After last week’s lackluster episode, The Bad Batch is back with a high stakes, heart-pumping episode that is befitting of the final batch of episodes this season. The Bad Batch receives a call from Rex about a mysterious distress call in the Outer Rim and they discover a secret facility that sets up the trajectory for the final episodes.
The Bad Batch: Episode 14, “War-Mantle”
The Bad Batch opens on a clone trooper running for his life through a forest from what is presumably his own brothers. Later we learn that these are not clone troopers on Daro, but rather the enlisted TK troopers that the Empire is replacing the Republic’s Clone Forces with. Despite his best attempts to escape, the clone trooper is taken back into custody by the TK troopers and dragged through the forest to an unknown fate.
From there, the episode shifts back to The Marauder, where the Bad Batch is, yet again, on assignment for Cid. A message comes in from Rex, asking them to help a reg who put out a distress signal on Davro out in the Outer Rim. Hunter immediately shuts down any notion of taking up the task, but Echo argues that they should help.
We have seen the tension between Echo and Hunter before, but this is the first time that it’s not purely restricted to the subtext. Despite the fact that Hunter has agreed to help people every episode leading up to “War-Mantle” he, yet again, drags his feet. Reluctantly, he eventually agrees to go to Daro to check things out. The look Echo gives him as Hunter agrees, is quite telling. He definitely would’ve fought him on it if he hadn’t accepted Rex’s mission.
Star Wars fans know that the clone troopers do not last long after the fall of the Republic. There’s a reason why there’s only a handful of surviving clones by the time we reach Rebels. After Howzer’s defection on Ryloth, I had predicted that it would fuel Rampart’s mission to trade out the clones for enlisted troopers. On Kamino, we see that this effort is proceeding at full force, as the Empire has ended their contract with the Kaminoans and they are actively moving the clone forces off of the planet, including the Clone Youth Brigade.
Doctor Nala Se is taken into custody by the Empire, who sees the benefit of keeping a scientist around, but Rampart deems Prime Minister Lama Su no longer useful and it is heavily implied that he is killed as the doors slide closed. It will be interesting to see if Nala Se plays a part in the remaining episodes of the season.
Back on Daro, the Bad Batch search for the missing clone and discover that there is a secret Empire base inside of the mountain. Hunter is ready to pack things up and head back to their assignment for Cid, but Echo protests, again. After an entire season of dancing around Echo’s origins, he references what he endured, even if it’s only a brief mention, and points out that the Bad Batch saved him, so they should save this friend of Rex’s too. Hunter smartly sends Omega and Wrecker back to The Marauder, while he, Echo, and Tech venture into the facility. They’re going to need that back up later on.
In a sequence that reminded me of playing Jedi: Fallen Order, the trio utilizes the lift system to sneak into the facility and down to the holding cell where CC-5576 is being held. In case you don’t have every clone designation memorized, this is Gregor, one of the two clones living with Rex on Seelos in Rebels.
As they are trying to escape, Tech inputs an old clone code that triggers a security breach alarm at the facility, alerting the enlisted troopers to their presence. A firefight ensues and they manage to escape through the reactor’s external exhaust port. Of course, the troopers realize what their plan is and move to head them off.
When The Marauder arrives to pick them up, they are under siege by troopers in the exhaust port and in the air, causing their ship to sustain damage. Tech, Gregor, and Echo manage to jump aboard — but Hunter misses the ramp and plummets to the forest below, where he is apprehended by the Empire. Rather than attempt a rescue mission, Hunter orders the Bad Batch to leave him behind, much to Omega’s distress.
Finally, at long last, the stakes are high. As Hunter sits in his new cell, a familiar figure appears on the other side of the force field. Crosshair. After weeks of barely being mentioned by the Bad Batch, Hunter and Crosshair are face-to-face and we’re left on the edge of our seat wondering how the final two episodes of The Bad Batch will go.
If every episode could be like the “War-Mantle” and the handful of strong episodes this season, The Bad Batch could have been the franchise’s best-animated series. The animation is unbelievable, there are times I have to remind myself it’s not live-action, and the orchestration from Kevin Kiner rivals even the best music that John Williams has created for Star Wars.
Hopefully, the final pair of episodes will bring the series full circle, but there is a lot of ground to cover. With Hunter captured, there is an opportunity for him to understand why helping other people is so vital, now that he is in the position to require help. Many viewers have been frustrated with the full reset his personality has taken with each new episode, but now there’s an opportunity for him to get a character arc.
This new situation may also force Echo into a leadership position on The Marauder, which I think is necessary. Hunter is a great leader in battle, but a terrible leader under their new circumstances. The Bad Batch is likely going to have to call in reinforcements to rescue Hunter, which makes me think that we may see Rex again — especially since they have to take Gregor somewhere.
But ultimately, the final two episodes hinge on the tangential relationship between Crosshair and the Bad Batch. Hunter has the opportunity to put to use what he has learned about the chip and functioning outside of their training as clone troopers to perhaps to Crosshair back to the “good guys,” but there is every possibility that he is too far gone. We have seen so little of him throughout this season, that he truly is a wild card.