The Wait Is Over
It is finally over. After a six-year hiatus, the Clone Wars will conclude with a final season. Season seven has been non-stop action. The show was developed as an anthology series, in the beginning. This formula appears in the final season as well. This leads to accessibility for the general audience who may not have seen all or any of The Clone Wars’ previous seasons since the start of the six-year hiatus. Each story arc is rather short lasting only a few episodes. For example, the first few episodes reintroduce us fan favorites such as Cpt. Rex, Anakin, and Obi-Wan as supporting characters but highlights new characters such as the Bad Batch squad.
The Return of the Anthology Formula
The Bad Batch story arc consists of four episodes; “The Bad Batch”, “A Distant Echo”, “On the Wings of Keeradaks”, and “Unfinished Business”. The show displays its ability to make us fall in love with these new characters and describe why their existence is important. Lucas had stated during the beginning of the creation of the show that he wanted to explore the fact that the clones were not machines, nor were they expendable. Which stands in contrast to the droid army. The Bad Batch story arch takes this notion and turns the uniqueness of each clone trooper in the Bad Batch up to 10.
Strong Alone. Stronger Together
These clones are more unique than their other brothers. Each offers a unique strength such as snipers eye, superhuman strength, charisma, and so on. Each of them has a unique personality, but they mostly look similar in their features. I was reminded of my childhood favorite animated show, Ninja Turtles. Each of the Bad Batch is so unique in such a comical way, but they manage to come together as a unit and do what the Clone Army could not do themselves, and then they vanish as an elite unit. I like the goofiness of the Bad Batch. Their quirky one-liners and witticism are good for the show. They also look like they just stepped out of an 80’s action movie, which is in and of itself jovial in the context of Star Wars. I think that they fit well in a Star Wars show that is primarily meant for children, but nostalgic adults can appreciate that.
Commander Cody and Captain Rex work with the Bad Batch to discover a way to beat the droid army which seems to be able to guess their every strategic move. Rex has a suspicion as to why this is happening. He believes that the Clone Trooper Echo could still be alive and imprisoned by the Droid Army. Many of their tactics are based on Echo’s bold moves, with which he is very familiar. Rex still feels responsible for Echo as he was forced to leave him behind at the citadel.
Commander Cody points out that Echo is most likely dead and that Captain Rex should be ready for this outcome. Still, the recon mission goes forward with the primary mission being to discover what the Droid Army’s algorithm or strategy is that keeps beating the clones. It is a high risk – high reward mission that requires the resources of The Bad Batch, and elite unit who seem to answer to no one. It will be a challenge for Rex and his men to work with this squad, as they are used to accomplishing the mission their own way.
The animations in the new season are superb. The six-year hiatus has at least benefited us with graphical enhancements. Yet, the sound effects and John Williams inspired music tracks to seem to sound better than ever. Character animations seem to move more fluidly and human-like. Some of the early episodes of the series have very rigid appearances, consisting of animations that are not very lifelike, such as short and choppy lightsaber slashes. This is not the case in season 7. It appears that Disney and Star Wars are not playing around with these new entries to Disney+ and the Star Wars franchise.
After the fire team’s gunship crashes, Captain Rex finds himself in command as Commander Cody is injured and must be evacuated. This leads to some infighting between Rex’s squad and the Bad Batch but they manage to complete their mission and infiltrate the outpost. Rex and Tech are able to hack into the Droid communications and they discover that the Algorithm is more human than droid and the repeating ID Number of Echo keeps repeating across the frequency.
A Distant Echo
This motivates Rex to petition General Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker to sanction a mission to investigate the source of the transmission. Rex does not shy away from the fact that he believes that Echo is alive. Anakin decides to accompany the fire team and they investigate the signal source in the episode “A Distant Echo”.
Before they leave, Rex keeps a lookout for Anakin as he uses the clone barracks to contact Padme Amidala via hologram. It is a short conversation that takes place between them, but this scene has some great imagery that points forward to the final moments Padme has with Anakin. She is wearing the same uniform that she wears when she confronts him on Mustafar. She also seems to favor her abdomen with one hand suggesting that she may know of her pregnancy. It does not seem that Anakin knows yet about his fatherhood. Therefore, we know that this must be taking place shortly before the events of Revenge of the Sith.
As Anakin is wrapping up with Padme, Obi-Wan Kenobi comes by looking for Anakin. Rex does not make a very good lookout and he is horrible with lying. Obi-Wan can see that he is hiding something but Anakin emergest finished with his conversation. Anakin may be better than Rex at fibbing but Obi-Wan is the wiser. As Anakin is walking away in avoidance, Obi-Wan states, “I at least hope that you told Padme ‘Hello’ for me”. Anakin does not respond.
Brothers in Arms
This is also very telling of the relationship that Obi-Wan and Anakin have. Anakin is still Obi-Wan’s apprentice but in a short time from now, he will be appointed to the Jedi Council. Obi-Wan and Anakin have formed a kinship similar to a brotherhood. Obi-Wan is concerned as a friend and as a mentor. He also knows the burden of being in love and choosing the Order as he once did the same forsaking a relationship with Duchess Satine.
The group travels to Skako Minor, a neutral planet in the Clone Wars. It quickly becomes apparent the indigenous species, the Poletecs, would prefer to keep it that way. The Poletecs worship the flying Keeradaks, and it seems that they ride upon them as well. This allows them to quickly capture Anakin to use as leverage in negotiating with the clones. It is quickly evident that all they really want is for them to leave.
The War Comes
I must say that the introduction of the Poletecs seems like fluff at face value. It rounds out the episode but I thought that the time could be better used exploring the origins of the Bad Batch or character development between them and our Regs. It does provide some brief contemplation on the willingness of the Clone Army to do whatever is necessary to win the war. I felt that it could have been a great opportunity to shed light on the fact that perhaps the Clone Army is not without its own faults. It is a tool of the Jedi Order and it just brought war to a people who wanted no part of it.
Later, in episode 3, we see the Clones and Anakin and the Poletecs repel and assault from the Techno Union and the Separatists. It is not apparent if the Poletecs blame either side. For a race that wanted to avoid war, I would have thought they would have more of an emotional response to their camp being overrun by droids and clones. After all, we are not privy to the musings of the Mandalorians, who were also avoiding joining the war. It is hard to believe that the common civilians of Mandalore understood the machinations of Darth Maul’s shadow regime and the ousting of Duchess Satine.
A case could be built for pacifism being the outlier for the historical war worshipping Mandalore. The Death Watch yearned for war, and detested Duchess Satine’s avoidance of it. Here the Poletecs seem uniform in their desire for pacifism. I think it would have benefited the show to display the Poletecs reaction to the events that transpired in a more conflicted and passionate manner to an unwanted war coming to their planet.
It was no algorithm!
Even with General Skywalker overseeing the mission, in his absence, infighting between Rex and the Bad Batch ensues when challenged with the fact that Echo is most likely dead. Skywalker forces the teams to work together and prepares Rex for the possible disappointment. Rex explains that he knows it was no algorithm that he heard but that it was the voice of Echo.
This scene really hits hard. It shows the humanity of the clone, Rex. He explains that he is not a stranger to loss. He has lost so many friends but that he knows Echo is alive. He is resolved to find him. The show really excels in this moment conveying the urgency and the importance of this mission to Rex and the empathy of Anakin for his subordinates. He too can be impulsive and overreach when his loved ones are in danger. They both share similar qualities.
The scene also does a great job communicating the positioning of the Bad Batch. They are super-efficient, boasting a 100% success rate, however, their uniqueness and style set them apart so much that they are not familiar or personable with “Regs”. This is how they refer to any clone who is not a member of the Bad Batch. At one point Echo is referred to as a “Reg” and as being a disposable asset.
This is a covert mission.
My kids and I absolutely loved the scene where the fire team is riding the elevator to infiltrate the base. As Anakin explains that this is a covert mission and there will be no smashing or blasting, only to have the elevator doors open to droids. Upon which Wrecker, well, he immediately begins smashing and blasting. So much for a covert operation. I believe that Wrecker is the spirit-animal for Mulehorn Gaming.
The group continues to fight their way to the control room where the signal source is originating from. There is some great cinematography that shows the Bad Batch using their various skills to dispatch droids. I especially like Hunter’s blade. Anakin and the rest of the bad batch fight for time, as Tech and Rex, breach the room and discover a life-pod. Upon bypassing the security, the discovery that it is, in fact, Echo who has been transformed into a cyborg or part droid.
On the Wings of Keeradaks
While the previous episode, “A Distant Echo” had limited engagements, most of which were close-quarters combat, this episode utilizes grand fight scenes. It does a great job showing exactly how our heroes are outmatched in number and scale. Therefore, it is very entertaining to watch as whole squads and rooms full of droids are disposed of. The base is situated on the planet Skako Minor and is occupied by the Techno Union, who have managed to politically maneuver themselves as neutralists despite their shady dealings with the Separatists.
After the group escapes with Echo they are forced out onto a narrow beam and are trapped by the droids. Tech has an idea to use recordings of the Keeradaks to call them to their aid. It works and they are able to escape riding them back to the Poletec village. The village leader explains that he is impressed but is surprised to see them back.
The Poletecs join the war.
Anakin explains that they were forced to return because things went south at the base. As I said before, I just have a hard time buying this. They could have escaped on the ship. I appreciate the battle scene to follow but I wish they would have set it up better. The village leader expresses his dislike that they have brought war to their village. Rex argues that the Techno Union are to blame because they are not neutral as they portray themselves to be. They have tried to turn Echo into a machine and used him against his brothers. The scene does what it needs to but not very well. The Poletec leader does not respond he just seems to have been swayed will no conflict.
Episode 3 does a great job showing the plight of our heroes as they face the full might of the Techno Union to save their friend. It is pure Star Wars, running through hallways blasting droids, aided by a lightsaber-wielding general with plenty of firefights along the way. The new animation tech really shines here. It awesome looking back to the animations of the movie and the first season and seeing these improvements in the technology.
The fourth episode begins with Echo removed from the Techno Unions network, the algorithm is dysfunctional. This provides an opportunity for the Grand Army of the Republic to turn the tide in the Battle for Anaxes. Echo proposes a plan to Generals Mace Windu and Obi-Wan Kenobi. The Bad Batch will help him infiltrated the Separatist Dreadnaught to feed Trench false strategy data of the clones. He is would effectively be turning the algorithm against the droids. It is a two-pronged attache as the assembly factory will be assaulted by Mace Windu and his forces.
The assault begins and boy was we wowed with the action that this finale in the Bad Batch story arch. Mace Wind and Obi-Wan infiltrate the assembly along with their clone troopers. Admiral Trench contacts Skeko Minor to use the algorithm which appears to be more functional than we were lead to believe. Luckily, Echo and the Bad Batch have covertly snuck aboard Trench’s ship, even with Wrecker. Echo manages to plug in and intercept the transmission. He advises Trench to send all unity to attach the Jedi at the assembly.
Admiral Trench heeds his advice. At this point the Bad Batch question Echo’s loyalty. Echo explains that he plans to overload the droids circuits with the transmission but he needs them all in one place. Anakin and Rex vouch for the plan and inform Obi-Wan and Mace that they will soon have more aggressors.
The Jedi are able to hold their own and Echo sets off the transmission frying any that remains. Trench is extremely perplexed. The algorithm has never failed before. Trench and the droid discover that a transmission originated from their own Dreadnought and forces are sent to investigate. Trench cooly explains that it is no matter. He has hidden a bomb in the plant in case of defeat. These bombs will blow up most of Anaxes.
An antagonist worth watching.
I must say that I like Trench. He’s no Thrawn, but he is very deceitful and calculating. It is easy to see where he is a formidable foe for the Republic. His mannerisms and characteristics are much more appealing than the Techno Union leaders, which seem to just float or glide around and project their voice through implants. Trench pauses for contemplation and moves about the command deck. The voice acting is superb. Overall, it is much easier to loathe the guy. In contrast, the Techno Union’s leaders are predominantly bankers who speak in a monotone. They are just boring.
Echo quickly learns of the bombs and Trench’s plot because he is still plugged into the network. He plans to attempt to disarm the bomb by feeding the code to Mace Windu, who has rushed to the bomb alone. Echo is able to provide Windu with all but one digit in the code when Trench jams the transmission. This electrocutes Echo and he is knocked out.
Revenge of the Jedi
At this point, Anakin reaches the bridge of Admiral Trench’s Dreadnought and swiftly takes care of his guard. Holding him against his life unless he produces the final number in the sequence to disarm the bomb. Trench makes a comment about the Jedi being handicapped by their morals. At this Anakin disarms him with one slash of three of his appendages. Anakin exclaims, “I have no such weaknesses!”.
The imagery here is a throwback to Revenge of the Sith when Darth Vader is dispatched by Darth Sidious to dispose of the Trade Federation and Separatist leaders on Mustafar. Anakin is very angry and passionate in these moments with Trench. He has orchestrated the killings of many of his troops and friends. He is no different than Count Dooku of General Grievous in that regard.
Trench recognizes that he is mismatched and provides the final number. As Anakin turns to speak into the comm, Trench produces an electro staff and zaps Anakin in the back with it. While it seems that it must have been extremely painful what Anakin does next is shocking. He runs General Trench through with his lightsaber. Yes. He was provoked. It was an electro staff that could have easily been destroyed with one hit from his lightsaber. I believe this scene serves as another indication that Anakin is beginning to go to the Darkside.
You belong with us.
The heroes return to the base on Anaxes. There is a debriefing with Mace Windu and Obi-Wan where the Bad Batch, Echo, and Rex are informed that they are due some medals in their near future. The Bad Batch scoff at this saying they are in it for the fun. jThey asked Echo if medals are his thing. Hunter states, “Your bath is different. Like ours. If you feel like you don’t belong with them. Find us.” As the Bad Batch departs, it is apparent to Rex that Echo is torn between leaving with Clone Force 99 or with staying with Rex’s command. Rex notifies him that, “we go way back,” but he should go if he feels that is where he belongs. Echo moves to leave with Clone Force 99 and the whole group turns and salutes Rex. This ends the episode and the Bad Batch Story Arc.
While there were some instances of clunkiness and missed opportunities; I enjoyed this story arc. I feel that it is a necessary one because it, once again, reinforces the humanity of the clones. They were created for one purpose, war. Despite that fact, they still form bonds to each other and will apparently go through hell to rescue a brother. It also gave us a glimpse of Anakin’s rage and his tendency to let his emotions fuel his decisions on the bridge of the dreadnought. I believe that by the time the season ends with the “Siege of Mandalore” arc that we will see more evidence of Anakin turning to the Darkside and we may need a reminder of the clone’s humanity when Order 66 is issued.
It may be a good time to back up and rewatch the season 6 story arc “Clone Conspiracy”, which is comprised of the first four episodes; “The Unknown”, “Conspiracy”, “Fugitive”, and “Orders”. This arc goes into detail about the machinations of Order 66. The final episodes of season 7 may explain why Rex has a scar on his head, which bolsters his claim that he never turned on his Jedi. Which I assume is Ashoka.