As much as the Star Wars saga is built on hope, it has more than its fair share of tragedy. From the deaths of many beloved heroes, to Anakin Skywalker’s corruption to the Dark Side, the sadness comes baked right in. But potentially the most tragic of all, in coupling with Anakin becoming Darth Vader, is the fall of the Republic and rise of the Empire. Seeing democracy fall to fascism is a universal bad; to date, we haven’t spent much time in the actual falling. That is, until Disney+‘s new series The Bad Batch, which has the potential to show us the galaxy at its most hopeless.
We thought seeing Order 66 in Revenge of the Sith and just last year in The Clone Wars was sad. The Bad Batch will show this and its aftermath from the perspective of the clones themselves. More accurately, the “defective” clones for whom Order 66 meant next to nothing. Ahsoka Tano and Rex managed to escape the brainwashed clones in the final arc of The Clone Wars. But they were exiles, not part of the mechanism itself.
As The Bad Batch begins, we find our ragtag Clone Force 99 at the very butt-end of the Clone Wars, just as we hear of General Grievous’ death and Chancellor Palpatine assuming the powers of an Emperor. But generally, to our heroes, that’s just a shrug—a change of context more than circumstance. But then, Order 66. Immediately, the “Regs,” or the rank-and-file clone troopers, begin firing on the assigned Jedi. In this case, it’s Master Depa Billaba and her padawan, Caleb Dume. Only because Hunter and co did not find themselves brainwashed the same way does he let Caleb escape, to later become Rebels hero Kanan Jarrus.
The Bad Batch don’t understand how and why the Jedi would, apparently, betray the Republic. Nor why the regs would just blindly follow orders like this. This speaks to the first tragedy of the series, one which we saw initially at the end of The Clone Wars. The Clone Wars ends in the loss of good people, and now those Order 66-ed have lost their entire beings. We know each clone longed to be more than just a number and a uniform; now that’s all they are. Gruff, unfeeling, devoid of rationality or sympathy. They are the fawning automatons of the Empire.
Clone Force 99 were, of course, mostly immune to this immediate, uncontrolled shift. Echo’s chip fried before Order 66, and it appears Hunter, Wrecker, and Tech’s were faulty from the start. But not Crosshair’s. While his chip wasn’t in perfect working order, it functioned enough for him to see Hunter’s inaction as a betrayal, and not anything else. The second tragedy of The Bad Batch is the loss of brothers. There’s a case to be made that the creators of the show are showing literal brainwashing as an allegory for the metaphorical brainwashing in reality. They produce the same result; whether forced into it or true believers, they serve totalitarian governments.
Seeing clones, the titular heroes of the previous animated series, turn bad was rough; The Bad Batch will live in that reality. Our heroes are still clones, but they’re the renegades, the deserters. The clones have always been the instrument of a corrupt leader, but now they’re nothing but. But for how long. The first episode also points to where the series will likely head, which is even more upsetting.
We know clones aren’t stormtroopers by the time of Rebels. Seeing a clone anywhere at that point is a rarity, like spotting Bigfoot. But there are hundreds of thousands of clone troopers, and from the first episode, we know the Kaminoans are prepared to keep making clones for as long as the Emperor needs them. But Governor Tarkin doesn’t like the clones, knows that, to truly hold the galaxy in terror, will need to recruit and draft its citizens. It’s easier, more effective, and much less costly, to corrupt the hearts and minds than to continue cloning. Clones served their purpose for a quick and widespread war. But the war is over.
What I’m driving at is, whether they directly depict it or not, The Bad Batch will ultimately result in the wholesale slaughter of the entire clone army. They won’t lose in battle, heroically or otherwise. The Empire will simply dispose of them. And because of Order 66, they probably won’t even fight it, their brains wired to fully accept any and all orders. Hell, they gladly turn their guns on other clones.
We’re seeing the very early days of the Rebellion already in The Bad Batch, but the fruition of it is a ways off. Hunter, Wrecker, Tech, Echo, and now young Omega will see their own kind behave as nothing more than blunt, expendable instruments, without even lives of their own. The undesirables are the ones who might survive.
I’m very excited to see what else The Bad Batch has in store—the fun these “defective” specialists might have. But it’ll be tough to see the galaxy in such ruin, decades removed from the new hope it so desperately needs.
The Bad Batch drops episodes weekly on Disney+.
Kyle Anderson is the Senior Editor for Nerdist. You can find his film and TV reviews here. Follow him on Twitter!