Welcome to The Bad Batch Explained, our weekly column dedicated to those rough and tumble Clone Wars leftovers and their march through a bold, new galaxy far, far away. In this entry, we’re charging into Star Wars: The Bad Batch Episode 10 (“Common Ground”) and contemplating The Phantom Menace and its residual anxieties. So yes, there are spoilers here.
After last week’s rapid-fire revelations, it would be too easy for Star Wars: The Bad Batch to race into resolution and bounty hunter conflict. We’re itching to see Boba Fett appear and draw blasters with Cad Bane, and for the Kaminoans to reveal their Snoke beta-tests, but the animated series devilishly hits the breaks on all that. Clone Force 99 still owes a debt to their bartender protector, Cid. They need credits, and they’ll get them wherever they can find them.
The Bad Batch Episode 10, entitled “Common Ground,” appears like an ordinary episodic pitstop. Imperial rule on Raxus is not as tight as the regime would like. The people are restless, and their senator refuses to bend the knee. With each passing installment of the series, the Clone Troopers start to behave like proper Stormtroopers. The blasters come out. They move on the crowds, and their political leader gets a cell for his troubles.
Senator Avi Singh feared this outcome. The moment his hands are bound, his service droid GS-8 escapes into the shadows and contacts Cid for some military aid. She assigns her best mercs: Hunter and his friends. It’s a simple snatch-and-grab rescue and shouldn’t require much effort. So, why do our clones grumble at the gig?
First, too many folks are after Omega, their kid sidekick. They can’t take her on missions anymore. They gotta keep a low profile. Sooner or later, one of these bounty hunters will land their shot. It’s best to avoid confrontation.
Second, Raxus was a Separatist planet. They fought on the other side during the Clone Wars. Hunter’s stomach sours at the thought of helping a former enemy.
But maybe if Clone Force 99 knew what we knew, they wouldn’t drag their feet. Hunter has not had the veil lifted yet. He doesn’t realize that Palpatine manufactured the war to spread fear throughout the Republic. In that state of fear, they willingly allowed the Chancellor to become their Emperor. Both the Republic and the Separatists were fighting for the same diabolical jackass.
The Bad Batch Episode 10 is not the first time Raxus has appeared in Star Wars. Our first visit to the pleasantly cool planet (it’s basically Southern California, 75° all year long) occurred in the Clone Wars episode “Heroes on Both Sides.” Padmé Amidala traveled to Raxus hoping to strike a peace deal with the Separatist Confederacy. Jedi Ahsoka Tano traveled with her as protection, but when she met her enemy, not as battle droids but as real-deal galactic citizens, she discovered their humanity.
On Raxus, Ahsoka Tano took her first steps in reevaluating her purpose as a Jedi Knight. The Separatists are not bloodthirsty killers. They have the same wants and desires as those on Coruscant. It’s easy to chop the head off a droid, but she could not do the same to the people commanding those clankers.
“Heroes on Both Sides” is a phrase ripped straight from the Revenge of the Sith opening crawl: “There are heroes on both sides. Evil is everywhere.” That last sentence is critical. There was a phantom infection pulsating within the Republic and the Separatists throughout the Star Wars prequels and its spinoff animated series. Using violent outbursts committed by villains like Darth Maul, Count Dooku, and General Grievous, Palpatine stirred hatred between the opposing sides.
These fabricated, tactical assaults maintained the war until it propelled Palpatine from Senator to Chancellor to Emperor. And once he steered the politics toward despotic rule, his military force had already amassed to a nearly unshakable size. The Jedi discovered the truth too late, and they had no one to tell it to as Order 66 was executed, and their numbers thinned.
If only Ahsoka Tano had pressed fast-forward on those feelings unearthed on Raxus. Instead, she let them fester. It would take her two more seasons of The Clone Wars before she backed away from the Jedi, and by that point, what was done was done. Raxus was a moment of awakening for her, and she ignored it. Sleep is always easier.
Whatever your opinions about the prequels, The Phantom Menace set-up is incredibly effective. George Lucas challenged his fans. We love Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi. They’re heroes, but Lucas took our idolization and tore it down. The Jedi may be “the good guys,” but they were also fools, unable to look beyond the battlefield.
The Bad Batch Episode 10 is mostly caught up with action. Clone Force 99 doesn’t get the downtime on Raxus like Ahsoka Tano and Padmé Amidala did. They sneak their way into the Imperial prison, bust Senator Avi Singh out, and blast their way back to their ship. Many explosions later, they drop the bureaucrat in Cid’s lap so she can dish out the credits.
Hunter doesn’t contemplate good versus evil or the humanity of the captive he freed. He just knows he doesn’t like saving a guy he probably would have executed a few months earlier. The new Imperial order burns his hide. Once, Clone Force 99 were soldiers. But now, they’re trading their skills for credits. They’re bounty hunters, and they hate bounty hunters.
The soldiers don’t grumble about their Separatist collaboration for long. Upon their return, they discover that Omega has won a heap of credits playing Dejarik, a.k.a. the holochess game that nearly caused Chewbacca to rip C-3PO’s arms from his sockets in A New Hope after R2-D2 totally owned him aboard the Millineum Falcon. Omega won so much money defeating chumps that she’s paid Clone Force 99’s debt to Cid. They’re free to go where they please. Is that actually what they want?
Hunter can scoff at being a merc for Cid, but it did allow him and the rest to fall back into their Clone Trooper roles. With debts paid, they’re on their own again. And when they’re on their own, they have to think for themselves. There are no more orders to follow. They’re fugitives.
They can run. They can hide. They can fight.
Clone Force 99’s destiny seems obviously connected with the Rebel Alliance. That’s where their old pal Rex eventually lands, as does Ahsoka Tano. But the Rebels story is well documented, and right now, there is someone more immediate that needs their help.
Run, hide, fight. Whatever they choose, they will do so for Omega. Hunter has tried to create some emotional distance between himself and the child, but those walls have crumbled by Episode 10. She’s a Bad Batch’er, and it’s time that Hunter treats her as such.
The Phantom Menace revelation will eventually arrive for Clone Force 99. They just need another conversation or two with Rex, or even Tano, to get to the bottom of why they were created. And that answer will not be as important to them, or to us, as the answer to the Omega riddle.
Clone Force 99’s purpose was for war/fear, but Omega’s purpose appears more nebulous. What’s not nebulous is the purpose she ignites in them. This show started as The Bad Batch, but it could easily be rebranded by the series end, My Five Dads.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch Episode 10 is now streaming on Disney+.