The Bad Batch: The Outpost Thoughts

Crosshair has had less screen time this season of The Bad Batch, but his episodes represent what the best of Star Wars has to offer. The first episode this season, “The Solitary Clone,” emphasized not just Crosshair’s continued isolation within the Empire and among his fellow clones but the isolation of Commander Cody, who went AWOL. 

In “The Outpost,” Crosshair finds himself at another crossroads where he has to decide whether to follow orders or rebel.

Buyer’s Remorse

The tone of this episode is one of isolation and desolation | credit Lucasfilm ltd.

Nothing is worse than being so sure in your convictions only to be proven wrong years later. That is the case for many Imperial sympathizers in Star Wars, and now the same is true for Crosshair.

We meet Crosshair waiting for his commanding officer at a spaceport while overhearing clones being relieved of their duties by another officer on autopilot. His commanding officer, Lieutenant Nolan, immediately makes a sour impression by reprimanding him for being out of uniform (i.e., not wearing his helmet). Then he sighs when he realizes he has to work with the Clones, calling them “used equipment.” Nolan has never heard of “holding one’s tongue.”

And it gets worse. The team heads to an Imperial depot on Barton-4 as insurgents have been targeting it for high-value cargo. Lieutenant Nolan and the Clones must guard the cargo until its transfer the following week. Barton-4 is a brutal winter planet with creatures like Ice Vultures, and the outpost is plagued by outdated equipment. 

There are hints that the Empire’s disregard for the crew on Barton-4 is because of the Clones. The depot is under the command of Commander Mayday. The Clones are not even given new helmets, as Mayday has to wrap part of his helmet to insulate himself from the cold.

Mayday has dropped all pretense of unearned respect with Imperial Officers. Mayday and Crosshair, however, seem to connect right away. When insurgents attack and steal more cargo, Nolan blames both men and tasks them with retrieving it alone. The two brace the cold with inadequate uniforms and manage to kill the insurgents, but they also see the “high-value” cargo: Stormtrooper armor. 

The disgust barely has time to register before an avalanche rips across the mountainside burying the two. Crosshair climbs his way out and finds Mayday clinging to life. 

Nolan makes it clear from the moment we meet him that he sucks | credit Lucasfilm ltd.

Instead of leaving him, Crosshair treks with Mayday using his rifle for who knows how long back to the base, telling Nolan that Mayday needs a medic. Unfortunately, this incredible act is not enough to save the Commander from the apathetic Nolan, who says Mayday is expendable, just like Crosshair. After that, nothing can save Nolan from Crosshair, who is finally pushed to the brink. The sharpshooter shoots Nolan dead.

We rarely get indications of what Crosshair is feeling in these situations. For most of the series, he does not seem to have affection for anyone other than the Bad Batch (well, as affectionate as someone like Crosshair can be). He has no problem killing men, women, and children (let’s not forget young Caleb Dune) for the Empire. By definition, all Clones are brothers, but Crosshair has never had the same connection with any outside of the Bad Batch. Even his relationship with Commander Cody was more on a level of respect. Mayday seems to be the first regular Clone who Crosshair truly sees as a brother.

So Mayday’s death is a breaking point, and Nolan pays the ultimate price for not paying attention to the cracks.

But there is still time for Crosshair not to redeem himself (why does this always have to happen?). In a scene that probably shouldn’t have been in this episode, we find Crosshair is at Mount Tantiss about to see Doctor Hemlock. He will likely be sent to track down Omega. So what will he do when he finds her and his former team?  

Mayday Mayday Mayday!

The quick kinship that develops between Crosshair and Mayday fuel the gut punch ending | credit Lucasfilm ltd.

We’re good soldiers. We followed orders. And for what?”

The Bad Batch, The Outpost

The end of the competence era continues with the absence/death of another capable Clone Commander. Mayday was doomed when we met him because he had become disillusioned with the Empire while still employed by them. We must also address Mayday’s name and its’ meaning: a distress signal. His very existence foreshadows the end of the Clones. 

It is fascinating to see an Imperial post that the Empire does not care about as it is telling. Even though they say the cargo is high-value, the Empire does little to protect it, ignoring Mayday’s request for new security and equipment. One could argue that sending an inexperienced Lieutenant Nolan is an insult to injury. As Mayday points out, Nolan has never led a mission. Perhaps this foreshadows the lack of concern for their new Imperial army’s safety, one of the contributing factors to the Empire’s downfall. The Stormtrooper armor does little to protect the men and women underneath. In other canon material, it is noted that TIE Fighters are cheaply made and do little concerning the safety of the TIE pilots.

And Mayday dying while trying to retrieve this cargo for his replacements is a tragic but fitting end in the Clone Commander’s chapter.

The Metaphors!

Times up for Mayday | credit Lucasfilm ltd.

The Ice Vulture, whose face we never see, looms over this entire episode from the beginning to the end. Mayday calls them vicious creatures, but we only see one. And we are to assume that the same vulture follows an injured Crosshair and Mayday through the canyons back to the Imperial base. The circling vulture is something we see many times in media and real life and have come to recognize as a symbol of death. Mayday calling a vulture vicious is interesting since most vultures are only interested in dead bodies. But Mayday may have seen them so often, having lost so many men, that he has trauma tied to the creatures. He does mention that he admires the vultures for doing what they can to survive, which is also a reflection of his efforts to endure his time on Barton-4.

The death symbolism is all over this episode. Crosshair and Mayday are walking dead from the previous era. A reminder, not just of the dead Republic, but of the death of the Jedi Order. One that they help shepherd. Mayday does not mention the Jedi specifically, but that “good soldiers follow orders” phrase references that inhibitor chip and all the tragedy that stemmed from it. 

The shot of the Ice Vulture’s shadow circling when Nolan reprimands Crosshair is one of Star Wars animation’s most haunting images. Nolan threatens Crosshair with a fate similar to Mayday; then Crosshair sees the shadow of the Ice Vulture, sealing Nolan’s fate.  

Ultimately, the Ice Vulture claims two victims: the veteran Clone Commander on his way to retirement and the young Imperial Officer just starting his service. That is the story of war.

A Soundtrack for a Cold Night

Shame on me for not mentioning Kevin Kiner sooner in my review/recaps. The animation team has been spot-on with landscape visuals this season, as we have seen almost every biome type. But the music has also been exceptional, taking on a synthetic, fast pace beat during this episode. Star Wars has been moving from orchestral to synth through The Mandalorian, and Kiner has done well adapting that tone to animation. 

I mentioned that Crosshair appearances have been small but mighty, and I think that is for the best. The Bad Batch season two has a nice balance of light and dark, contrasting Omega’s maturity with the changing galaxy and what that means for the Clones overall. But it would be nice to check in with Rex and Echo. With four episodes left, I suspect that is coming soon.