This post contains spoilers for the finale of Star Wars: The Bad Batch.
What exactly is Star Wars: The Bad Batch, the animated Star Wars series that just wrapped its first season on Disney+? For one thing, it’s an exercise in how long one man can carry on a conversation by himself. Dee Bradley Baker stars as five of the six main characters, all clone soldiers (you know, those guys who suddenly betray their Jedi commanders in Revenge of the Sith, allowing the Emperor to seize power). The title of The Bad Batch refers to a specific squad of clones, misfits with special abilities that distinguish them from their otherwise near-identical brothers, and Baker voices them all, which means a great deal of the show is him talking to himself—and interrupting himself, and laughing at himself, and threatening himself.
Baker, who is also known for his creature voices, is one of the greatest living voice actors, and The Bad Batch gives him a chance to have even more fun than he did when he played the more standard clones on Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Wrecker, the muscle, is loud and childlike; Tech, the brains, is unflappable and British-ish; Crosshair, the sniper, is cold and dangerously soft-spoken. In the aftermath of Revenge of the Sith, most clones are programmed to stay loyal to their new Emperor, but because of their mutations the Bad Batch are able to exercise a certain amount of free will—except for Crosshair, who is uniquely suited for this new, ruthless regime. The others choose rebellion, and, in a twist out of Three Men and a Little Lady, become the reluctant caretakers to Omega, a female clone child voiced by Michelle Ang.
The series, though it ostensibly follows the adventures of this one particular crew and their brother-turned-adversary, is really about a period of change in the Star Wars galaxy, the shift from the corrupted Republic of the prequel era to the oppressive new Empire of the original Star Wars films. Part of that shift is seen in how clones are replaced over the course of the first season by conscripted soldiers, the future Stormtroopers. But the Bad Batch’s travels also offer opportunities to see how different planets and characters are adjusting across the galaxy.
If The Mandalorian was a bait and switch, using its more accessible first season and cutesy little green mascot to lure in normie viewers before delving into deeper Star Wars lore in Season 2, The Bad Batch knows its audience is probably already invested in and read up on the franchise. Though it is a sequel to The Clone Wars, The Bad Batch has so far suffered from too many cameos, which has been a problem with creator Dave Filoni’s other Star Wars TV series in the past. When Star Wars does fan service well, it does it very well, but the payoff has to be worth all the contrivances to get there, and they tend to be distractions from the central story.
Still, even if The Bad Batch may not be essential viewing for the casual fan thus far, it does help prop up the most recent slew of Star Wars movies. The season has repeatedly teased the future of cloning in the new Empire; clone soldiers may be out, but the finale features the Kaminoan alien scientist who developed them being taken into custody, and one of the Imperial scientists wears a symbol also seen on Dr. Pershing, the scientist who takes an interest in Grogu on The Mandalorian. (We already know from The Rise of Skywalker that the Emperor has future plans to ensure his reign can’t be stopped by inconveniences like only having one mortal body, so cloning will play an important role.) Wider canon implications aside, a last-minute Bad Batch revelation—that Crosshair removed the microchip that keeps most clones compliant and has been acting of his own free will, a true Empire loyalist—is the most interesting thing to happen all season. That bodes well for Season 2, which is already in the works.