After six years, the beloved series is finally back, kicking things off with the Bad Batch arc that was originally released as animation reels back in 2015. The episode kicks off with a tantalizing tease about a certain clone trooper with an exciting nod to the ‘Citadel’ arc in season three, and the arrival of the Bad Batch squad. The story might be familiar to those who watched the reels, but make no mistake, this is nothing like you have ever seen before.
Let’s get this out of the way first: the animation is by and large the highlight of this new season. The noticeable jump in the budget produces a stunning movie-like quality to the episode. Disney spared no expense on the much-anticipated return of ‘The Clone Wars’ on Disney+, giving us some of the best animation we’ve ever seen. The character models have remarkable fluidity, but the rich detail given to the environments, along with the dynamic range of color and lighting, is a feast for the eyes. Even the Jedi’s robes have more detailed textures. The physics are also greatly improved, replacing the sturdy feel of ‘The Clone Wars’ with a fluidity that makes these characters feel so much more alive. If this is what is in store for the future of ‘Star Wars’ animation (especially with credible rumors that the long-awaited Rebels sequel will have similar animation), then we’re in for a treat.
‘The Bad Batch’ mixes up the traditional formula with the introduction of the unorthodox, titular Bad Batch. Reminiscent of a cross between the X-Men and the Suicide Squad, the Bad Batch inject an exciting new element in the dynamic between the clones, playing by their own rules and each unique in their own way. Even their appearances are unique, so while they’re clones themselves, the friction between them and the “regs” allows the series to be fresh even in its final season. While the humor at times doesn’t quite hit, we can always count on the good ol’ B1 battle droids to be as funny as ever.
The story takes a backseat for much of the episode, until an exciting cliffhanger at the end brings it back to the fore (as is TCW wont to do). In return, we’re treated with gorgeous and smart action for the bulk of the episode. The Bad Batch’s special abilities add new flair to the clone vs. droid warfare that we’re used to. But beyond just the character dynamics, the cinematography is on a whole new level, much more akin to the handheld feel of ‘Star Wars Rebels.’ The shot composition at times adds a new feel to the action, either putting us right in the center of it all or allowing us to follow the perspectives of different characters. And of course, the one-shot takes invoke a wholly cinematic look and feel to the episode.
In fact, if I could sum up this episode in just one word, that would be it: cinematic.