The Final Season of Star Wars: The Bad Batch Wasn’t Completely Satisfying

The Bad Batch concludes with its weakest season, narrowing its storytelling focus and leaving key themes and ideas behind...

I love the first two seasons of Star Wars: The Bad Batch. The show quickly became much more than just an extended epilogue to The Clone Wars, a footnote on that other show’s history, and instead offered a fascinating view of a galaxy in rapid change, through characters unsure how to change themselves. While everyone was, understandably, losing their minds over Andor, I was championing this animated underdog of a show, or at least as much as an underdog a Star Wars show can be. Yet I’ve found it difficult not to be disappointed in the series’ third and final season. It’s not bad, it’s a solid season, but one that perhaps focuses far too narrowly on specific characters and plots to be totally satisfying.

The Bad Batch is about transition, both macro and micro. The Republic at war has become the Empire at peace. The characters represent this idea, too; clones bred for war suddenly finding themselves without purpose. But this key theme is underserved in the final season. I thought the second season’s midseason two-parter, probably my favourite episodes of the series, was a key marker on this journey, but it turned out to actually be the end. The phasing-out of the clones and the first utterance of the word “stormtrooper” set the stage for the final chapter of the clones’ story that never really came. That push from Republic to Empire stopped progressing. The tempestuous galaxy felt oddly stagnant this season. There were no final steps to the Empire’s control. Even symbolically, like the emergence of TIE Fighters or classic Stormtrooper armour. Only a Imperial Star Destroyer in the finale, which felt more like an easter egg than a point.

The Batch themselves transitioned over the course of the first two seasons. The show has essentially been their quest for a new noun. They can’t be soldiers so what are they now? Mercenaries? Rebels? They reckoned with this question for two seasons, even to the point where Echo left the Batch because they disagreed on the answer. It felt so much like the show was building to a decision, a moment where the Batch decide who and what they are, but it never came. I guess they are ultimately dads for Omega, which is fine, but they’ve been that for three seasons. Other than for Crosshair, that’s not much of a journey.

People cry ‘filler’ far too easily these days. Angry fans complaining if the ongoing plot isn’t pushed forward each week. I’m not like that. I enjoy the episodic style of the first two seasons. It led to wider exploration of the galaxy, different types of characters, more variety of stories, all linked by themes and ideas and our hero characters. Conversely, season 3 was aggressively serialised and 15 episodes of the same story grew tiring to me. The season began on Tantiss and ended on Tantiss and it didn’t feel like much had changed between those two instances. Little new development, or information, or context. Instead, just two different types of break out.

The wider clone story is kept to a minimum in the final season. It’s a real shame. The show had been combining the personal with the expansive well, telling a story focused on the Batch while comparing and contrasting with the narrative of all clones. In the final season, the wider galaxy disappears. The focus becomes too restricted. What’s happening to the remaining clones? I don’t know. It felt like as the Empire tossed them aside, so did the show. Rex and his gang only appear briefly, helping Chuchi in a subplot that never came back. That was a big part of season 2 and then nothing. Some clones are on Tantiss but that can’t be a significant amount of them. And those clones are mentioned occasionally and finally appear in the finale, but the show was much more interested in changing its perspective entirely to force-sensitive children.

The next animated Star Wars show has not yet been announced but there’s no way it’s not a spin-off/sequel/continuation of The Bad Batch. And it feels like the next show infected this one too much. There are many subplots and characters with no resolution, instead, I imagine, to continue in the next series. Maybe the show ended after three seasons because that’s when contract negotiations begin and Disney wanted to instead rebrand and relaunch as a new series.

The next series could be a Rex show, but I think he’s stuck as a supporting character in all these series, and instead it’ll be a ‘Hidden Path’ story with Asajj Ventress, maybe ferrying the kids we saw in the final few episodes. I wouldn’t mind that but what little we got of Ventress in The Bad Batch felt like a very generic Star Wars jedi/force user story. Omega was kinda-sorta-maybe-but-not-really force-sensitive and they didn’t do anything with it apart from the hunt for her feeling too close to Grogu’s role in The Mandalorian.

Omega and Crosshair are the stars of the final season. A real highlight of the show has been Omega’s growth. You don’t feel how drastic it is until look back to how the character was at the beginning. She was a very satisfyingly confident character in this last arc, deciding to go back to Tantiss and help people when in the first season she needed promising she would never be taken back to Kamino because she was so scared. As for Crosshair, I wasn’t expecting such a redemptive arc. It wasn’t the most original character story but it was told well. I like that his redemption occurred across the whole season. Usually in Star Wars, once a villain turns to the good side they immediately die, but here we got to see Crosshair reckon with his past choices and survive.

But with all the focus on Omega and Crosshair, I really wish we could have gotten some extra beats with Hunter, Wrecker, and Echo. They were just there as consistent steadfast characters. Wrecker in particular hasn’t done anything since his chip activated halfway through season 1. The episode Bad Territory could have been the opportunity for some great Hunter and Wrecker moments but the story around them was just too dull. Hunter, the main father figure, needed to face letting Omega go, but the increase in Crosshair’s screentime led to a decrease in his. Not to mention Batcher, Gonky, and AZI disappearing from the final few episodes. I also wouldn’t have destroyed the Havoc Marauder so early, I didn’t really feel the loss, and think it’s destruction should have been saved for the penultimate episode, replacing the generic shuttle that crashes spectacularly.

It’s a small detail but I really enjoyed the appearance of the juggernaut clone turbo tank this season. I’ve loved that vehicle since it’s brief scene in Revenge of the Sith, I was very jealous of a friend who had the Lego set, and after not appearing in The Clone Wars at all for reasons I can’t fathom it finally got a moment to shine. It also provided a thematic purpose of the type I wish there were more of. It’s a symbol of the Republic repurposed by the Empire, becoming a prisoner transport instead of a liberating tank. I also liked the detail in the next episode when the Batch had to strip their armour of identifying marks, essentially removing all personality and wiping away 10 seasons of clone storytelling to blend in with the imperials.  

Which brings me to CX-02, the clone assassin. Everyone had a theory on his identity except me it seems. I never thought it was Cody or Tech. My one hope for the final season was that Tech stayed dead and I’m so glad that happened. It seemed to me from the very beginning that the point of CX-02 was that he, and the other specialised clones like him, were nobodies. Drones, devoid of identity. They are the only clones the Empire has interest in. No names, no personality. Tools to be used. Everything about them has been wiped away. If they were once a recognisable clone, they’re not anymore. They are what the Batch and the rest of the clones have to fight against, literally and symbolically. They served that purpose well and I didn’t need a greater reveal.

Tantiss dominated the second half of the show and I was initially very excited for it. But for the amount of focus the location had, we see and learn very little. Project Necromancer is hinted at but even in the finale they are still being coy and not giving us an answer. Just show us a Palpatine clone in a tube already. I’m fine with answering questions remaining from the sequel trilogy, that’s just part of the tapestry of Star Wars, but this is just a series of teases rather than an answer. I do think Necromancer fits the show thematically, however. Jango’s clones are this beautiful thing to come from cloning technology and their last action, along with a surviving Kaminoan, is to stop a bastardisation of their state of being, a clone abomination.

Emerie Karr. The reveal of her being a clone felt like a big deal, it was chosen to be the final beat of the dramatic second season finale, but it ultimately matters much less than I was expecting. She could have been a regular human scientist and it would have played out the same way. Her backstory is vague, I’m not sure why she was created or kept around by Hemlock. I could see her turn coming, and while it didn’t play out poorly it did all happen very expectedly. There is some added drama to her looking past experimentation on her own kind, before choosing to side with her brothers, which keeps it all a clone story. But I wanted more from her, and maybe I’ll get it in whatever the next show is, with her teaming up with Rex and Echo.

A character I wasn’t expecting to return for the final season was Rampart. I thought we’d seen the last of him but I’m so glad he returned in a different type of role. His story in the last few episodes exposed imperial cowardice and selfishness, and he was used effectively for both comedy and drama. Plus, actor Noshir Dalal is just wonderful in the role. In fact, I liked all the returning elements in the final season, which created a ‘full circle’ feel: the planet from the Outpost, the monastery on Teth, Roland Durand and his mother Isa, Wolffe, Fennec, and Cad Bane, fulfilling the same role as his first chronological appearance in The Clone Wars, kidnapping children.

The character I’m glad didn’t return, other than Tech, is Cid. I love that she didn’t get a redemption arc. She betrays the Batch as her final action and she, the Batch, and us, are left with the pain of that betrayal. I think it’s great that a major character in the show makes a choice and has to live with it, that the last we see of her is that decisive action. It’s a learning moment for the Batch and Omega, that they have to be careful who to trust in this galaxy.

The season put an awful lot of pressure on its finale, progressing the plot only marginally in the episodes leading up to it and leaving everything to occur in the extended final instalment. And it was… okay. All the major beats happened competently, and the technical aspects of the show are near perfect. My biggest issues were with the ending, which didn’t quite manage to successfully put a thematic cap on the show. As cool as it is to see an older Omega and Hunter, I think the timejump moves forward too far to be truly effective. Omega’s an adult, of course she’s going to leave home, and so the goodbye, and Hunter letting her go, wasn’t the emotional moment it could have been if it occurred not long after their return to Pabu, say if Omega’s path lay with going with Ventress instead.

My other issue was with this piece of dialogue:

Hunter: “Now we get to choose who we want to be.”

Omega: “Like what?”   

Hunter: “Whatever we want, kid. Whatever we want.”

Hunter and the Batch have been able to choose what they want to be for the whole show. It’s been a key question that I wanted the series to answer. What do the Batch choose to be now they can’t be soldiers? And they still haven’t made a choice, instead ending the show by punting the choice down the road. I’m not sure they choose to be anything in this upturned galaxy besides stay at home dads. After all this time, The Bad Batch doesn’t offer an answer to who these character are now, it just re-asks the question its been asking since the beginning.

I don’t want to sound too negative on the final season. I enjoyed watching it but I was increasingly ready for it to end. The third season is the show’s weakest and the narrow focus grew tiring as it began to wrap up the plot but not so much the ideas at play. The Bad Batch was a continuation of The Clone Wars: a new story but also a sequel wrapping up loose threads, but now The Bad Batch itself needs its own sequel series to wrap up its loose ends, and that’s not entirely satisfying.

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