It’s Friday, which means it’s time for a new episode of The Bad Batch. After the double dose of goodness we got last week, with episodes dropping on Tuesday and Friday, this week we are back to normal, with just one episode. The third episode, titled Replacements, was directed by Nathaniel Villanueva, and written by Matt Michnovetz.
Replacements is very reminiscent of some episodes of The Clone Wars, with the action divided in two. On one hand, we have our main characters undergoing some technical problems and developing their dynamics along the way, and on the flip side, we get to spend a bit more time with the villains and what they are thinking.
Let’s dive in!
This third episode of the series feels a lot like that dreaded word “filler” at times, with Clone Force 99 crashing on a planet and fixing the ship to continue their journey as if nothing had happened. It’s like those 5-10 minutes from Empire Strikes Back turned into animation and replacing Han, Leia, and the crew with the Bad Batch. As soon as it was clear they were going to have to fix the ship, we already knew this would take the entire runtime of the episode, and that they would have to face some kind of challenges from the planet itself.
The challenge was of course an Ordo Moon Dragon, a species that feeds on raw energy. While Wrecker stays in the ship with Echo and Tech, who are trying to fix the many problems that it has, Hunter and Omega go after the creature. Even though this was a nice moment for Omega, who is now enjoying her time out of Kamino, visiting new planets, meeting new creatures, and living adventures, it was the least appealing part of the episode for me. The only thing that this mini-adventure brought to the character of Omega was her gaining some confidence and some independence — adults are not going to be always there, and that’s a good lesson for kids. However, I have to say, they didn’t really succeed in delivering that message, because I feel like you really have to look for it, instead of it being clear. For that reason, this subplot of sorts felt a bit undercooked for me.
But enough with the negativity already, because this episode had a lot of good moments too. Staying with the Bad Batch, one of the most surprising things for me was that they are very focused on the relationship between Omega and Hunter, yes, but they are also paying attention to the rest of the crew. This episode was a big step forward for the relationship between Wrecker and Omega, and I wouldn’t be surprised if, over the course of the next four or five episodes, we got similar moments with both Echo and Tech. If this is the case, we will be probably expecting that Omega will be taken out of the group at some point by the villains, so the Bad Batch will have to go after her, and that’s probably where we’ll have our confrontation with Crosshair.
This is exactly why character dynamics are so important. You can have the most predictable plot ever, but if your characters are memorable and you understand their relationships and get behind them, it doesn’t really matter. A good example of this is The Force Awakens: is the plot pretty much the same as it was in 1977 with the first Star Wars? No doubt. But the characters are the ones moving the plot along, which is what made both movies so enjoyable and memorable. The same happens here — even though we can see where an episode is going from the start, the characters are the ones selling us on the story, and therefore, are the most important elements of the narrative.
Let’s move on to the other half of the episode, the one following Crosshair, Tarkin, and the first elite squad of the Empire. This is probably the most interesting part of the episode and the one that raises more questions. Vice Admiral Rampart (soon-to-be Admiral Rampart) introduces both Tarkin and the audience to a new squad that will prove, once and for all, that soldiers are the way to go, over clone troopers. This subplot is very interesting to me for a variety of reasons.
Seeing the transition from clones to soldiers was something we had been waiting for for a long time, but it doesn’t really stop there. Both Tarkin and Rampart are convinced that soldiers are superior to clones (as well as cheaper) because they willingly signed up for the job. I’m very interested to know whether or not, in the long run, they consider their investment a success or not. As an audience, we know what happened with stormtroopers many years later — they can’t hit anything or anyone. However, Ben Kenobi thinks that “only Imperial stormtroopers are so precise.” Does the Empire, in the long run, think that their army is the most efficient one in the galaxy? Do they think that choosing enlisted soldiers rather than clones that you can program was the way to go?
But this is not the only interesting thing about this subplot, because Crosshair is put into this mission to turn everything upside down. The elite squad is enjoying their time under the new Empire, as they explain, way more than they did before. Here’s why that is a very interesting conflict for them. When they are sent to Onderon to go after Saw Gerrera, they successfully complete the mission, eliminating all the rebel soldiers, to the point that the only people left are civilians trying to get off the planet. As far as Crosshair is concerned, “good soldiers follow orders.” And therefore, he murders one of the civilians and then murders one of the squad members because he wasn’t willing to cooperate with a massacre (something, by the way, I wouldn’t have expected to see in an animated kids show).
“Good soldiers follow orders” is one of the purest Star Wars themes the show is presenting. The Empire supporters follow their leaders blindly without considering what is really going on (I acknowledge this is an oversimplification, yes) while the rebels are the ones who say “wait a minute, this isn’t right.” They are the ones that challenge the system and point out its flaws. They are not “good soldiers” because by pinpointing the many flaws of the Empire regime, they are having a mind of their own, instead of doing what the Empire leaders expect them to do. Therefore, when they start to question their orders, they are effectively acting as rebels, aren’t they? Crosshair is the one that is behaving like the Empire expects soldiers to do, and at the same time, he is the one that the Empire is trying to get rid of. It will be very interesting to see how Tarkin reacts when he finds this out.
The episode couldn’t end with one final tease of what’s to come. After the Kaminoans see that their whole operation is in danger and that they might be losing a lot of money, they decide to step ahead and create a new superior clone. This series has been in the works for many years, maybe since 2017/2018 (that’s how long animation takes), but I can’t help but find very surprising that every Star Wars property is now featuring cloning. The Rise of Skywalker had a Palpatine clone running the ship, The Mandalorian season 2 teased a cloning subplot which many are speculating will link back to the Emperor, and now The Bad Batch is teasing a new type of clones. Yes, it is cloning in a show about clones, so it shouldn’t be that surprising. At the same time, I don’t expect this new superior clone to be linked in any way to Mandalorian or Palpatine (whether those two are related or not), but it does feel like a very repetitive theme already.
To wrap up, this episode was just an episode of The Clone Wars put into a spinoff show, both in its stronger moments and in its weaker ones. The relationship between Omega and the Bad Batch is one of the most appealing parts of the show, while Crosshair’s adventures are raising a lot of questions about the entire franchise itself, which makes them very interesting to watch.
The next episode will drop next Friday, and while you wait, make sure to check out James’ spoiler review of the third episode of The Bad Batch, Replacements:
Come back next week for our review of the fourth episode, and make sure to regularly check out Star Wars News Net for everything going on in a galaxy far, far away.