Review: ‘Star Wars: The Bad Batch’ Episode Fourteen – ‘War-Mantle’
The Bad Batch returns with an excellent installment this week as the stage is set for the final episodes of the season.
After a little detour with Cid last week on Ord Mantell, War-Mantle gets us straight back into the thick of things with the Empire. I had assumed that the episode’s title meant that we’d be getting a closer look at Crosshair’s squad but it seems unlikely that they’ll ever get that close a profile now, so late in the season. Instead, War-Mantle teases more of what’s in store for the Empire, referring to the War-Mantle operation as a whole rather than any particular group of individuals.
We get some scenes with Admiral Rampart and the kaminoans, but the episode mostly deals with the Bad Batch embarking on another rescue mission, similar to the second part of the Ryloth arc. The big mystery of the episode is allowed to build, leaving the viewers to wonder more and more what it is the Empire are actually up to, and though the reveal is largely what we already know, it’s still satisfying nonetheless. The episode culminates in a tense chase sequence and ends on a hell of a cliffhanger that’s even better than the Ryloth arc and on a par with the one we were treated to with Cad Bane and Omega earlier in the season.
The episode starts out with Gregor running from his captors on Daro, who are chasing him with a pack of massiffs, which I believe we are seeing for the first time since their last appearance as Tusken Raider pets in The Mandalorian season 2 premiere. It’s not made clear what he is running from, but we do see him stunned and retrieved by people wearing clone armor. It’s an intriguing way to begin the episode, especially as it’s not clear that we’re watching Gregor.
Unlike Ryloth, this time we don’t have to wait long to see the Bad Batch get involved. They are shortly contacted by Rex while on a job for Cid, who asks them to help Gregor after providing limited intel. Hunter and Tech are reluctant to go blind into a dangerous mission where they won’t get paid, while Echo and Omega act as the team’s conscience.
It’s nice to see Echo hold such a strong opinion on rescuing Gregor, which he reiterates later in the episode. He points out that the Bad Batch previously went in blind on a mission in order to rescue him, and he couldn’t live with himself if he abandoned Gregor now.
While we’ve often seen Echo in action, the story hasn’t much concerned itself with his role in the team. The only team members to get arcs in the series so far are Hunter, Omega and arguably Crosshair and Wrecker (if you consider him dealing with his fear of heights). Echo has the most interesting backstory of the whole team, so it’s good to see that alluded to here.
Back on Kamino, the kaminoans have decided to plan for life without the Empire. Lama Su tells Nala Se to get ready to leave with their research, so they can continue to operate with new clients outside of the Empire’s influence. Su is savvy enough to realize that the Empire will not let them continue to create clones for other organizations once their business is included, and will likely kill them all once they have outlived their usefulness.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t clever enough to stop himself getting killed. Admiral Rampart had ordered Crosshair and his team to keep an eye on the kaminoans so their attempts to leave Tipoca City are discovered immediately and Lama Su, the second kaminoan to debut in Attack of the Clones, appears to have been executed for treason. Nala Se was kept alive presumably because the Empire need her expertise for future Snoke-related in-house cloning operations.
As an aside, Rampart once again seems to betray his own idiocy as he admits he was never really that impressed with the clones. I had assumed that he was pushing Project War-Mantle as a cost-saving measure, but he really does seem to think stormtroopers will be more effective than clones.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing of course, but given that it’s well known in the Star Wars universe that stormtroopers are far less efficient soldiers than clones, you have to wonder how Rampart advanced as far up the Imperial hierarchy as he did, given his absolutely awful take on clones.
Meanwhile, the Bad Batch land on Daro, a forest-mountain planet where Gregor was last seen. It’s fun getting to see Hunter’s tracking skills put to good use again as he manages to track down the War-Mantle base with Tech and Echo (Wrecker and Omega are sent back to the ship as back-up). It is so much fun watching them infiltrate the Imperial facility as we try to work out what’s going on. We get to see what appears to be a prototype version of the stormtrooper armor, as squads of new stormtroopers are led by clone commandoes.
It’s not until they find Gregor that we eventually learn what’s happening. Gregor was one of a bunch of clone commandoes transferred to the War-Mantle base to train the new stormtroopers. Only, Gregor decided he had enough and tried to run away, which landed him in a cell. Gregor has started exhibiting signs of the light madness we see in him by the time of Star Wars Rebels, but he still has enough marbles about him to prove useful here.
It seems that Gregor is yet another clone whose inhibitor chip didn’t work quite as well as the others, and that’s possibly down to the brain damage he received that caused to him to lose his memory before his first appearance back in The Clone Wars. It’s interesting to see the factors that lead some clones to contradict their programming.
What follows is a mad chase as the four of them try to escape the facility. Tech doesn’t realize that all the soldiers here have been given ‘TK’ codenames – another sign of the transition to stormtroopers – and inadvertently raises the alarm. It’s fun and satisfying watching them mow down incompetent stormtroopers as they try and escape; the only soldiers who put up a fight are the clone commandoes, which once again seems to show the flaws in Rampart’s War-Mantle project.
Eventually, they are able to signal Wrecker and Omega for a pick up, and they manage to rescue all of them except Hunter, who takes a tumble down to the forest floor. The remaining members of the Bad Batch are forced to flee as Hunter orders them to leave him behind. This proves to be an emotional moment as Omega pleads with Hunter and the rest of the squad to rescue him. The bond between her and Hunter is so strong, and we’re seeing that pay off now. She can’t bear to leave him behind after all the times he’s saved her, and it’s heartbreaking to watch.
Hunter gets put in a cell and we see him begin to get questioned by Crosshair, who is eager to chat with his former teammate. It’s exciting to speculate what will happen next week; will the Bad Batch regroup and return to rescue Hunter, perhaps with Rex and Gregor at their side? Will we be treated to a debate between Crosshair and Hunter, and what state will Hunter be in by the time his squad finds him? At least we know he can’t be turned against his friends, now that his chip has been removed.
It’s a hell of a cliffhanger that sets the stage perfectly for the last two episodes. I can’t wait to see what the show has in store for us.
For more of our thoughts on War-Mantle, watch James Baney of The Resistance Broadcast discuss the episode below.
Come back next week for our review of the fifteenth episode, and make sure to regularly check out Star Wars News Net for everything going on in a galaxy far, far away.
Josh is a huge Star Wars fan, who has spent far too much time wondering if any Star Wars character could defeat Thanos with all the Infinity Stones.