The following contains minor spoilers for the first half of Season One of "Star Wars: The Bad Batch" and the final season of "Star Wars: The Clone Wars."

Following six seasons that spanned from 2008 until 2014, "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," the acclaimed animated series from creator George Lucas and writer Dave Filoni, was revived for a seventh and final season at the start of 2020. As much of the series covered the exploits of the galaxy during the three years before the third Star Wars prequel film "Revenge of the Sith," season seven ran concurrently with the events of the film, tying together many of the loose ends involving the show's central characters. The final season also drove the series closer to the tragic events within the films, introducing some of the characters that would soon confront a rapidly changing galaxy far, far away. A few of those characters make up the Bad Batch, the elite clone trooper force that lies at the center of Disney+'s latest series, aptly titled "The Bad Batch." With the animated series continuing the narrative threads of "The Clone Wars" and establishing more and more new characters to fill the ever-expanding saga, the first eight episodes of "The Bad Batch" ignite an enthralling and ambitious premise from which to leap off.

If you are at all wary of hopping into the latest chapter in the Star Wars saga, the premiere episode of "The Bad Batch" should relieve any doubts you might have about what this show is about. Having premiered on May 4 or Star Wars Day of this year, the 70-minute episode clues us into not only the state of the galaxy immediately after the Clone Wars but also the stakes at play with this new set of characters. Kicking off with an emotional opening sequence that finds the Bad Batch, defective yet highly skilled clone troopers Hunter, Tech, Wrecker, Crosshair and Echo, grappling with the enactment of Order 66, an operation to execute all remaining Jedi in the galaxy, the series sets its tone right from the start. As the Clone Wars grind to a halt, the peaceful Republic is replaced with the dictatorial Empire, leading to a new era of turmoil, uncertainty and rebellion. While immense darkness envelopes the galaxy, this rag-tag group of soldiers-for-hire must carve out a new path toward staying alive.

The premiere episode of "The Bad Batch" sets the stage for what will be explored in the rest of the 16-episode season, from the team's exploits as they run from the Empire to how the galaxy as a whole begins to change as a new authority comes into power. As we are reintroduced to the main team of the series, more light is cast on the emerging conflict they will confront. Following their introduction in "The Clone Wars," the elite clone team seeks to continue their missions as soldiers-for-hire, seeking to stay out of the politics of war and empires and do what they do best, mow down battle droids in the hopes of keeping their lives for another day. Only this time, they aren't fighting waves of dispensable droids but rather their brothers-in-arms. As the premiere episode shows, the Empire is seeking to purge the clone troopers of their identity and morals, molding them into a more uniform army without the emotions that might make them weak or susceptible to outside influence. The Bad Batch, despite their defects, work based on their instincts, using their selective skills and intuitions to perform as elite soldiers.

The premiere episode establishes that while the Bad Batch contains the same inhibitor chips that forced every clone trooper to turn against the Republic's peacekeepers, the Jedi, they are mostly unaffected by the order. After witnessing Order 66 occur, the team flees to Kamino, the homeworld of the clones and their creators, to find answers. Here we meet Omega, a young girl who also happens to be a defective clone like the Bad Batch. While the show drops fans into the story expecting them to know most of what is happening based on the films and other media, Omega acts as the character for younger and newer viewers to follow along with. While she is naïve about most of the galaxy, she instantly knows who the Bad Batch are and what makes them unique from other soldiers.

The set-up of having the Bad Batch go up against their brothers in the wake of a tyrannical new government in the galaxy already had me hooked before the first episode was even halfway through. The remainder of the episode offered a peek at the start of the rebellion against the Empire as the Bad Batch are tasked with hunting down rebel insurgent Saw Gerrera. During this interaction, the team realizes that one of their own, Crosshair, is beginning to react to the effects of Order 66. Questioning the team's loyalties to the rising Empire, Crosshair aligns himself with the Empire, even though the decision might not be entirely his own. This sets the stakes for much of what the show will explore, how the Bad Batch will function with one of their own hunting them, as well as what choices Crosshair will make as a rogue agent in a new government that he does not entirely trust yet.

While there is a lot to unpack in the premiere episode alone, the following seven episodes offer plenty to dissect as well, despite their runtimes being significantly shorter. As the Bad Batch and Omega escape Kamino searching for answers about Order 66 and their inhibitor chips, each episode works to fill a piece of the puzzle. From encountering familiar characters like clone deserter Cut Lawquane and the Martez sisters from "The Clone Wars" to evading deadly bounty hunters, the show situates itself into a familiar format to that of the franchise's other streaming series, "The Mandalorian," each weekly mission cluing us into the more significant revelations down the line. Much of the show's focus so far is less on the dealings of the Empire and its growing army and more on how young Omega is acclimating with the Bad Batch. As she develops more courage and skill to work alongside the team on their missions, she gains insight into the more unknown and darker sides of the galaxy and its inhabitants. As episodes six and seven show us, the threats to the Bad Batch and Omega are not solely the Empire but forces much closer to the team than they realize.

The first eight episodes of "The Bad Batch" do a phenomenal job at not only reintroducing us to this compelling set of characters and offering up some more stunning animation but also laying the groundwork for where the series aims to go in its next eight episodes and beyond. As the Empire grows stronger, so does the secrecy surrounding Omega and her creators, the Kaminoans. Even though the show might follow a similar and somewhat predictable weekly pit stop format, each episode gives viewers more to chew on, with a slew of surprising character appearances to tout. Thus, the stage is set for the show to unravel this mystery and clue us into its main characters' fates.

Rating: 8/10  

All episodes of “Star Wars: The Bad Batch'' are now available on Disney+. Look out for a review of the next eight episodes coming soon!    

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