There’s no doubt that Star Wars fans, especially those committed to the expanded universe beyond the Skywalker movies, is going to embrace The Bad Batch with a massive bear hug.
The new Disney+ series is a spin-off from one of the most beloved Star Wars titles, the animated The Clone Wars, and was created by Dave Filoni. In some parts of the fandom, Filoni, who was a protégé of George Lucas, is considered a champion of Lucas’ original vision.
So, The Bad Batch is catnip for the dedicated Star Wars fans. It’s an animated action-adventure series with thrills, relatable characters on the right side of the war, blaster guns and enough lore and easter eggs to invoke a few excited squeals.
But the real question is how accessible is The Bad Batch for the casual fan or even, gasp, a newcomer to the franchise?
As always, that depends on your genre mileage. If you’re a sci-fi fan, then many of the tropes are already familiar, and if you’ve seen even a couple of the Star Wars movies or The Mandalorian, then everything will mostly fall into place after about eight minutes.
The Galactic Empire has just been established and Palpatine has declared himself Emperor with a promise for a “safe and secure society” – why anyone would listen to a robed ghoul with that pallor is beyond belief, but anyway.
The series starts with the execution of Order 66, a clone protocol that declares all Jedi traitors and mandates their execution.
On the battlefield, there is a group of clones who can’t square why one minute they’re supporting young padawan Caleb (Freddie Prinze Jr reprising his character from Rebels) and ordered to kill him the next.
These clones are genetic mutants, the so-called Bad Batch, also known in-universe as Clone Force 99. They had previously popped up in The Clone Wars and was known for being a particularly fierce combat unit, each with specific enhanced skills.
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They’re led by Hunter, the leader of the group, and also includes expert marksman Crosshair, super genius Tech, the brawny Wrecker and Echo. The latter is not a mutant clone but a cyborg.
Dee Bradley Baker voices all five of Clone Force 99, modulating each character with a different voice register while also giving them enough similarities to reflect their shared origins.
While stationed on Kamino, they meet a young medical assistant named Omega (Michelle Ang) who Hunter is drawn to.
There are familiar faces who appear in the first episode (an extended 70 minutes runtime), including Grand Moff Tarkin and Saw Gerrera while others are promised down the line, including a younger version of The Mandalorian’s Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen reprising her voice role).
The Bad Batch is a solid and entertaining series that should attract both fans and newbies. Its foundation of a group of renegades up against an all-powerful empire is straight out of the Star Wars bible, an easily digestible and sympathetic story dynamic.
The first episode adeptly establishes the characters and the world and sets up an ongoing conflict that has a lot of potential for the rest of the season. And it’s interested in exploring ideas of belonging when the world is shifting around you, caught between the old ways and a new, dubious era.
The animation might put some live-action purists off, but the form allows for gravity-defying stunts and set-pieces that spark thrills.
But if you find yourself resisting its pleasures, don’t worry, there are a gazillion more Star Wars projects in the pipeline to come.
The Bad Batch is streaming now on Disney+ with new episodes available on Fridays
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