star wars the bad batch reunion review

This article contains spoilers for the Star Wars: The Bad Batch episode “Reunion.” 

Is Crosshair a good luck charm? Because his appearance elevates any Bad Batch episode to the top tier. Directed by Steward Lee and written by Christian Taylor, “Reunion” is exactly what the title suggests: Crosshair resurfaces into the plot to confront his Bad Batcher (Dee Bradley Baker) brothers. (There’s also a meta reunion for the Star Wars fans, but we’ll get to that.)

Wrecker and Omega (Michelle Ang) bond over bomb-defusing lessons, and they’re still thick as thieves after the biochip horrors last episode. Hunter is insistent that the Batchers must salvage valuable intact weaponry on Bracca in order to pay their debt to Cid. While he counts on the Scavenger Guild to be an obstacle, he doesn’t realize they flagged them to the Empire, which sends Crosshair, his stormtroopers, and clone troopers to terminate them. The Empire’s pursuit interferes with the Kaminoan clone scientists’ secret scheme, their “contingency plan,” to capture Omega, so Lama Su (Bob Bergen) hires another bounty hunter. But before complications rain upon the Batchers like an aggressive meteorite shower, the rogue clone siblings contemplate and debate their place in the galaxy.

Clashing interests are echoed (pun intended) by the resentment brewing in Echo. I complained last episode that the other Batchers were not present on Hunter’s rejection of Rex’s rebel cause. Turns out, Echo disagrees with Hunter’s decision since bailing with Rex could have allowed them to disregard their debt and start anew. The argument speaks miles about their state of mind and morale. Hunter does not want false stability under a Republic that doesn’t exist, while Echo perceives Rex’s cause as their ticket back into Republic soldierhood, as clones were bred for — not because he believes it’s the right cause.

Tech and Omega also process post-war purpose with a strikingly generational dynamic. As the child clone holds her gaze on a graveyard of ships and realizes a weight she cannot put into words, she poses an important question: “What was the war like?” Tech blithely explains it was just a “primary mission objective.” Omega pushes on, “What was it like?” — her child brain needing to understand the war on emotional terms — but her guardian’s answer is the same and dissatisfactory.

Then you have Crosshair, the sole brain-chipped Batcher, who remains with the Empire due to his sheer obedience. Listen to the clinical rapport between Crosshair and his three gray-armored stormtroopers proteges, credited as numbers yet each bearing distinctive voices (Tina Huang, Ness Bautista, Daheli Hall), a contrast to the Baker-voiced clones. It’s discomforting to discern that they are humans underneath the helmets, hardening into shells.

the bad batch reunion

Formidable Adversaries and Familiar Faces

Fennec Shand may have been a formidable adversary, but Crosshair is tiers above her talents because he knows his old brothers’ move — every strategy, every tool, starting with deducing Tech’s scanners would try to throw them off path. And once Crosshair is on planet, blasters are fired. But when Hunter and Omega scurry back to the ship, someone who is decidedly not the Empire military is waiting for them.

Fennec? Nope, it’s a new bounty hunter, or a fan-favorite familiar for Clone Wars viewers: that guttural Duros Cad Bane (Corey Burton, excellent as always) with a Clint Eastwood swagger, cued in by Kevin Kiner’s music composition pulsating hard on the strumming Western theme — so on-the-nose that you’d expect Kiner to round it out with the iconic Western whistle, whoops, and hollers utilized by Ennio Morricone once Hunter and Cad Bane have their blaster showdown, which Hunter does not stand a chance against.

The hype-provoking trope of “beloved franchise veteran popping up to kick ass” has been banked upon through Star Wars to varying and debate-worthy effect. By being upfront about its status as a direct follow-up to an existing Star Wars series from “Aftermath,” The Bad Batch never made any pretense about not being a standalone Star Wars story, so it has more story license to slot in Clone Wars alumni. This sets it apart from, say, the earlier episodes of The Mandalorian and Rebels, which both came off as standalone narratives that were incidentally situated in the Star Wars universe while branching off the world-building, until the franchise veterans like Boba Fett and Luke Skywalker began to shake up — or disrupt, depending on who you ask — the story. Knowing Cad Bane and his future beyond Clone Wars is what fans have been thirsting for. Not unlike Maul in The Phantom Menace or hand-drawn General Grievous in Genndy Tartakovsky’s 2003 Clone Wars, he’s a swaggering example of a consummate antagonist by mere presence, not by backstory or potable tragedy.

And what a hell of an (re)introduction for Cad Bane in The Bad Batch! That’s regardless if a viewer is acquainted with Cad’s hardcore bounty hunter professionalism (this is the guy Emperor Palpatine hired to snatch Force-sensitive babies). But while fans would be buzzing about Cad — obviously not to the firecracker level of Luke Skywalker’s one-man cavalry in The Mandalorian — “Reunion” is most commendable for its multitudes: the rapports that unveil how much the war has transformed and challenged its soldiers and ex-soldiers.

Not that Clone Wars and Rebels avoided displaying bodily damage, but the often-bloodless CGI renderings of The Bad Batch is the least shy on the grime of all Lucasfilm Animated productions, and it accentuates the tension. The Bad Batchers’ strategic escape attempt results in the battery of Crosshair and the camera focuses on him writhing in agony, his eventual bandaged head, and his mouth muzzled by an oxygen mask. Those are a series of disconcertingly humanizing shot that forces us to watch a shell of a man, who committed brutal acts, undergo human pain. Omega wonders if a brain-chipped Crosshair could be so zealous to incinerate his own brothers in a ship’s booster. We want to hope like her that a chip can easily explain away Crosshair’s actions.

The Batch may have outwitted their brother, but Hunter could not outgun a bounty hunter stranger to save Omega.

Other Thoughts

  • I normally would be bugged by the comedic cutaway to Cad Bane’s service droid sidekick (Seth Green) before the dramatic shot of Omega running to Hunter’s body, but Green delivers his woe-is-me line humorously, almost as if fan-boyishly giddy he got shot in a Cad Bane’s showdown. It unintentionally works.
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