Star Wars: The Bad Batch has twisted the feelings of nostalgia fans have for the Clone Army’s heroism to reveal their service to the Empire.
The following contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Bad Batch Season 2, Episode 3, “The Solitary Clone,” now streaming on Disney+.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch Season 2 has only just begun, and it already promises to be instant heartache — in a good way– for fans of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The third episode of the season, “The Solitary Clone,” used a form of dark nostalgia to put fans in a familiar position of rooting for their clone heroes, only to be left with a feeling of betrayal.
The episode continues the trend of this post-Republic series of highlighting the clones as the spearhead of galactic oppression. The first season made this point with clones being ordered to oppress their former allies, the Twi’leks of Ryloth. While a sense of heroism still lingers within these soldiers who are too good for the Empire, the fact remains that fans must witness their valor used against the freedoms they used to protect.
The Bad Batch Creates a Mirage of Clone Heroism
Fans of The Clone Wars — especially those who grew up with the series as children — have a special connection to the clones. This series was a triumph in humanizing characters that, at one point in time, only amounted to another CGI hoard army. The Clone Wars delivered fan favorite clones such as Captain Rex, the return of Commander Cody, Fives, Echo, and countless others. Episode after episode, their battles against clumsy droids, overwhelming odds, and identity issues made fans see them as heroes, even though most knew their end purpose would result in the extermination of the Jedi. The Bad Batch is a painful reminder that the celebrations of the clones was always hollow given the machinations of Palpatine dragging them down with the Empire’s inherent failings.
“The Solitary Clone” is a masterclass example of using this nostalgia for clone heroism in an inverted fashion to deliver a darkly personal experience for viewers. This episode sees Commander Cody in his first post-Order 66 appearance since 2005, and Crosshair leading a detachment of Imperial Clones to rescue an Imperial governor being held hostage on Desix — a planet that wants its independence from the new Empire. The episode is really effective at splitting fans’ hearts in two because it features the classic “fight to the end” mentality mixed with amazing feats of action and comradery that make the clones so appealing. For countless seasons, fans rooted for the clones dismantling the oppressive droid armies of the Separatists, similar to the exploits seen in throughout the episode. However, the galactic political context backing the clones has changed, and along with it, so has the moral high ground of even fan-favorite clones still serving the new Empire.
Fans Must Witness the Empire Turn Heroic Clones Into Villains
Commander Cody and Crosshair’s joint mission reveal the protagonists to be the villains. Fans watch the heroism of clones being used to oppress the types of civilizations they saved during the Clone Wars under the Republic. In the episode’s third act, this shift into villainy takes the form of facilitating a violent occupation and the execution of an unarmed prisoner, with the public display of their dead corpse. Just when Crosshair seemed to be reaching a redemption arc, his actions carry out the worst of Imperial orders, planting him firmly on the wrong side. Long gone are the days of fans cheering liberating clones. The result for fans who grew up with The Clone Wars as kids is a sick combination of rooting for the clones before having their chain jerked and showing that the battle droids were the ones on the side of the heroes.
The only shinning light of heroism in the episode comes from Commander Cody’s hesitations with following Imperial orders. His desire to resolve the conflict with the Separatist Governor through negotiation — reminiscent of his former commanding officer General Kenobi — reflects the sense of clone honor fans remember. This act, alongside his refusal to execute the governor after promising her safety, should give fans of the clones solace since it reveals that heroism still lies within them.
The Bad Batch perfectly captures the sinister nature of Palpatine’s manipulation of the clones. Fans of their heroism are now subjected to seeing what they admire about the clones twisted to serve malicious ends. While their good nature still exists, until the clones throw off the cruelty of their Imperial superiors, and possibly stage the anticipated clone rebellion, they will remain tools of the tyrannical rule they once opposed.
New Episodes of Star Wars: The Bad Batch stream Wednesdays on Disney+.