Review: ‘The Bad Batch’ S01 Ep.14 ‘War-Mantle’
by Olly MacNamee
(+++ WARNING: There are major spoilers in this review for The Bad Batch ‘War-Mantle’ +++)
After a filler of an episode last week, I am pleased to announce that this week’s instalment was both a standout episode of the whole series to date and one that will go down as monumental too as we once more focus on the rise of the Empire. And after a good few episodes in which Omega has been the focus, Clone Force 99 finally get the limelight once more. But then, there is no room for a kid – even one as resourceful as Omega – in this particular episode.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed The Bad Batch, with more killers than fillers in this stunning debut season, but this one has to be amongst my most favoured of the whole series. While I’ve enjoyed getting to know Hunter and the gang, and even like Omega, it’s the backstory of the Empire that has fascinated me the most. And this one moves the dial quite considerably on that front.
The Bad Batch are called in by Captain Rex for a rescue mission that takes then to the planet Daro and a secret base deep within the heart of a mountain. The level of detail we have seen lavished on each exotic visa we’ve come across in this series is breathtaking. Hyper realistic, we’ve come a long way in terns since Star Wars: A New Hope in what can be achieved on screen these days. And this episode is no different in its attention to detail. And while this is a cartoon series at heart, the realism of the various galactic environments we’ve visited adds a layer of authenticity to proceedings.
Within the mountain, we learn, is a training base. And a shocking discovery. This is no ordinary training base, but rather a training facility for the clone troopers’ inevitable replacement, the stormtroopers! Stormtroopers who have upgraded their uniforms to reflect the original designs of Ralph McQuarrie and thereby act as a fan-serving bridge between the clone troopers armour and the stormtroopers we all recognise from the original trilogy. And a great inclusion for us older fans.
It would seem the Empire have been busy in their recruitment drive. Not only are these storm troopers recruited from an unlimited number of humanoids from across the galaxy, but meanwhile on Kamino the Prime Minister learns that the Empire has cancelled all of its contracts, the making the Kaminoans somewhat obsolete. It’s a very darkly toned episode from start to finish and appropriately so conceding we are witnessing the Empire grip on the galaxy tightening. But even now, this feels like a big move on the Empire’s part. Although it has been hinted at throughout the whole series.
The actual rescue mission of clone trooper-turned-deserter/rebel, Gregor (another call-back character from The Clone Wars series), is classic Star Wars, with the mountain base dripping with the recognisable grey walls and corridors illuminated by the slimmest of long vertical lights. It’s all very evocative of the Death Star and the rescuing of Princess Leia. But, unlike that mission, this one is devoid of much hope, new or otherwise.
By the end of the episode the hand of the Empire is inescapably commanding proceedings on Kamino and elsewhere, with a very ominous scene in which the Kamino Prime Minster is cornered by Admiral Rampart and as he is surrounded by clone troopers and the blast doors come down on him, you feel his end is nigh. And it’s not looking much better for Hunter either, now a prisoner of the Empire and face-to-face with his old ally, now turned nemesis, Crosshair.
As a series, The Bad Batch was always going to have dark moments, After all, this whole endeavour is set during the darkest days of Star Wars lore, and I have to commend Dave Filoni and all those involved with this show on carving their own path. Let’s not forget that it would be so, so tempting to include Darth Vader by this point, but they have yet to play that card. I do think that’s more because of the rich tapestry Filoni and company are drawing upon from both The Clone Wars and Rebels cartoons. Like I’ve mentioned before, this is a show that isn’t strictly aimed at the original, ageing Star Wars fans, but rather the newer generation. Those viewers who grew up with The Clone Wars and then Rebels. But, there are still enough Easter eggs and original trilogy call-backs to keep my generation gripped too. It’s been a great addition to the franchise and once more proving that the small screen is giving us a vision of Star Wars that is reverential and evocative to the original, beloved trilogy in a way the news big screen trilogy never quite got right.
An episode that feels more like The Empire Strikes Back in its overall tone, with a lot of great, thrilling and spectacular moments. I can’t wait to see how this series ends and what disasters the Bad Batch will surely meet before all is said and done.
The Bad Batch is streaming on Disney + with new episodes each Friday.
Playing catch-up? Then why not read all my previous reviews here.