Season 2 of The Bad Batch Is Lightyears Ahead of the First — But It Still Needs to Clear a Few Things Up

In a predictable turn of events, The Bad Batch has formed up in its second season to become some of the best television Star Wars has on offer. (We’re certainly not talking Andor levels of thoughtfulness here, but it seems worth noting that I’ve been far more keen to switch on their latest episodes than The Mandalorian this season.) Though sometimes disjointed in its execution, The Bad Batch has taken on the job of showing what it’s like living under the first days of the Empire’s reign… which was obviously never going to be a cheery subject.

[Spoilers for S2 of Star Wars: The Bad Batch]

There are several threads of import making up the next sixteen-episode season: the departure of squad members, a change of heart in one of their own, difficulties in the Batch’s relationship with Cid, schemes around Kaminoan technology that need “test subjects,” the discovery of a safe haven, and an underlying current of dread as the remaining clone troopers are dealt with in the only way the Empire ever deals with anything. But we’re getting to know Clone Force 99 and their youngest recruit a lot better this time around, which means that when the story chooses to twist the knife, it hurts a lot more than it did last season.

The sheer volume and variety that the series offers up on a weekly basis is one of its many secret sauces. This season we get a return of the Zillo Beast (as we should have counted on given Palpatine’s clear avarice following that spate of episode on Clone Wars), Héctor Elizondo, Ernie Hudson, and Ben Schwartz cameos, a proper look at the Kashyyk under-forest (which contains kinrath!), riot racing, ancient giant mecha beings, and a weird Oliver Twist-esque mining operation that needs dealing with stat. The show covers so much ground and types of action-adventure in so little time, it seems to be punching above its weight class on a regular basis by those terms alone. We also get a fantastic reveal by Emerie Karr (voiced by Keisha Castle-Hughes) this season to top things all off.

The show also continues to uphold the wisdom of the animated series in better understanding that Star Wars, in its ideal rendering, favors and relies on the visuals over all other factors in cinematic storytelling. There are frames of this show that look like gorgeous paintings, metaphorical images that sear, action sequences that put plenty of the most popular films and video games to shame. When the show chooses to focus in on its more serious plotlines, things get devastating in short order: basically every episode featuring the Batch’s former (I say “former”… a designation that’s certainly in dispute this season) sharpshooter Crosshair are meditations on isolation, dehumanization, and the horrifically mundane evil that the Empire perpetrates against any being it sees no use for. “The Outpost” in particular is a pared-down, heartbreaking short war film, featuring the very first person Crosshair manages to properly connect with after his break from Clone Force 99. The final minutes of that episode could easily bring a person to tears (and did, in my case).

Having said that, there are a few problems that need addressing, and I’m not sure they’re the sort that will get solved.

The Bad Batch, season 2, The Outpost, Crosshair and Mayday

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

There’s a strange issue still at work here, being that it’s hard to believe The Bad Batch has decided what the core of its story is supposed to be. The Clone Wars had a specific time period and frame to work within, and Rebels was similarly situated as a lead-up to the events of the Original Trilogy. Andor is poised in much the same way to Rogue One, and Ahsoka already has a central goal in mind (the rescue of Ezra Bridger from the far reaches of the galaxy). Even The Mandalorian, for all that it’s content to wander aimlessly from week to week, seems to be moving toward the restoration of the Mandalorian people following their devastation by the Empire.

But The Bad Batch keeps doing the work of several shows at once—some weeks it’s an A-Team sendup, other weeks it’s about family and growth when a central purpose (fighting a war) has been erased, then there’s an overarching plot where the fate and freedom of the clone troopers come into question. The latter is the logical spoke to pin the story to, but it makes certain choices within the narrative puzzling as a result. For instance, the suggestion that the clones might settle down on refugee haven Pabu for the sake of Omega is a sweet thought, but one that any savvy viewer knows won’t work out longterm. So what is the character purpose in taking this question seriously? What does it do for the group to consider it? We’re not given clear answers, and unless the location does become a retirement plan at the end of the show (which, who knows, it might), the choice to consider it for so long feels like a weird misdirect.

At least we got more character development this season, but there, too, it feels like being cheated out of the full measure of the show’s potential. The majority of the season’s character work went toward developing Tech, the groups resident technician who does all their hacking, coding, analysis, and so forth. The depth given to Tech this season was moving to witness, particularly when the show went out of its way to clarify and offer some specificity around the character’s neurodivergence—he’s likely on the autism spectrum, though who knows what they call that in the Star Wars galaxy—and used that as a point to strengthen the bond between himself and Omega rather than weaken it. He even has a burgeoning crush on space pirate Wanda Sykes, a thing I didn’t realize I needed in my life until she appeared, and now I can never be without her again.

The Bad Batch, season 2, The Crossing, Tech and Omega

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

Unfortunately, Tech makes a sacrifice play in the final episode of the season. It’s entirely possible he’s not dead—we suspiciously don’t hear anything about a body, though his goggles are recovered by the so-odious-he-strains-credulity Doctor Hemlock—but either way it’s a kind of cheat. We got to know Tech so well only to immediately lose him, or we got to know him only to lose him, but that doesn’t even count. Frankly, both of those tropes are the sort that television could stand to retire for a while, and if it turns out that Tech is truly dead… well, it doesn’t really seem fair to give neurodivergent fans such a valuable character key-in, and then literally drop him off a cliff.

There’s also Crosshair’s redemption arc to consider. While I’m a complete sucker for this kind of character turn (and there are plenty of place where it does work), it feels to me as though there was an error in its execution; we didn’t know Crosshair well enough as an audience for his betrayal to hit hard, and we still don’t know him well enough for his redemption to land as heavily as it should. Even doing a great deal of work in my own head, there’s so much we’re not told about his feelings and reasons for choosing the Empire over his little band of brothers, or his reasons for disillusionment in the other direction. This isn’t to say that the arc we’ve been presented with can’t work, but it does mean that the writers will need to do a lot of development on the backend of that plot in order to give it the emotional weight it needs… and I’m not sure that work will get done.

Fans always fill in the gaps on these things themselves (in fact, I’d go so far as to say that much of corporate-funded storytelling relies on this impulse), but it will be disappointing if Crosshair doesn’t get the attention that the story owes him in making this such an important arc. It seems a shame also that they couldn’t have allowed this turn more time in either direction—think how much more it would have hurt to lose Crosshair to the Empire after a full season rather than one episode, or what it would have meant to take another season to get him to come around. Of course, these shows never know how many seasons they’re going to get, but allowing for a real build would make the story a much sturdier beast.

It sounds like I’m full of complaints, but the truth is I only bring all these issues up because there’s so much to love in this show. When it hits its stride, it’s full of fun and pathos, wild and meaningful all at once. The animation is the best it’s ever been on any Star Wars series, and the characters are a wonderful funky little family of weirdos. They deserve the best; they should have it.

All of which is to say that I cannot wait for season three of The Bad Batch. I’m just incredibly nervous about what that season will actually bring us.

Emmet Asher-Perrin is firmly in the “Tech’s Not Dead” camp, in case that wasn’t clear. He better be back, give him back to me. You can bug them on Twitter and Tumblr, and read more of their work here and elsewhere.


Back to the top of the page


This post is closed for comments.

Our Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To withdraw your consent, see Your Choices.