The Bad Batch Goes Back To The Classic Western Roots Of Star Wars

Spoilers for "The Bad Batch" Season 2 Episode 9 – "The Crossing" follow.

"The Crossing" is the latest episode of "The Bad Batch" and it sees Omega and the team of Clone super commandos — minus Echo — heading to a distant mining planet where Cid has taken control of a mine. There, it's their task to mine a precious substance called Ipsium and get back. Unfortunately, in the process, their ship is stolen by a masked thief and they're stranded on the planet. Things get worse when they are pursued by a desert lightning storm and take shelter in a mine where they are promptly trapped.

The episode ends on a cliffhanger with the Bad Batch and Omega still left on the deserted desert planet, hoping Cid will come rescue them before their rations run out.

With classic Western story riffs and a score and location to match, this episode puts the heroes in peril and doesn't quickly get them out.

Omega's journey

This episode builds on the ending of the previous, and Echo's departure from the Batch. Omega is inconsolable about it in a way that is very much how you'd expect a tween to react. Everything around her is changing and she hasn't lived enough life to understand why these changes are normal. Hunter tries to soothe her by saying Echo is still part of the team, but on a different mission, but Tech is practically dismissive of her feelings. 

The episode is really built around the two of them being able to process their loss of Echo. For Omega, she wears that sadness and hurt on her sleeve and Tech compartmentalizes it away. It seems as though Tech and Omega haven't had a lot of screen time together — she's bonded a lot more with the other members of the squad—but it's nice to see their personalities play off of each other. Tech is nothing but analytical and emotionless and Omega is his opposite. Watching them put that aside for them both to learn is really great to see.

She's also so much of a classic kid. There are lines of dialogue and deliveries she has that I can see coming out of my kids, dripping with teenage venom or that perfect blend of sarcasm. The writing, heightened by Michelle Ang's performance, is just so good for Omega. Dee Bradley Baker's counterpoint performance only heightens it.

Classic Westerns

The look of this episode comes straight from John Ford's Utah, full of sandstone and Monument Valley-like imagery. For all of the deserts we've seen in "Star Wars," we haven't seen one with that red, Southern Utah sandstone, and that makes a fresh new biome for a planet that drips western tropes. This whole episode is a number of classic Western motifs, right down to the Kevin Kiner music.

The old mine and the idea of being lost in the desert without a horse are old notions in these old westerns. That motif of crossing the river and it being such a dangerous thing is something prevalent in many Westerns as well. It's wonderful to see "Star Wars" going back to some of these Western roots, but the thing I love about it is how different those roots are from other iterations we've seen. In "Attack of the Clones" we have the desperate missing family member from "The Searchers." "The Mandalorian" gives us the Sergio Leone Spaghetti Westerns. This gives us a different flavor of western completely, though it feels like it has as much in common with Lawrence Kasdan's "Silverado" as anything. Think "The Cowboys" or "Red River" or "Treasure of the Sierra Madre."

This isn't a bad thing.

The animation team continues to outdo itself as well. Watching this crew pull this off in the first few seasons of "The Clone Wars" would have been unthinkable, but for an episode of "The Bad Batch" now, they continue to do their best work.

Details to watch out for

There isn't much in this episode in the way of touchstones to other parts of the "Star Wars" saga, but the big one might be the sandstorm itself. When George Lucas was filming "A New Hope" in Tunisia, a sandstorm wiped away so many of the sets to film on. When it came time to film "Return of the Jedi," a sandstorm was written into the script, but eventually cut. Deleted scenes of the sandstorm from that movie exist, you can watch them. It's interesting to see.

We wouldn't really see the sandstorm — or at least the effects of it — until "The Phantom Menace," which was the inciting incident that brought Qui-Gon and Padmé closer to Anakin and put their fate in his hands. The behind-the-scenes stories of a sandstorm on that film were legendary as well. Tunisia isn't a place to make a movie if your name is George Lucas and you want your sets to survive.

The sandstorm in "The Crossing" brings the Bad Batch closer together, and it works as a beautiful visual and ties it to that raw, outside Western feeling.

In closing

There are two big lingering questions at the end of this episode. First, who is that mysterious thief that took off with the Marauder? Second, will they make it off of this planet alive? Both of these are compelling cliffhangers and show that the showrunners are getting more comfortable with season-length storytelling and plotting, not forcing everything to be resolved in a single episode. I'm excited for more in this adventure based on the strength of these mysteries.

This episode had me holding my breath, though. Growing up in Utah, I knew more than a few people who died swimming in underground caves, drowning in the dark, clawing for breath and trying to get free. This all added an intensity to the underground river sequence I couldn't have predicted. It's visceral and impossibly well-animated, bringing tense suspense to the show in exactly the way it needs it the most.

New episodes of "The Bad Batch" air on Wednesdays on Disney+.