Eight years after Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm, The Clone Wars is finally revived for one final season. The first four episodes of the revived show are the completed ‘Bad Batch’ arc, previously seen only as animatics…
The Bad Batch (2020)
Season 7, Episode 1.
Written by Brent Friedman & Matt Michnovetz, directed by Kyle Dunlevy.
“Embrace others for their differences, for that makes you whole.”
Separatist forces have captured Republic shipyards on Anaxes. While Mace Windu and Anakin Skywalker lead the ground battle to reclaim several locations, they don’t have the resources for a prolonged attack. Commander Cody however, has another plan…
The first, albeit most obvious, point to make is how fantastic the visuals look compared to the earlier work-in-progress counterparts. The Clone Wars may have ended in 2012, but Lucasfilm animation continued to hone their craft with Rebels and Resistance. For the most part, the composition and camera angles remain the same (that’s what animatics are for, after all), even if tweaks and substitutions of dialogue have have occurred in the intervening production cycles (because the animatics are only a guide, after all).
Textures are gorgeous thanks to intricate lighting, with added atmosphere in knowing how many of the scenes take place in near darkness and with fluid camerawork which continues to underline the advantages of animation.
True to the revised ‘fortune cookie’ at the top of the show, it’s intriguing how emotionally committed the clones have become by this point in the conflict, knowing the odds are stacked against them and that they’re not morally invincible. And here Rex, Cody, Jesse and Kix quickly accept Clone Force 99, a quartet of highly specialised ‘wild cards’, as brothers despite their pronounced flaws.
Cool, nerdy, calculating and brash; it’s an absolute joy to be back in the company of the 99’ers once more…
A Distant Echo (2020)
Season 7, Episode 2.
Written by Brent Friedman, Matt Michnovetz & Dave Filoni, directed by Steward Lee.
“The search for truth begins with belief.”
Rex calculates that Admiral Trench’s run of victories stems from a Republic tactical algorithm he developed, which the Separatists have somehow stolen placing them ahead at every turn. But when he tracks the command-signal to Skako Minor, homeworld of the Techno Union, Rex’s worst fears are realised…
Initially a low-key reconnaissance, there’s no such thing as a stealth mission where clones and Jedi are involved. Before we know it, droid parts are flying everywhere and Wat Tambor gloats through his Phantom Menace-like communicator screens, almost as proficient at twirling the metaphorical moustache as Trench.
Outside, Skako Minor looks every bit as fine as Anaxes, even in its form as a barren jaundiced rock-scape, thanks to the high-art rendering of the series. Back in the Separatist command centre, the sets are a borderline steampunk affair with turquoise panels, brass-coloured dials and rivets adding style to the substance.
This completed version of ‘A Distant Echo’ also sees the addition of a new scene, as the discussion of Padmé’s racy nose-art portrait on a Republic gunship is removed. It’s replaced by a sequence in which Anakin holo-calls his wife (and it’s good to see Amidala in a context other than the Senate rotunda or being in need of rescue) for a quick heart-to-heart. This reveals that Captain Rex and Obi-Wan Kenobi are at least aware of their relationship, if not its full legal-status…
On The Wings Of Keeradaks (2020)
Season 7, Episode 3.
Written by Brent Friedman & Matt Michnovetz, directed by Bosco Ng.
“Survival is one step on the path to living.”
While Captain Rex has found his fallen brother deep in the Techno Union’s stronghold, Anakin and the rest of Clone Squad 99 have to clear a path through the CIS Battle Droids if they’re to get off-planet…
We stay strongly on the action, an approach which is pleasing to the eye but doesn’t allow for the exploration of Rex’s guilt at having left trooper Echo at The Citadel. Moments dotted throughout the episode suggest a deeper story to be told, although the ideal format for this would probably be a novel rather than a 22-minute TV show.
That said, subtlety isn’t abandoned altogether as callbacks to the early days of the series come thick and fast. A vertiginous sequence evokes Season One’s battle at Skytop Station (and with a more worthy “they fly now?” moment than that from Episode IX), while the indigenous Poletec species being drawn uncomfortably into the galactic war is a clear refrain of the Jedi’s stand at Maridun.
But at its core, ‘On The Wings Of Keeradaks’ is the second half of a prison-break and carries the momentum nicely forward…
Unfinished Business (2020)
Season 7, Episode 4.
Written by Brent Friedman, Matt Michnovetz, directed by Brian Kalin O’Connell.
“Trust placed in another is trust earned.”
With Echo removed from Separatist clutches, the Republic make gains in re-taking Anaxes, not least because their ‘upgraded’ companion is able to access the CIS database from viable ports. Now the plan is to attack Admiral Trench’s most heavily defended command post and secure victory…
We close with the violent tying of loose ends. This leads to some great sparring between the clones and the Jedi as the battle is intercut (indeed interdependent) between ground and air strands. And while lightsabers are still activated, that’s done without the need to shoehorn Dooku or Ventress into the proceedings.
This being more properly a trilogy of episodes with a bonus-mission attached, the presence of the Bad Batch themselves here illustrates there’s always been a place for the 99’ers as recurring characters. And with a definitive end in sight for The Clone Wars, should Lucasfilm ever feel the urge to create a prequel-era spinoff series, there are four or five prime candidates right here.
Join us next time as we return to the centre of the galaxy and go underground to meet up with an old friend…