Episode 15 of Star Wars: The Bad Batch brings some genuine thrills as the Clones return to Kamino and confront Crosshair, but that feels too little too late.
*Warning: This review contains spoilers for episode 15 of Star Wars: The Bad Batch*
This past Thursday, Disney announced that Star Wars: The Bad Batch would indeed return for a second season, and announced that this season’s finale would be presented in two parts. I have no idea why the show is getting renewed again, as it seems to fill useless gaps in the world of Star Wars rather than presenting something truly compelling for the viewer. In this week’s episode, titled “Return to Kamino”, Clone Force 99 (Dee Bradley Baker) finally confronts Crosshair and the Empire after innumerable detours. And while the confrontation feels inherently anticlimactic, due to my overall detachment with the characters, a surprising twist allows for our main antagonist to soar as a true menacing presence.
Star Wars has had a knack of teasing really cool villains, such as Boba Fett and Captain Phasma, only for them to be wholly underused throughout the films and series. Boba Fett is finally having his spin-off series, but Phasma has not done anything remotely interesting. The same can be said of Crosshair, who looks amazingly cool and has a highly menacing presence, but doesn’t do much aside from following orders to the letter, which is what makes him scary. We all thought he was being controlled by the inhibitor chip, which amplified his naturally complicit behavior. But, surprise, surprise! Crosshair removed his inhibitor chip and was revealed to have always been like this! The Empire did not actually change him, but Crosshair has instead found stability and a true purpose in which he felt rewarded for doing the thing he knows best: following orders.
And when The Bad Batch confronts Crosshair, this is where the episode is at its best: the dialogue is enticing and the atmosphere nail-biting, never knowing who’ll fire their blasters first or if something (or someone) will drastically change things. Crosshair is great at keeping everyone on their toes, as the Empire plans to destroy the Kaminoan facility, and it feels like it’s the first time the Clones feel scared about the threat they face. Everything has been all too convenient since the very beginning, but we have some legitimate stakes here, especially with Crosshair who can snap at any time and can veer off his initial “orders” if it means having a more successful mission. The way he kills other troopers with minimal movement and sharpshooting precision should terrify everyone standing next to him. And the action scene where the Clones team up with Crosshair to defeat troopers that Omega (Michelle Ang) activated is a thrill to watch; it’s wonderfully animated, and it reaches the same visual vibrancy as a truly great Clone Wars episode.
But this “reunion” (or “return”, as elaborated by the episode’s title) doesn’t feel earned. We spent most of the series through useless filler episodes with characters from the extended Star Wars universe, only for them to go back to Kamino when the “story” needed them. There was no need for Fennec Shand, Hera Syndulla, Caleb Dume and others to show up, which shows how truly unconfident Lucasfilm is at doing something that veers off the original Star Wars universe and not rely on well-established characters.
In reality, this could’ve been a miniseries where we learned what happened to the Clones post-prequels, and how the Empire took control of the galaxy, without focusing too much on Clone Force 99 and their side quests. While “filler” episodes are sometimes necessary in TV, to deepen character arcs and construct the show’s world, Star Wars’ galaxies have already been largely established through films, TV shows, video games and books (even if the latter isn’t considered to be “canon”). Most fans are fairly well-versed in the lore of Star Wars and don’t need to know “everything” that’s happened post-prequels and pre-A New Hope.
The lack of a well-defined story clearly shows that there wasn’t that big of an idea to begin with, and this completely shatters The Bad Batch from its first episode to its now two part finale. The episode obviously ends with a cliffhanger, as the Empire starts to blow up the Kaminoan facility with Clone Force 99 still in it, but the already announced second season minimizes its stakes, as we know they’ll likely survive the attack and go on new “weekly” sidequests in 2022. There’s still one episode left, but I fear I won’t enjoy it.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch: “Return to Kamino” (Ep. 15) is now available to watch on Disney+.