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‘The Bad Batch’ season 2 continues ‘Star War’’s winning animation streak

‘The Bad Batch’ season 2 continues ‘Star War’’s winning animation streak

‘The Bad Batch’ season 2 continues ‘Star War’’s winning animation streak
April 14
14:00 2023

Another immersive entry into the “Star Wars” galaxy, “The Bad Batch” season two brings new storylines to outcast clones.

Few creative voices have been as impactful on “Star Wars” as Dave Filoni. Since joining Lucasfilm for the beloved anthology series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” the animation director-turned-executive producer has given fans some of the best “Star Wars” content of the 21st century. While Filoni’s most popular work is likely the live-action series “The Mandalorian,” he’s never fully stepped away from the medium that brought him to the franchise: animation.

Over the past 15 years, his work with Lucasfilm’s animation department has resulted in shows like “Rebels,” “Tales of the Jedi,” and the aforementioned “Clone Wars” — all of which are lauded by critics and fans alike. 

With season two of “The Bad Batch,” the spinoff to “Clone Wars,” Filoni has proved once again that his talents as a storyteller and passion for “Star Wars” remains as strong as ever. Season one, released in 2021, already set a high bar and season two is just as good — if not better. 

The show follows the titular Bad Batch, a squadron of clone troopers with special genetic modifications. After deserting from the newly-formed Galactic Empire, the squad gets by with odd jobs and mercenary work across the galaxy, frequently helping others escape from the Empire’s ever-expanding grasp.

To start off a long list of positives, the animation is phenomenal. After 15 years, Lucasfilm’s style has been polished to perfection. The stellar storyboarding, vivid colors and immense attention to detail make the world feel alive — especially during frequent, well-executed action scenes. 

That world is also worth exploring, given this show’s place in the “Star Wars” timeline. While other media has bridged the gap between the prequel and original trilogies, most of those projects take place well into the Empire’s reign. “Bad Batch” differs by taking place right after the Empire’s establishment.

This timeline shows how the mostly benign Republic of the prequels became the overwhelming force of evil from the original trilogy. A lot is happening in the galaxy when the show takes place, and the story conveys that masterfully. 

That world also benefits from the strong characters that populate them, especially the Bad Batch members themselves. Each member’s genetic modifications and unique personalities are entertaining to watch. The squad has great on-screen chemistry and voice actor Dee Bradley Baker gives each clone a unique voice.

While fans criticized the previous season for not developing those core characters, this season more than makes up for it. Every member has something to do. Viewers even see tensions grow between the clones over whether they should step up and fight the Empire or leave the soldier-life behind.

The show’s best individual character is Crosshair, the squad’s former sniper who maintained his Imperial loyalties. While the last season made him a compelling antagonist, his arc is much more tragic this time around. Throughout the season, he’s forced to come to terms with how the regime he betrayed his brothers for views his kind as expendable assets. This sets up some of the best moments in the entire series thus far. 

Crosshair’s arc also ties into the show’s predominant running theme — the decommissioning of the old clone army. Under the Empire, the soldiers we grew attached to in “Clone Wars” are viewed as obsolete relics of the prior government. Viewers frequently see the contempt and disregard Imperial officers hold for them as they’re forced into retirement, imprisonment or even unjust medical experiments.

These aspects brilliantly depict the tragedy of the clones’ mere existence. They were born to execute Palpatine’s vision, and they’re rewarded for their service by being unceremoniously disposed of.

We’ve seen countless clones, both in this show and “Clone Wars,” distinguish themselves as individuals despite being genetically identical copies of each other. Yet they’re expected to accept their fate like good soldiers.

Their treatment this season sparks nuanced discussions on free will, identity and patriotism in the face of autocracy. It produces some of the tensest and most mature moments in any “Star Wars” project. 

Admittedly, the strong central theme also reveals one of the show’s few weaknesses. The episodic, “mission of the week” structure hinders the themes. Many of the show’s detractors will take this even further, harshly criticizing it for “filler” episodes.

Despite critiques, those episodes typically help develop characters, continue the stories of characters from “Clone Wars” or simply serve as breathers between intense episodes. Even if they aren’t as eventful or memorable as the show’s best episodes, they still serve a purpose.

However, just because many of the in-between episodes are solid doesn’t mean they couldn’t have been something more. Not every episode needs to be mature or intense, but the episodic format still weakens the overall story.

Aside from that, “Bad Batch” season two is another triumph for Filoni’s team. A third and final season has been announced for next year, and with the high bar this season set, fans will be watching with great interest the squadron’s ultimate adventures.

Ian’s rating: 4.5/5

Featured Illustration by Isabella Isquierdo

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Ian Cropper

Ian Cropper

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