreshing, and I hope we get to see what he and the others make of running the valuable mines themselves.
A Big Galaxy with a Little Bad Batch
Season two has shifted focus to Omega, which is to be expected. She is a child that acts as a filter for children watching the show; however, it has come at the expense of characters like Hunter. It has also been a while since we have had a Crosshair-focused episode (which I feel must be coming soon). Hunter not having anything to do while Omega learns various lessons about the galaxy seems wrong since he was positioned as the father figure in season one. And he is not like Wrecker, who can satisfy his absence by smashing something or blowing something up.
The Bad Batch are impressive while they are on the screen getting into the mine. Then Omega and Benni go off on their own to shut down the ray shield so they can leave.
Does Omega not confiding in Hunter or asking his advice mean anything for their relationship? The two have a great moment of trust when Omega falls off a ledge in the mine, taking a droid with her. Hunter saves her from Mokko’s fate, but it represents an incredible amount of faith that Omega puts in Hunter that I wish was explored more this season. I am genuinely perplexed by this omission this season, but we still have six more episodes. I also expect Echo and Rex to make another appearance before the season finale.
Gonky Saves the Day…Sort Of
I honestly thought Gonky would play a more prominent role in this episode. Despite being a droid, the banter with Benni at the beginning of “Retrieval” appeared to set up an arc between the two. Mokko gives the droid to Benni (droids are not property!), but the Bad Batch gets to him before any Benni/Gonky bond can occur. We’ll always wonder what could have been.
As it happens, Gonky is only there to move the plot forward. At least the writers did not completely forget about him.
Stealing is a Skill if You Are Good at It
The hints have been dropped. Benni tells Omega that he owes her one, and if she ever needs a thief, she knows where to find him. This less-than-subtle hint means we will see him again. The character design on Benni, Drake and other child miners is too good not to use again. Plus, the still unnamed planet is not occupied by the Empire yet, so it could be a safe place for anyone looking to lay low from Imperials.
The episode does have a bookend nod to Omega’s growing bond with Tech, where he assures her there are more people in the galaxy like them and fewer like Mokko. It’s a continued through-line that should lead to the Bad Batch being more active in helping others. I am starting to wonder how many missions it will take for the Bad Batch themselves to arrive at this conclusion.