“The Bad Batch” might be a surprising way to start the new season, but it’s an action-packed return to form and relies on one of the stronger, most unique elements of The Clone Wars.
This recap of Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 7, Episode 1, “The Bad Batch”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous seasons (and all our other Star Wars coverage) by checking out the canon timeline.
Back, finally, is one of the finest pieces of Star Wars media to ever bless a largely mistreated fan base, and coming on the back of the abysmal concluding chapter to the Skywalker Saga, it feels right on time. Luckily, The Clone Wars Season 7, ostensibly the final season and comprised in large part of unfinished episodes that have been updated and finalized for mass consumption, is airing on Disney+, where The Mandalorian recently set an extremely high standard for small-screen Star Wars programming. “The Bad Batch”, while it might be a surprising way to kick things off given it sidelines all the well-known Jedi characters in favor of clone troopers, nonetheless feels like The Clone Wars is back with a bang, while also really leaning into several of the elements which made the show such an essential part of the canon in the first place.
Those elements are, in no particular order, a general sense of the scale, complexity, and importance of the Clone Wars, which as far as current canon is concerned is probably the most important conflict in galactic history, and a focus on the clones themselves, which in the films were portrayed purely as identikit cannon fodder but here have historically been the subject of interesting, varied stories and diverse characterizations. That’s especially true in Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 7, Episode 1, named after a group of “defective” clones with specific mutations who comprise an elite unit with a 100% success rate.
Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter) and Mace Windu (Terrence ‘T.C.’ Carson) briefly set the scene: Separatist forces are enjoying an unusual amount of success against the Republic despite the best efforts of Captain Rex and Commander Cody (both voiced by Dee Bradley Baker, as is every other clone in the episode.) Those two propose a mission behind enemy lines to retrieve the Separatist strategy algorithm from a data center and to do so they call on the help of Clone Force 99, aka the Bad Batch. They’re an unconventional team comprising Hunter, their leader and human holo-map; Wrecker, their muscle; Crosshair, their elite marksman; and Tech, their… tech support. The unit has unique methods and great camaraderie, but they’re skeptical of “regs”, aka regular clones, and it leads to some friction during the mission.
This is all pretty standard stuff, but it’s elevated by some elastic vocal work from Baker, the endless pleasures of this group interacting, and some excellent action. There’s also the underlying mystery of how the Separatists are using Rex’s old comrade Echo to stay one step ahead of the Republic, giving the mission some personal stakes. While Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 7, Episode 1 is largely a showcase for the Bad Batch, its ending suggests a follow-up mission that, now that the introductions have been made, should allow for some more complex interactions between the “regs” and their mutant brothers, as well as deepening the mythology surrounding the clones’ manipulation by the Separatist forces. With very polished visuals and a willingness to return immediately to what the show does best, rather than relying on big-name value to capture the attention of newer fans, this is a season premiere that shows a great deal of promise for the final swansong of Dave Filoni’s essential series.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.