When Star Wars: The Bad Batch premiered last week, I had complaints that the fast-moving episode skimped questions about Crosshair’s state of mind under the influence of his clone brain chip. But the latest “Replacements” (directed by Nathaniel Villanueva and written by Matt Michnovetz) scratches dents into the issue and promises deeper explorations in the future. Plus, the episode proceeds to scan interesting territory that wasn’t previously explored, at least on Star Wars television: the post-Republic transition from clones to Stormtroopers. It also accentuates a personal transition for the Bad Batch: processing Crosshair’s absence and parenting their young clone charge Omega (Michelle Ang).
Hunter and the Bad Batch (Dee Bradley Baker) are settling into their role as guardians to the child clone Omega. Battered by their last skirmish in Saleucami, their ship gets stranded on the moon, and they have to retrieve a capacitor from the jaws of a moon creature, an Ordo Moon Dragon (Jonathan Lips). During this, Omega’s discovery of Crosshair’s case triggers sadness over Crosshair’s betrayal. The Bad Batch play some catch-up regarding their feelings over leaving Crosshair behind, as the lack of space for them to process his defection was a shortcoming in “Aftermath.” Omega reassures Hunter that they will get Crosshair back, and that it isn’t his fault he turned on them. All of Crosshair’s actions can be explained away by the brain chip, right?
But as scenes of the Bad Batch’s warm guardianship to Omega is juxtaposed with the moral terror of Crosshair’s dogmatic war cruelty, Crosshair’s will also remains in question as well. Even if the story chooses the easy route of explaining his actions and dogma away with a brain chip, Crosshair is committing atrocities that may be too deep to ever recover from.
Back on Kamino, Tarkin (Stephen Stanton) sees the clone initiative as a fading Republic relic. Their only use now is training new conscripted recruits since they see the value in voluntary enlisters. He employs Crosshair to train new troops. A conscripted soldier, credited as ES-01 (Emilio Garcia-Sanchez), exposits, “With the Empire, I get paid, I get fed, and I have roof over my head. That’s more than what the Republic ever did for me.” This effectively demonstrates the Empire’s influence, getting them to play the role of provider. It echoes an argumentative comment in the sequel trilogy era in Star Wars Resistance where a child of the later generation might have understood the Empire as a provider of employment—and thus “food on the table.”
Tarkin sends Crosshair and the new recruits to finish what the rest of Clone Force 99 refused to do: wipe out Saw Gerrera’s people on Onderon. And Crosshair does just that to Saw’s remaining followers and the civilians who simply wanted to catch a ride off-planet. Succinctly, the mission shows in plain sight how disobedient (proto-)Stormtroopers are treated, demonstrated by Crosshair’s swift execution of the protesting ES-01, who was more keen on questioning civilians rather than executing them. ES-01’s motivation to interrogate frightened civilian refugees is not on a spectrum of good, but Crosshair’s execution highlights the ethical disintegration under the Empire rule.
The dehumanizing bureaucracy of the Kaminoans cloning scientists briefly has the spotlight. To secure their relationship with the Empire, Lama Su (Bob Bergen) and Nala Se (Gwendoline Yeo) want to prove their the clone soldiers, their “Kaminoan property” made from Jango Fett’s genetic template, are relevant to the Empire cause. However, the loose Star Wars-y “cloning science” here works, Jango Fett’s genetic material is “fading,” which was referenced earlier in Clone Wars. The Kaminoans require the AWOL Bad Batch—well, just one of those clones—for an experiment. Nala Se’s motives to secretly allow the Bad Batch and Omega to escape Kamino remains yet to be seen.
But back to the moon. Hunter is knocked out by the creature, and Omega braves the burrow of the dragon alone. After considering she might have to fire Hunter’s blaster, Omega instinctively discovers how to ward off the electricity-hungry creature by tossing a flashlight aside. Her “don’t worry, I didn’t have to use [your blaster]” to Hunter strikes a delicate contrast to Crosshair’s knee-jerk ruthlessness. This parallel of familial warmth and coldness shows up at the end. Crosshair’s last scene is him retiring to the old Bad Batch quarters with his new subservient recruits. He glances at relics of bygone brotherhood, the objects that made their space lived-in. Meanwhile, Wrecker arranges a little space for the child.
- Wrecker has the best lines: “We’re going to die, we’re going to die, we’re going to… be fine.” He’s doing his best to be a parent and this is the time where he realizes, oh, kids have physical and emotional needs.
- I hope Wrecker’s head pain doesn’t… set off anything.
- Omega fiddling with the oxygen mask and then figuring its function out is a cute shot, as well as a display of her instinct.
- “Our forces will be unlike anything the galaxy has ever seen.” Yes, because Stormtroopers will become very precise with blasters, right?
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