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This year’s Star Wars Day, May the Fourth, brought a new animated series set in the galaxy far, far away. But it’s familiar territory for many, picking up where another fan-favorite show left off. The seventh and final season of The Clone Wars introduced Clone Force 99, a group of oddballs also known as the Bad Batch (all voiced by Dee Bradley Baker). Half a dozen episodes later, the events of 2005’s Revenge of the Sith began to unfold, signaling the twilight of the Jedi and the dawn of the Empire. These are the “dark times” Obi-Wan spoke of all those years ago, handing off his apprentice’s lightsaber to a young Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars—but I digress.
The 70-minute premiere opens with the Clone Wars logo, red on black. It catches fire, burning away to reveal the metallic title card beneath: The Bad Batch.
How can you watch ‘The Bad Batch’?
In order to watch The Bad Batch, you need to subscribe to Disney+, the platform that serves as the online home for all things Star Wars. You can watch Disney+ using streaming devices, desktop browsers, a wide range of mobile devices, smart TVs, and video-game consoles.
A subscription to Disney+ costs $7.99 per month or $79.99 for the full year, though you can save by signing up for the Disney Bundle with ESPN+ and Hulu, which gives you access to all three streaming services for just $13.99 a month.
What happens in this episode of ‘The Bad Batch’?
Tom Kane’s familiar voice-over brings us up to speed on recent events: The clone war nears its end. A pair of Jedi Knights managed to rescue Chancellor Palpatine from General Grievous, but the sinister cyborg has escaped, fleeing to a Separatist stronghold on Utapau. On the snowy planet Kaller, Jedi Master Depa Billaba (Archie Panjabi) and her Padawan desperately await reinforcements. The two Jedi and their forces are under siege by hovertanks and battle droids.
Billaba’s Padawan, Caleb Dume (Freddie Prinze Jr.), will eventually grow up to be Kanan Jarrus, star of the 2014 animated show Rebels, but here he’s first seen reporting to his master that reinforcements are on their way at last. To the horror of Billaba and the clone troopers, he says there are only five of them; all other available forces have been rerouted back to the Galactic Core.
“Trust me,” says Caleb. “You gotta see these clones. They’re different.”
Enter the Bad Batch: Hunter, Tech, Wrecker, Echo, and Crosshair. Hunter, whose appearance seems to be a nod to Rambo from First Blood (1982), is the group’s leader. Tech’s sort of the brains of the operation; Wrecker is the muscle. Echo is a former ARC trooper who spent time as a prisoner of war in a Separatist fortress, where he was used as an unwitting spy. And Crosshair is a sniper who’s more inclined to follow orders than the rest of Squad 99.
Just as Caleb and the Bad Batch depart for their next mission, Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), a.k.a. Darth Sidious, broadcasts a message to his clone troops across the stars: “Execute Order 66.” This is the command that triggers the galaxy-wide extermination of the Jedi. As blaster shots ring out, Master Billaba tells her Padawan to run for his life. We hear her screams as he vanishes into the forest. Confused about what’s happening, the Batch splits up; Hunter and Crosshair pursue the young Dume. Once in range, Crosshair takes a shot at the kid. “Good soldiers follow orders,” he insists. Hunter disagrees. The Jedi Knights have been their allies—their commanding officers—since the start of the war. No one ever suspected that all along the leader of the Republic was secretly a Lord of the Sith, a wizard with unimaginable power, playing the two sides of the conflict against one another from the shadows. And yet.
“They’re saying the Jedi have committed treason,” Tech says over the comms, referring to the Jedi’s failed attempt to arrest the Chancellor and bring the Sith Lord to justice. (Watch Revenge of the Sith if you need a refresher on the fall of the Republic.) After letting Dume go, Hunter lies to Crosshair, saying he stunned the boy mid-jump as he leapt across a canyon. But the latter soldier knows better, leading him to call Hunter’s leadership into question again and again throughout the course of the lengthy episode.
Back on Kamino, the rest of the Republic Army celebrates the end of the war. Grievous is toast, the Jedi Order will soon be no more, and Palpatine has announced that the government is being reorganized into the first Galactic Empire. As Squad 99 tries to make sense of all this, a pair of troopers pass by them carrying a body on a stretcher; a lightsaber falls from the corpse’s hand.
The Batch soon meets another of their kind—an enhanced clone with mutations that make her unique. Like the army, Omega (Michelle Ang) has been cloned from the cells of the bounty hunter Jango Fett, but she’s the first such clone that turned out to be female (as far as we know). An adolescent with “a curious mind that causes her to wander,” Omega takes an immediate liking to the Bad Batch, standing up for them in the mess hall and inciting a food fight—which escalates into a full-on brawl—in their defense. “Apologize to my friends,” she says. We immediately intuit that she’s one of them, and Hunter and his crew figure this out for themselves in short order.
As the Empire exerts its grip upon the galaxy, Admiral Tarkin (Stephen Stanton) arrives on Kamino to audit the facility and measure the effectiveness of the clones in this new authoritarian era. After observing them in combat, Tarkin sends the Bad Batch to eliminate a group of “Separatists” on Onderon. These turn out to be refugees led by Saw Gerrera (Andrew Kishino), the character played by Forest Whitaker in Rogue One. Among them are injured veterans, farmers, and children. They’re only looking for a fight because they refuse to bow to the tyranny of an empire. When Tarkin’s spies inform the admiral that the Batch has failed to take out Gerrera’s camp, Squad 99—along with Omega—are placed in a holding cell to await punishment.
But this is Star Wars, so no prison can hold our heroes for long. When the time comes for them to board a shuttle and flee, however, Crosshair sides with the Empire, largely because of the inhibitor chip in his skull. In the final shootout, Wrecker takes a bolt from his brother’s rifle, and Kaminoan scientist Nala Se (Gwendoline Yeo), Omega’s longtime guardian, uses her datapad to hold open a hangar-bay door, aiding the Bad Batch in their escape.
“Your first time in space?” Hunter asks the newest member of their squad.
Omega says, “First time… anywhere.”
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This article originally appeared on Reviewed: The Bad Batch season one, episode one recap: Aftermath