Star Wars: The Bad Batch Season 2 Review – Gorgeous animation in search of identity

January 4, 2023 (Last updated: 3 weeks ago)
Jonathon Wilson 0
Disney+, Streaming Service, TV, TV Reviews
3.5

Summary

The Bad Batch can still feel lightweight and inconsequential, but its charming cast of characters continues to make it a winning adventure.

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3.5

Summary

The Bad Batch can still feel lightweight and inconsequential, but its charming cast of characters continues to make it a winning adventure.


This review of Star Wars: The Bad Batch Season 2 is spoiler-free, though contains some details for the first two episodes, “Spoils of War” and “Ruins of War”.


The Bad Batch is a strange show in the Star Wars continuity. It’s animated, like The Clone Wars and Rebels (and Resistance, though we’re mostly just pretending that didn’t happen), but it doesn’t have the connection to beloved characters like Anakin, Ahsoka, and Vader. From its backdoor pilot and all throughout its first season run, it has seemed like something of a low-stakes palate cleanser, something for die-hard fans to enjoy in the long wait between live-action fare like The Book of Boba Fett and The Mandalorian. This second season is, in fact, bridging the gap between the truly phenomenal Andor and the highly anticipated third season of The Mandalorian. After a mixed-bag first outing, it’s hard to say the anticipation was off the charts for this one.

And yet it’s hard not to be reunited with the members of Clone Force 99 without a smile on your face. There’s something undeniably charming about this mismatched group of mutated outcasts, all voiced by the extremely talented Dee Bradley Baker, and their surrogate daughter Omega (Michelle Ang), whose role in this season is integral and nicely expanded. Some of the problems still seem to be there, certainly, but there’s a familiarity and a rhythm here that benefits from all of the hard work done in the first season.

It helps that we’re a little further removed from the end of the Clone Wars now, and the Bad Batch have settled into a rhythm of working for Cid (Rhea Perlman) while trying to evade the Empire, who believe, for the most part, that they’re dead. This leaves more time to explore the group dynamics while also giving the team an organic reason to become more embroiled in pockets of resistance that are beginning to sprout across the galaxy, inspired by how taking in Omega in the first place had a net positive impact on everyone, especially her. As she grows and flourishes, and learns more about herself and the others, she also helps to reflect light on similar injustices that the Bad Batch can get involved in thwarting.

If the first season was all about survival, then, this one is about growth, about these defective clones figuring out their place within the team, as surrogate parents to Omega, and in the context of a totalitarian regime that continues to brutalize and oppress people very much like them. It remains at its strongest when Omega is learning at the feet of Clone Force 99, growing into herself, shedding the idealistic, child-like naivete, and inspiring others to see the world more like she does.

A new character, Cid’s associate Phee (Wanda Sykes), helps to frame the usual mission-of-the-week structure, but there’s an overarching narrative involving high-ranking officials in the Empire and their pursuit of the team that provides more consistent continuity. But it remains the characters rather than the plot that really pushes The Bad Batch forwards and gives it some real value, especially since its for-kids sensibility means that it doesn’t have much interest in digging into the setting’s moral quandaries in the same way something like Andor did. But that isn’t to say the new season is totally sanitized, and the wonderful animation does an extraordinary amount of heavy lifting when it comes to creating richness and depth in the various environments, settings, and set pieces.

It still, at least in the early going, feels somewhat detached from the rest of Disney’s small-screen storytelling in this franchise, but that’s subject to change, and in the end, it might not matter anyway. Away from the easy allure of well-known characters and the lack of immediate connections to other iconic franchise plot events, there’s still a very compelling character-driven framework here. It might be difficult to properly explore in sub-30-minute outings, but the longer season order provides more time and scope to experiment, and hopefully, enough lessons have been learned from the first season that The Bad Batch can continue to forge its own, worthwhile identity.

You can stream Star Wars: The Bad Batch Season 2 exclusively on Disney+.


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