The latest in the never-ending cycle of Star Wars content being churned out on Disney+, the animated Clone Wars spin-off series The Bad Batch has returned for a second season. Released in mid-2021, the first season was decidedly underwhelming, to be honest. Whether this one will show any growth or improvement remains to be seen, but early signs suggest not much so far.
Certain factions of the franchise’s fandom hold writer/producer Dave Filoni in almost godlike reverence, as the man whose beloved The Clone Wars (and Rebels, to a somewhat lesser extent) series saved Star Wars in between the much-maligned prequel trilogy and even-more-hated sequel trilogy films. The truth, however, is that for as brilliant as The Clone Wars could be at its best, that show also had a huge volume of middling filler episodes. The first season of The Bad Batch leaned much closer to the latter, and I’m not yet convinced that this one has learned any lessons from its failings.
|Title:||Star Wars: The Bad Batch|
|Episodes:||2.01 – Spoils of War|
2.02 – Ruins of War
|Release Date:||Jan. 4, 2023|
The Bad Batch characters, officially known as Clone Force 99, were first introduced in a blatant backdoor-pilot setup during the final season of Clone Wars. The original members of the team were supposedly “defective” clones with genetic mutations that the Republic Army considered advantageous, such as increased strength, agility, or intelligence. (The defects explain why they don’t all look identical to typical clones, and how they were immune to Order 66.) After the fall of the Republic, they were joined by Echo, a regular clone who’d been injured in battle and implanted with cybernetic enhancements, including the removal of his control chip.
In the first season of their spin-off, the Batch went on the run and found themselves as caretakers to a young clone named Omega (or “Omeega,” as she pronounces it in a thick Kiwi accent). That babysitter angle became a real drag over the course of the season, as the annoying Omega served no purpose to most of the storylines other than to constantly get in everyone else’s way. The series also failed to explain how Omega could be female, when she was cloned from Jango Fett just like all the others. Although voiced by actress Michelle Ang, the character doesn’t particularly look female, and the whole conceit felt (and still feels) like the show’s producers trying to make a political statement.
As the first season ended and the series was greenlit for renewal, I hoped that perhaps the next season could open with the Batch dropping Omega off on a remote planet and never mentioning her again. No such luck. She’s back, and still central to the series.
Season 2 launched with a two-episode premiere. To make ends meet, the Batch have been taking jobs stealing from the Empire at the behest of space pirate Cid (voiced by Rhea Perlman). The premiere introduces Wanda Sykes as a new pirate named Phee Genoa, who doesn’t have much to do so far but I expect will come back around later. When Cid assigns the Batch a job traveling to planet Serenno to rob a castle formerly home to the late Count Dooku, the heist goes poorly and results in the team getting split apart while being chased by other clones working for the Empire. They’re aided by a kindly old man (Hector Elizondo) native to the planet, but the incident puts them back on the radar of the Empire, after they’d conveniently been declared dead and written off.
The two-part storyline is moderately interesting and features a lot of blaster-firing action, but the presence of Omega continues to weigh the show down. While aged up slightly, she still doesn’t look much female and is still plenty annoying. Her bow weapon that somehow shoots laser bolts is also incredibly stupid and impractical. A traditional pistol or rifle would make a lot more sense, but I suppose Disney was worried about the optics of depicting a child carrying and shooting a gun. (The bow does the exact same amount of damage to its target, but looks a lot dumber when being fired.)
Foisting an orphan onto this Dirty Dozen-style team of macho badasses was a transparent ploy to make the series kid-friendly. Did it work? Maybe. This is a cartoon, after all. My own kids mostly enjoyed the first season as an extension of The Clone Wars, but even they could recognize it as inferior to its predecessor. When I told them a new season of The Bad Batch had started, they were mostly indifferent to it and still haven’t bothered to watch. Meanwhile, the character is very off-putting for adult fans.
Lest it be forgotten, The Clone Wars itself started out pretty unevenly. Hell, the theatrical feature that kicked it off was downright terrible, and young Ahsoka was almost as annoying as Omega here until the writers aged her up (and gave her a decent wardrobe change) a couple seasons in. Perhaps The Bad Batch just needs more time to find its footing as well? Unfortunately, with each season running 16 episodes (quite long by streaming standards), I fear we’ll have to endure a lot more filler before that happens.
Disney+ streams season 2 of The Bad Batch in 4K HDR at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. (For you sticklers out there, that’s a precise measurement. This one is not 2.39:1 or 2.40:1.) The picture is pleasingly sharp and detailed, but (without any confirmation on the production) I’m not convinced that the animation was actually rendered in 4K, versus being upconverted after the fact. Textural details are good but not outstanding. Regardless, it looks fine. I doubt anyone’s going to complain about it looking too soft.
Use of HDR is pretty limited. Really, I’d say it’s hardly noticeable at all in the season’s first episode. The second takes place mostly at night, which offers opportunity for bright highlights from blaster fire and spotlights to pop. Even so, the effect is mostly subtle.
The soundtrack is limited to just Dolby 5.1 surround, no Atmos. The many blaster battles have zinging laser effects from all around the soundstage, but per usual for Disney, bass is light and dynamics are limited.