Star Wars: The Bad Batch, as a concept, has so much potential. The context surrounding its titular team, as well as its placement on the galactic timeline, makes the animated series ripe for a mix of cerebral storytelling and unique action scenes. Perhaps this is why it’s so frustrating that the show constantly ignores its best attributes for the sake of forgettable plotlines and run-around episodes, and more importantly, why it feels so good when an episode actually does something interesting. Thankfully, this week’s entry is among the latter. Titled Metamorphosis, the latest chapter in The Bad Batch saga combines serious political intrigue with an exhilarating play on genre to craft a narrative that’s both entertaining to watch and momentous in the grand scheme of the series.
In Metamorphosis, Dee Bradley Baker‘s Hunter and his tactile band of misfits investigate the mysterious wreckage of an Imperial cargo ship, only to find that what lies inside might have been best left undiscovered. The first half of the episode, especially its opening moments, is maybe the most horrifying Star Wars has been in recent memory. From the beginning sequence, which highlights a lone Imperial Commando desperately fleeing from an unseen terror through dark and silent hallways, Metamorphosis promises to be different from what viewers have grown accustomed to seeing. Most of what follows falls more in line with a suspenseful science-fiction thriller, specifically in the vein of Ridley Scott’s Alien than the protagonists’ usual cookie-cutter escapades. The gimmick, though sadly short-lived, works completely for the time it’s on screen.
Star Wars is often its most fun when reviving, or replicating, the pulp of old-fashioned adventures. Watching a vintage space horror occur in the galaxy far, far away makes for a wildly enjoyable ten-to-fifteen minutes before the episode takes a surprising turn, shifting from one monster-based genre to another. Halfway through the runtime, the danger at hand is revealed to be a Zillo Beast, an evolving creature first introduced in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. From there, Metamorphosis becomes a miniature kaiju film, with the Bad Batch chasing the larger-than-life organism across an otherworldly cityscape. The change in tone happens pretty organically, resulting in a delightful, pulse-pounding romp that pits the clones against an opponent they’ve never faced before. Especially striking in the climactic scenes is the show’s cinematography, its most consistent positive this season, vividly portraying the power of the beast against a sickly sky.
The Zillo, however, is not the episode’s true villain. That honor belongs to Dr. Royce Hemlock, a fresh Imperial baddie hellbent on expanding Kaminoan cloning technology for the benefit of the Empire. Played to menacing perfection by the great Jimmi Simpson, Dr. Hemlock is exactly the type of antagonist The Bad Batch has needed. His existence, and ultimate plot to condense and control the galaxy’s cloning operations, immediately tie a loose narrative together and raises numerous thought-provoking questions for the Bad Batch and the show itself to answer going forward. Hopefully, the series doubles down on this seemingly new direction and follows up on it next week, instead of leaving it until the season finale.