REVIEW: ‘The Bad Batch’ Season 3

Throughout its first two seasons, The Bad Batch has wonderfully–and sometimes painfully–been thematically centered on identity. While some audiences still struggle to recognize animated series as something more than children’s cartoons, The Bad Batch has been a fascinating psychological study of individual change. Over the course of Season 2, each of the members of Clone Force 99 had more or less worked their way through Robert Dilts’ Pyramid of Logical Levels. For better and for worse, Tech, Wrecker, Hunter and, yes, Crosshair, each reengineered his identity and each rebuilt his personal ethos. As their values and beliefs were challenged, the mutant clones reprogrammed their minds and changed their behavior. Tech, Hunter, Wrecker and Omega settled in on Pabu and Crosshair found himself in what he believed to be a comfortable position with the Empire. And then the two-part season finale shook them all to the core of their new identities; however, rather than halt their journeys of personal growth, the cliffhanger put the Bad Batch exactly where they needed to be to complete them. After a lifetime of running missions for others, Season 3 allows the remaining members of Clone Force 99 to determine their own purpose and take on one last mission of their own choosing.

Crosshair has always been severe and unyielding. It is his nature. You cannot change that. He cannot change that.

Tech, The Bad Batch: Kamino Lost

Thought up by George Lucas while he and Dave Filoni were developing Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Clone Force 99’s path to the Star Wars universe was bumpy and their place within it seemed unclear until about halfway through Season 2. Lucas originally conceived of the Bad Batch as a group of aberrant clones that would undergo further testing by the Empire in their pursuit of producing an elite squad of genetic Super Soldiers. While their connection to the Kaminoan cloners was well-explored in Season 1, the introduction of Doctor Royce Hemlock–and the unknown nature of his sister mission–in Season 2 smoothed that bumpy path for The Bad Batch and set the series up to do some of the heaviest science-fiction lifting yet. Throughout the first eight episodes of Season 3, The Bad Batch completes its evolution from a show you might want to watch if you have some time to a show that serves as an integral piece of Star Wars mythology with story-telling tendrils that touch the prequels, the New Republic era of stories and the sequels.

Doctor Royce Hemlock in a scene from “STAR WARS: THE BAD BATCH”, season 3 exclusively on Disney+. © 2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™. All Rights Reserved.

Those storytelling tendrils are most active, both thematically and in shared plot points, during the first five episodes of Season 3. Star Wars fans will find connections to Andor, The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett and, yes, Star Wars: Episode IX-The Rise of Skywalker. Omega’s abduction by the Empire in Season 2 is, of course, the inciting moment for the action of the first half of Season 3 and her time at Mount Tantiss over the first four episodes is both revelatory and catalytic, exposing a mystery that fans will immediately solve but that will set Clone Force 99 on their true final mission. The first five episodes are easily among the best the series has put forth so far with episodes 1-3, which premiere together, serving not only as the follow-up to the Season 2 cliffhanger but as a wonderful example of how The Bad Batch has carved out a hardcore sci-fi niche within the larger space opera of Star Wars. If you enjoyed the Alien-esque Season 2 episode “Metamorphosis”, the three-episode premiere will be your cup of tea.

I am a soldier of the Empire.

Crosshair, The Bad Batch: The Solitary Clone

Not the only Batcher being held in the Empire’s Weyland facility, Omega’s interactions with Crosshair highlight the strength of head writer Jennifer Corbett in exploring the team’s interpersonal dynamics. Omega and Crosshair couldn’t be much more different from one another than they are but the two form a wonderful bond that ultimately saves them both. As Omega and Crosshair look to escape the facility, Wrecker and an emotionally devastated Hunter work with what they have left to find Omega and an invested audience will surely be anticipating the frosty reunion between Hunter and Crosshair. To that end, episode 5, “The Return”, might be one of the most cathartic episodes of Star Wars TV to date. While it may not hit as hard as Ahsoka’s “Shadow Warrior”, it’s spiritually similar and without it there’s neither a literal nor figurative path forward for what’s left of the team.

Crosshair in a scene from “STAR WARS: THE BAD BATCH”, season 3 exclusively on Disney+. © 2024 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™. All Rights Reserved.

Season 3 isn’t all pedal to the metal, however, and is not–as was the case with previous seasons–without its lulls. Episodes 6 and 7 step away from the sci-fi and dip back into some familiar subplots from last season, notably the post-Order 66 politics and the place of discarded Clone Troopers in the Empire. Fans have taken–somewhat understandably and also regrettably–to referring to these episodes as “filler”; however, they’ve become a staple in the modern serial Star Wars narratives and while it’s fair to say they typically slow down the pace of the series (and they do so again here), they also provide the galaxy far, far away with an unparalleled level of verisimilitude by calling to mind the politics of the real world. Star Wars always has and always will delve into politics and the expansion into longer-form narratives simply opens up more space for them to be explored more thoroughly. If you haven’t enjoyed the subplot around Palpatine’s Defense Recruitment Bill or finding out how Rex got his groove back after Order 66, this two-episode arc (“Infiltration and “Extraction”) will not be your cup of tea. If that’s the case, though, you’ll be happy to find that Episode 8, “Bad Territory”, puts the series back on its breakneck pace.

This is who I am.

Crosshair, The Bad Batch: Return to Kamino

With the final 5 episodes withheld from the early screening package, it is unfortunately impossible to make a fair judgment of the final season of The Bad Batch. What can be comfortably and confidently said, however, is that much like the members of Clone Force 99, the show has settled on its identity after wavering on determining just exactly what it was capable of becoming. For it to become truly transformative, though, it will have to become truly impactful by settling on what the ultimate purpose of the Batchers’ three-season journey is and provide true clarity on how the story of Omega and her band of mutant brothers fits into a larger narrative whose ending is already known. And so it’s reasonable to ask that the final five episodes of The Bad Batch deliver an answer to why the show existed in the first place. If they do, Clone Force 99’s last mission will likely establish the series’ place alongside its animated predecessors (Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels) as mandatory viewing for anyone whose mission is to connect to the creator’s true vision of Star Wars.

About The Bad Batch Season 3

In the epic final season of Star Wars: The Bad Batch, the Batch will have their limits tested in the fight to reunite with Omega as she faces challenges of her own inside a remote Imperial science lab. With the group fractured and facing threats from all directions, they will have to seek out unexpected allies, embark on dangerous missions, and muster everything they have learned to free themselves from the Empire.

Star Wars: The Bad Batch showcases a talented voice cast, including Dee Bradley
 (American Dad!), Michelle Ang (Fear the Walking Dead: Flight 462), Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider), Jimmi Simpson (Westworld), Noshir Dalal (It’s Pony) and Wanda Sykes (The Upshaws).

Star Wars: The Bad Batch is executive produced by Dave Filoni (AhsokaThe
Mandalorian), Athena Portillo (Star Wars: The Clone WarsStar Wars Rebels), Brad
Rau (Star Wars RebelsStar Wars Resistance), Jennifer Corbett (Star
Wars ResistanceNCIS) and Carrie Beck (AhsokaThe Mandalorian), with Josh
Rimes (Star Wars ResistanceStar Wars: Visions) as co-executive producer and Alex
Spotswood (Star Wars: The Clone WarsStar Wars Rebels) as senior producer. Rau
is also serving as supervising director with Corbett as head writer.

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