Hello my wonderful viewers and welcome to another episode of Betty Adams over-analyzes. Today we look at the first episode of Star Wars The Clone Wars First episode, “The Bad Batch”.
The episode opens with a pale and haggard General Anakin standing stiffly beside a grim and determined Mace Windu. They are too far apart. Cody and Rex approach, and for a moment Anakin’s face flickers with, concern, compassion, for a moment he pulls himself out of his selfishness and self pity to, at least, attempt to care for his friend.
Not to bury the lead, I enjoyed the episode. “The Bad Batch” is a solid platform to launch the final season. It had all the elements that made the first six seasons of The Clone Wars so beloved by the fandom. It had the same rough and gritty magic that so firmly established this animated spin off as more solid cannon than the prequel trilogy in the minds of the public. It had the heart of that magic and the creators clearly understand what made The Clone Wars so special. To wit, any of your beloved characters can, and will die.
You care about the clones, and you know kriffing well that they have no plot armor. Any one of the main characters might die at any moment. Not only is that a possibility it is a probability. The show can afford to spend episode after episode getting you attached to a clone and then have this beloved fictional friend you’ve made quietly shanked in the neck two episodes before the season's end.
They can do this because there are always more clones for you to transfer that attachment to. You are presented with a team of brothers, each made individual in some way, each one you care about, and you know that some of them are going to die. You just don’t know who. This is not something they can risk in most shows. To kill a main character is too much of a risk. A waste of an expensive CGI design, a waste of a voice actor, but here, there is one voice actor and the designs are meant to be interchangeable. The viewers are meant to imprint on the characters actions, not their appearance, and that gives the show a massive amount of creative freedom and keeps the audience in true fear for the lives of their favorite characters.
But for all that, I don’t think that the battles, the war Rex and company are fighting is going to be the focus of this season.
This looks like it’s going to be about the dying of the light. Or rather, the last stand of the light before it goes dormant.
The opening scene is brilliantly staged. Anakin and Mace Windu are framed to illustrate their strained and broken relationship. They are clearly working together but there is little to no camaraderie left between them. They are presenting the perfect united front to the clones. Or at least they are trying. In season one Anakin would have been smiling, pushing into Mace’s personal space. Mace would have been accepting the boisterous young knight with his usual brand of gruff care. But now disrespect and loathing fill the space between them.
Anakin is pale, sickly, gone are the warm golden tones of season one. His light is dying, unable to pierce the darkness and warm everyone around him as it once did. But it is still there, in a touching moment Anakin’s face softens and his light tries to glow again. Tellingly it is when he reaches outside of his own misery and tries to do something for Rex. There is a flicker of Anakin’s legendary compassion as he tries to actively express care and love for another. But this is a wartime scene, and a battered and tired Rex refuses the extended hand. There is no time, he doesn’t want to bother General Skywalker with his personal problems, he has to keep soldiering on for the greater good. And Anakin’s light flickers down again.
All this happens in moments in the opening scene, and then the show moves on to its meat. The Bad Batch show up and take Rex and Cody on an adventure. The main plot point is teased, explored, and revealed. The landscapes are beautiful, the movements are smooth. The human characters move more like humans and less like robots. The tech has clearly advanced in the years it took to bring the seventh season to completion and it shows. The explosions are sparkling and the foliage is lush.
And the beauty of the natural world depicted is used as an excellent contrast to the graying, aging clones. It hangs over the heads of the audience that these supposed men of war are at the oldest fourteen years old. They are boys. But they are gray, scarred, and wrinkled. In their short lives they have seen more death and destruction that most sentients see in a hundred years.
Rex and Cody take a long moment to linger over a photo capture of some of their departed brothers. Boys who may have never made it into their teens. This sets up the main plot point of the season.
And so the show is set up. The brutal cost and grim reality of war, forced on children who grew up too soon. Friends trying to keep each other alive even as they themselves fall apart. The story is looking to be good. The aesthetic is beautiful. The first episode skillfully sets up both the greater conflicts that the Jedi are facing and the similar and more intimate conflicts the clones face on a daily basis. And while it is hard to care about the great conflicts whose ends we have known our entire lives, it becomes all too easy to care about the clones, whose fates we are unsure of.
There is unfortunately a dozy of an albatross hanging over the neck of this first episode. Namely that half formed creation that was released on the internet several years ago that spoiled the major plot points and left a poorly rendered afterimage on the mind of the fandom. However if you can ignore or forget that this episode is a solid start.
It wasn’t anything ground breaking or mind blowing. It was however extremely satisfying. It felt like a well constructed base for the show to launch from and I am looking forward to more episodes.
Peace out my wonderful viewers.