The Bad Batch S2 Review: The Most Provocative Storytelling is in Star Wars’ Animated Shows

The first two of the 14-episode animated series are streaming on Disney+ Hotstar
The Bad Batch S2 Review: The Most Provocative Storytelling is in Star Wars’ Animated Shows

There’s a little niche on a streaming giant, where some of the most fun, provocative and humane ‘big franchise sci-fi’ storytelling is taking place – a corner on Disney+ Hotstar that is the Star Wars Animated Universe (I call dibs on the acronym SWAU©). Set across timelines, characters, visual, artistic and narrative styles, the animated corner of Star Wars has so far delivered stories that far exceed its live-action counterparts. From Tales of the Jedi to Visions and now the latest season of The Bad Batch, SWAU has rolled along deftly, like the lightsaber motions of a Jedi in their prime.   

Season 2 of Star Wars: The Bad Batch is a fine addition to that canon. Created by Jennifer Corbett and Dave Filoni, it follows the story of a ragtag team of elite Clone Troopers (Clone Force 99) consisting of Hunter, Wrecker, Tech, Crosshair, and Echo. Their adventures offer viewers a deeper look into a galaxy under the grip of The Empire and is a must-watch addition to the franchise’s animated corner.  The first season debuted in 2021 and spun off from the revered Star Wars: Clone Wars series. When Order 66 arrives (the order to eliminate all Jedis in the 2005 film, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith), we see Clone Force 99 disobey that order and let Jedi Padawan Caleb Dume escape. Season 1 subsequently follows their journey as they, with Omega (Michelle Ang), are on the run from The Empire.

Season 2 picks up straight after Season 1’s finale, with Clone Force 99 doing odd jobs and missions for pirates and the Rebel Alliance, while surviving and understanding the new order (The Empire) that has been established in the galaxy. The first two episodes suggest an “adventure of the week” format for its full run of 14 episodes, while the overarching story is about the fate of the Clone Troopers.  

Dee Bradley Baker who voices all members of the Bad Batch, does a fantastic job modulating between Hunter, Wrecker, Tech and Crosshair; so much so, that you often forget that it’s the same person voicing all the clones. The animation is consistent and solid, an advancement on the Star Wars 3D animation style we are now used to (Clone WarsRebels). It also allows the creative team to produce breathtaking landscapes that would put the live action corner to shame (looking at you The Book of Boba Fett!). Facial expressions are far more emotive too, allowing the viewer to vicariously feel where the characters are in that moment.

The season has many cameos and without spoiling too much of the season here, one of my favourites is in episode six (“Tribe”), when the Bad Batch rescues young Wookie Jedi Gungi. The other two stand-out episodes, which were both self-contained, were the penultimate and visually-captivating episode “Pabu” as well as the reflective 12th episode, titled “The Outpost”.

One suspects a slightly shorter season is to do with the criticism that the first season of The Bad Batch wasn’t conducive to bingeing. Despite the 20-minute duration of the episodes, this observation remains true for season two. The Bad Batch is neither bingeable — at best, you can do two or three episodes at a stretch — nor does its weekly adventure format allow for cliffhangers or edge-of-the-seat tension. That said, the show does allow Filoni and Corbett to flesh out the larger arc, and intersperse it with everyman stories from the franchise’s unique corners.

Shifting the focus away from Hunter and moving it to Crosshair and Omega is a definite win this time around. Some of the consistently good episodes in the season are the ones that focus on Crosshair, allowing Filoni and Corbett to tackle themes of inner conflict, duty, morality and redemption, that are befitting of a show based on rogue soldiers. This is the kind of deeper storytelling and freedom that the varied comic book and animated series allow for the Star Wars franchise (perhaps because they're unencumbered by the studio demands that constrain the live action versions?).

This season of The Bad Batch, like its predecessors in the SWAU, takes that privilege and rolls with it. The result is a highly entertaining and often thought-provoking show.

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