As a person who has watched way too much of The Clone Wars — and subsequently Star Wars: Rebels — in the last month preparing for the release of the final season of the show, I was wildly excited to watch the first episode of the seventh season.

To ring in the final season of the show, The Clone Wars brought us deep into another Republic vs Separatist battle. This time it’s on the planet Anaxes, which houses one of the Republic’s largest shipyards. Mace Windu and Anakin Skywalker have been leading the defense, but after weeks of fighting, it’s becoming a losing battle.

With the main production facility overrun by droids, Anaxes is on the brink of being lost, meaning a major hit to the reserve fleet. Because the droids learn by using analytics to predict strategy, it’s important to continually change tactics or else risk losing battles. Rex and Cody are worried that if the droids can counter battle tactics even from Rex’s playbook, then the entire army could be threatened.

The two of them want to go behind enemy lines to the Separatist Cyber Center. This is where the brains of the operation is and where battle intel is relayed to the command ship. Infiltrating the center could help them find out what is going on with the droids. Mace Windu approves of the plan, but Anakin senses something else unspoken.

And, he would be right. Rex also believes that the reason the Separatists have been beating them is actually because they have Echo, who was Rex’s co-author in creating the battle plans. Viewers will remember that Echo was believed to have died at the Citadel on the mission to rescue Jedi Master Even Piell.

This mission is personal for Rex. As he remembers compatriots and friends like Fives, Echo, and Hevy, it’s clear that he struggles with the horrors of war in the way that any soldier might. Cody says, “Regular folk don’t understand. Sometimes in war, it’s hard to be the one that survives.” And that’s made even harder for the fact that they’re clones.

The Clone Wars has earned a lot of praise for its portrayal of the clones and humanizing a group that was essentially viewed as cannon fodder in the films. Characters like Rex, Cody, Fives, Echo all become unique personalities rather than just another clone soldier and the series highlights the humanity and individuality of the clones.

Clone-centric episodes are some of the deepest and emotionally moving episodes of the series and with the looming spectre of Order 66 haunting this season, the subject of the clones will take center stage. The very fact that we have come to know, trust, and care about these clones makes their inevitable switch even more devastating.

Rebels viewers will know that *SPOILER* *SPOILER* thankfully Rex removed his inhibitor chip after Fives discovered its potential implications. But the fact that it’s only Rex, Wolffe, and Gregor left by the time that Ezra and Kanan arrive on Seelos speaks to the overwhelming loss that they must have had to face from the effects of the Clone Wars.

So, Rex and Cody head out on their mission, bringing Jesse and Kix along on their squad. But Cody has also recruited another squad called Clone Force 99, named after the fallen clone 99. This group, much like 99, are clones born with genetic mutations. However, this is an experimental clone force, born with “desirable” mutations and have earned the nickname as the “Bad Batch.”

Unconventional, effective, and independent, the Bad Batch’s arrival immediately signals their individuality. Because of their mutation, they look very different from the other clones and separate themselves further by calling clones like Rex and Cody “regs”.

bad batch
[Courtesy of Disney+.]

As far as gangs go, this one is almost stereotypical. You’ve got Hunter, the strategic leader who looks like Rambo and was born with heightened senses, Wrecker, the beefy oversized clone designated as muscle, Tech, the (literal) tech guy, and Crosshair, the shady silent sniper. But in the scope of the clone troopers, they’re shockingly unique. For an army of soldiers designed to be the exact same, the Bad Batch is effective specifically because of the fact that they are so different.

When their ship is shot down by droids, Wrecker is able to single-handedly lift transport ship to rescue Cody, who is caught underneath it. The team works exceedingly well together. Able to take on a whole squadron of droids on their own.

I normally hate battle or action sequences in television or film because I find them to be exhausting, a waste of time, and essentially a show of special effects, but watching the group execute their Shockwave tactical plan was one of the most mesmerizing sequences of the episode. Watching as Wrecker lifts a barricade to protect the entire team while they rush into the line of fire, tossing electrical grenades overhead and shooting them to take out the battle droids is exciting and a creative way to solve the problem of being outnumbered by droids.

The team is efficient and deadly and you can’t help but wonder how many clone troopers could have survived brutal battles if they were allowed encouraged to deviate and innovate new battle tactics and ways of combat. Even when the Separatists come to investigate the carnage after, Admiral Trench initially asks if Jedi were involved. The clones are far from just pawns to throw into the onslaught of battle, and the Bad Batch suggests that their tactics could even measure up to the likes of the Jedi.

With Cody suffering internal injuries, Rex has to take command as Cody is evac’d out with Kix. This immediately causes conflict between the two squads, but Hunter is able to calm down his men and agree to follow Rex’s plans through.

The episode focuses on many moments that show that not only do the Bad Batch thrive with their mutations, but they also take great pride in it. They aren’t just any clone troopers. They’re unique. They can operate on their own. This is in direct contrast to clones like Rex. He serves under Anakin. And although Anakin values Rex as a soldier and a friend, he is put into stark contrast to the members of the Bad Batch.

The epigraph that preceded the episode said, “Embrace others for their differences, for that makes you whole,” but that is not how the two squads initially approach one another. To the Bad Batch, Rex is just a reg. It almost makes him less-than, and in many ways, Rex has to prove himself to Hunter and his squad.

However, Rex quickly comes to adapt to the Bad Batch’s way of fighting. When they come upon an outpost, the group quickly overtakes it as Rex joins the squad in their unconventional methods of combat and earns some respect from the group.

They are able to trick the Separatists and break into the Cyber Center to infiltrate their database. Tech is able to find a program using Rex’s algorithm and confirms Rex’s suspicions that Echo is indeed alive and on Skako Minor.

This was a fantastic way to open the final season of the show. Originally screened in 2015 at the Celebration Anaheim and on, this story has been a long time coming. For dedicated fans, this storyline might not exactly be something completely new, but it’s exciting to see this storyline finally take place officially within the timeline of the show. The next three episodes will form a four-episode arc for the story of the Bad Batch, Rex, and finding Echo.

The final season is looking to be exciting. The show brings back old faces like Ahsoka and Maul, while also running concurrently with the timeline of Return of the Sith. We can’t wait to see what the season has in store!

New episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars stream Fridays on Disney+.

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