The first season has concluded, but falls into the same trap of Black Widow: It's too safe to be special.
Creator Dave Filoni has, understandably, amassed quite a following within the global Star Wars community throughout the years. While movies, TV shows and all things in between have been fluctuating at best, and wildly disappointing at worst, depending who you ask, Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels have consistently delivered solid animated drama and action.
But as I noted in my initial impressions of the first feature-length episode of his latest animated Star Wars show, The Bad Batch, it's now impossible to escape the feeling that what Filoni and his crew is ultimately doing here is treading water.
Now, the entire first season of The Bad Batch is out, and its time to reflect on the journey of our band of ex-clone troopers, and find out whether they managed to carve out a narrative starting point for themselves in the wide Star Wars mythos.
The second part of that question is, sadly, easily answered; No, Star Wars: The Bad Batch does not carve out anything, and in fact it barely moves, shakes or does anything extraordinary with its characters in this first 16-episode season. In fact, the majority of episodes are stand-alone, only serving to mildly further the development of child clone Omega's attachment to the group of mercenary soldiers, from where the show draws its name. A crash on a dark planet with tricky-to-handle monsters, a mercenary job that's seemingly simple but creates unforeseen problems, a daring rescue of a rebellious senator - it all just flows by, as anything but the most loyal of Filoni fans can draw anything but mild entertainment value from the show.
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It's sad, and that overarching promise of adding any new spice to the already thoroughly explored Order 66 period of Star Wars, is quickly forgotten, as the show settles into a near-completely episodic format.
There are bright spots, for sure, such as the arrival of some character favourites from other Filoni animated shows, which hints at a larger construction of continuity down the line, and if you take it for what it is; a fun, light-hearted and well-animated Star Wars show, it can be great to watch. But for anyone tuning in wanting Disney's Star Wars programming to expand upon its world, its mythos, its narrative platform with something new, well, there's nothing particularly new here.
Through Clone Wars we got Ahsoka, who's now a part of The Mandalorian and she's getting her own show as well. Through Rebels we got several fan favourites, and even saw the return of Darth Maul. The first season of Bad Batch is close to introducing no one, simply concentrating almost exclusively on our group of mercenary soldiers. They aren't totally uninteresting, but neither do any of them show any sign of significant improvement, apart from Hunter, who does grow increasingly attached to Omega as a father-figure.
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It's well-animated though, and incredibly voiced. It looks good, it sounds brilliant, and there are some aspects of its storytelling that does break new ground, such as the focus on the government of Camino during the formation of the Galactic Empire, and the way the clones themselves process and make sense of the sweeping change of Order 66. These qualities are still here throughout, it's just that if they felt like a starting point in the beginning, they really are it, in terms of ambitious and original angles. From here, it's all well-known, and seen before.
And that's the problem with The Bad Batch, like another Disney property, Black Widow, it suffers from being squeezed in between better pieces of storytelling, and it does not give itself any wiggle room to surprise, or shock. All it does is exist, telling us stories from this narrative cubbyhole, and remaining increasingly narrow as a result. We need new Star Wars stories, stories from beyond Rise of Skywalker, or stories that ditch the era we know entirely. The Bad Batch is not wholly unoriginal, but it is about as safe as it can be, and therefore rather uninteresting, despite great production values.