While Rebels and Andor tell the story of how the early days of the Rebellion, The Bad Batch tells a darker, more grim story: one of the early days of the Empire. Set around 19 years before the Battle of Yavin, The Bad Batch takes place right on the heels of Order 66 and the end of The Clone Wars and puts on full display how the Empire began to grow into the type of tyrannical rule that characters like Saw Gerrera and Luthen Rael would ultimately seek to end. It’s animated, sure, but it’s no kids’ show, and Season 2 reminds the audience of that over the course of its heavy two-episode premiere.
After escaping from a mission gone wrong that serves to remind the audience of who is who on the team (and what their personalities are), the Bad Batch head back to their de facto headquarters on Ord Mantell. It’s a short reunion with Cid, their Trandoshan “benefactor”, as acting on a tip from Cid’s pirate friend, Phee (voiced by Wanda Sykes), the Batch finds themselves sent on a mission to a location familiar to fans of The Clone Wars: Castle Serenno, the home of Count Dooku and the now defunct (thanks to Vader) Separatist movement. With Dooku having lost his head, it seems the Empire has begun to collect his war chest and Cid wants her hands on whatever Clone Force 99 can get before it’s all gone. While Hunter isn’t too keen on the gig, the rest of the group is convinced it’s a job worth doing. Ultimately, Cid convinces Hunter with a bit of logic that sets the tone for one of the big themes of Season 2: the aggressive expansion of the Empire. With the Empire’s reach growing, this job could provide a big enough payday to get the team out of the game, giving them some freedom and providing a safe future for Omega.
“Our Lives Are Like This Because of Omega”
While the Batch all agrees to head to Serenno, they aren’t all doing it for the same reasons. Echo agrees it was right to save Omega, but it has fundamentally changed their lives and while Hunter wishes to use the war chest to get out of the game to give Echo a better life, Echo believes the war chest should be used for…more war, only this time with Clone Force 99 taking it to the Empire. The Bad Batch aren’t the shining example of a modern family, but they are all each of them has and that includes Omega. The decision to keep Omega with them as they continue to run missions for Cid will certainly be a big part of the core of Season 2 and little time is wasted in reminding the audience that while she’s an enhanced clone (and still a big mystery), Omega is just a kid running the galaxy with some of its most wanted. To that end, Echo makes his point to Hunter that the life he’s trying to escape only exists because of Omega. Omega overhears and that sets into motion the events that lead to her being in danger quite a bit over the course of the two-episode premiere.
Once the headquarters for the Separatist movement under Dooku, Serenno has, like Kamino before it, been decimated by the Empire. The Batch’s mission to Serenno nicely explores the blurred lines between good and bad in a galaxy where everything has recently been upended. Echo’s desire to use the war chest to wage war confuses Omega, who can’t quite seem to understand how that’s any different than Dooku’s goals. Echo’s response of “depends on how we use it” doesn’t offer Omega the clarity she needs, but it also sets up events to come over the sophomore season of the series.
The mission goes a bit sideways, as you might expect, and the group gets split up. Omega, Tech and Echo find themselves in the company of Romar, a native of Serenno who survived the Empire’s ariel bombardment of the planet. Despite the extraordinary odds their facing, Omega’s insistence on completing the mission, which is a clear reaction to Echo’s comments about how she’s changed their lives, causes Romar to comment that this group of clones is much more like those still working for the Empire than they think. Romar continues to add some perspective to the group when he reminds Tech that he and many other inhabitants of Serenno were among Dooku’s first victims in building his rich war chest and that being a native of the planet makes him Serennian, not Separatist. Romar is a man, who like Hunter, can’t wait to put the past behind him, but that’s not something every Batcher is willing to do.
The two-episode premiere ends with the return of Season 1’s villain, Rampart, and a reminder of just how far the Empire is willing to go to establish its own version of order and truth to the galaxy. Rampart’s willingness to cover up the events of the Season 1 finale that saw Kamino destroyed are just a microcosm of the Empire’s “at all costs” approach and something that will certainly be an ongoing plot point in Season 2. It serves as a grim reminder of what these clones are up against as they try to make their own way in the galaxy. And ultimately “Spoils of War” and “Ruins of War” do a fine job of detailing how achieving that goal will be the Bad Batch’s toughest mission yet. The Bad Batch isn’t peddling hope; it’s building the world that almost ran out of it.