This week’s episode of The Bad Batch is the series’ best yet, finally planting the seeds of a decent story.
*Warning: This piece contains spoilers for episode three of Star Wars: The Bad Batch*
Finally. It took three episodes for Star Wars: The Bad Batch to pick up (some) steam, but its latest episode, Replacements, is definitely its best one yet, although the series still suffers from many issues on characters, particularly the one of Omega (Michelle Ang), who again gets stuck in the terribly cyclical and uninspired “kid who purposefully gets in trouble” trope. I beg of the showrunners to figure out something else for Omega in subsequent episodes, because, if that’s going to be her entire arc, there was no reason for her to be in this series. I’m not going to go into the details of her non-suspenseful tribulations here, as I would repeat myself again and would rather focus on what’s really good in this episode, because when The Bad Batch wants to be good, it’s damn good.
This is most apparent when the episode focuses on the Empire’s new politics, with the introduction of Admiral Rampart (Noshir Dalal), who believes Clones have become obsolete and need to work with human soldiers who are willing to join their cause. He introduces Tarkin (Stephen Stanton) and Lama Su (Bob Bergen) to a unit of conscripted soldiers (who look like the black-suited stormtroopers from Rogue One), which will complement Kamino’s Clones. However, during a mission, the only one that seems willing to complete the task to its end is Crosshair (Dee Bradley Baker), the sharpshooter clone whose inhibitor chip was now amplified and is more receptive to orders. Whilst the soldiers do not approve murdering the innocent bystanders of Onderon who have nothing to do with the mission at-hand, Crosshair’s program allows him to “finish the job” without any remorse to his actions, since he doesn’t share any human traits and only knows one thing: following orders. He murders a loud-mouthed soldier in cold blood (who previously told Crosshair that Clones will be replaced soon) after refusing to follow-through in Tarkin’s orders, once again, without any form of emotional remorse towards his action.
This is what makes Crosshair a particularly compelling character, and, so far, the only one whose motivations are properly developed and exemplified. Whereas the rest of Clone Force 99 (Baker) have developed a human relationship towards one another, Crosshair’s programming prevents him from having simulated human emotions, which makes him impervious to hesitation and will always complete the task he’s given to its fullest and will not rest until the job is done. I can’t imagine what direction they’ll take the character in the next episode, but his arc was the one that held all of my attention throughout.
Whenever the episode would cut to Clone Force 99 having their mini-adventure with Omega, looking for a missing capacitator taken by an Ordo Moon Dragon who feeds off electrical energy, it isn’t as interesting as Crosshair’s arc, but a lot more engaging than the previous two episodes, most notably because the stakes feel a tad more important this time around, with the bond between Hunter and Omega starting to solidify. We’re finally seeing a tease of The Bad Batch’s big picture, with a more important presence of the Empire. I’ll admit that I wasn’t a hundred percent involved in the episode, especially during the moment in which the showrunners fill Omega’s tired “children who willingly gets in trouble” arc, instead of making her feel like an important member of the team. Maybe during later episodes she’ll be the key to Clone Force 99’s success, but her presence, so far, doesn’t seem to fit.
There’s still plenty of episodes left, and we’ll see in which direction the show goes next week, but this is already a vast improvement compared to the last two episodes, with a tension-filled classic Clone Wars shootout to boot during its midpoint. If the story is about the rise of stormtroopers, it’s not that inspiring and/or deserving of a 16-episode series, but we’re finally getting to a position where the show will be at least solid. Let’s see.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch: Replacements (Ep. 3) is now available to watch on Disney+.
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