Star Wars: The Bad Batch: Return to Kamino
August 6, 2021 12:46 AM - Season 1, Episode 15 - Subscribe

Crosshair and his squad take the captured Hunter back to Kamino, where they set a trap for Omega and the rest of the Bad Batch. Part 1 of the season finale.

Outstanding animation and some really great musical cues lead to an emotional episode. To quote Lucas, "It's like poetry, it rhymes."
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit (12 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I’m curious to know what others think: do we believe Crosshair when he says his chip is gone, as of “a long time ago”? He’s got those burn scars on his head but nothing that looks like an incision. Personally I’m unenthusiastic about having a redemption arc for a gleeful war criminal (if he weren’t being controlled by the chip).
posted by orrnyereg at 5:08 AM on August 6, 2021

- Nice use of the Kamino Suite from Attack of the Clones.
- Kamino was super atmospheric, the Star Destroyers in the storm clouds looked great and the bombardment was amazing.
- "You may fire when ready."

I’m curious to know what others think: do we believe Crosshair when he says his chip is gone, as of “a long time ago”? He’s got those burn scars on his head but nothing that looks like an incision.

I'm guessing the chip was disabled/destroyed when he was burnt by the Star Destroyer engine on the scrap planet. I don't remember if we've had a clone who's had their chip removed after a prolonged period under its control before? I'm guessing the chip compels you to follow orders while making you think you're operating under your own free will (so clones don't fight against it), so after a while under its influence you may be convinced you were making your own choices even though you knew about the chip - hence Crosshair thinking "this is who I am".
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:07 AM on August 6, 2021

Be curious to know what "A long time ago" means for a clone, who is maybe 5 years old at the max? How would he have found out about it? It was not common knowledge, unless he was somehow hanging around when Fives uncovered their existence...

The parallels to the first episode were interesting—the shots of the cafeteria and labs were really melancholy as they're about to be demolished by the Star Destroyers. And then the whole "The Bad Batch blows up robots in the training ground" sequence, only this time the stakes are much higher.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:17 AM on August 6, 2021 [2 favorites]

Great episode. I kept wondering why Crosshair was holding Hunter in the same location as the bait comm unit, but waved it off as the villain being too cocky.

It would be interesting to know why and how Crosshair's chip got removed, but 'when' seems to be after his injury in the junkyard, seven episodes and at least one mission ago. I doubt it's a long time objectively - but maybe in terms of how many chances Crosshair has had to defect, or the Bad Batch has had to come back for him.
posted by mersen at 3:18 PM on August 6, 2021

Haha, well, speaking as someone who lives with a five-year-old human male, "a long time ago" means pretty much anything over six weeks, so it absolutely tracks that Crosshair would consider his chip to have been out for ages now.

I don't think SW has ever engaged deeply with how human clones with rapid ageing experience time and memory, and WOW do I wish this was the kind of franchise that went deep on that, because that is some real potential Science Fiction content. And honestly TBB is the series to do it in if they're going to do it, because Omega presents this really interesting contrast of being older than all these grown men (was that a new reveal in this episode, or has that been mentioned so explicitly before?) but presents much younger, so it's really easy to forget. Was she actually present when they were decanted? Does she remember the Batch as babies?? It's wild to think of her as this older sister standing by as her "little brothers" grew past her.

I found it really interesting how they portrayed the destruction of the Kamino facility as this melancholy thing. Yes, it's where they used to live - but it's a factory? that produces, literally, enslaved human soldiers? And we're sort of expected to look at these shots and think, aw, it's just like my school cafeteria where I was hanging out with my pals having fun and starting food fights, wow so sad it's going to get blown up by space lasers...except that I wasn't actually bred in a lab to be impressed into an army, so...

Star Wars is such a wild ride sometimes. I never know the extent to which these jarring moments are knowingly inserted for people engaging more deeply with the content - it seems like it has to be self-consciously done but the touch is so feather-light I'm never sure.

Regarding the control chips and their long-term effects - it's unclear the extent to which the chips were always controlling the clone soldiers, right? I mean, there's a case to be made that the extremely low desertion rate of, again, enslaved human soldiers in a tremendously dangerous and violent conflict could be attributed to not only their initial, admittedly thorough brainwashing, but also a low level of constant mind control from the chips that only kicked into overdrive when they received Order 66. Certainly I remember an implication in TCW that the control chips were doing their thing all the time to quell aggression in the ranks, right? That was the actual reason given for why they had the chips at all. So I don't know that I agree Crosshair was any more messed up from "a prolonged period under their control" than any other clone who had his chip out before Order 66 came down. Again, there is room to do a lot more exploration of what it means to have one's control chip removed and how it feels to the individual in question, but it hasn't really been done. It seems like the response is quite individual, and I certainly believe there were clones who responded to having their chip removed with "well, luckily I was NEVER under that thing's control, because I always believed that Good Soldiers Follow Orders, so ha! take that, Emperor! There's no controlling my independent-thinking ass!" Seems like plain ol' human nature to me.
posted by potrzebie at 2:13 PM on August 7, 2021 [7 favorites]

potrzebie, I love your comment. I've had many of the same thoughts. Recently finished a first time viewing of Clone Wars + Rebels + Bad Batch, and have given probably too much thought to the clones.

The treatment of the Kamino facility throughout the movies and shows is interesting. It's not the first time a space opera has presented super soldiers grown in pods and then forced into battle. But that's usually something terrible done by the Evil Empire, EvilCorp, or one of the rather hostile hive species.

However, this one is presented as almost humane and is being (partially) run by the good guys. The clones are treated with a certain amount of care. The way they're trained & raised makes most of them into emotionally complete people with maturity, empathy, and a willingness to easily bond with any of their brothers they meet along the way. They're taught to think for themselves (to an extent) and show initiative. Even those who fail training, or are "defective", are given some job to do and are not murdered. Which is the usual fate in other space operas where the cloned super soldier fails. It's interesting how Lucas, Filoni, etc. subverted the usual tropes.

From that perspective, there is room to be sad about the loss of Kamino. It's the only home these men have ever known and it wasn't an entirely terrible (or terrifying) place for most of them. They viewed it with fondness.

To counter these thoughts, I sometimes wonder if the meta-narrative of Clone Wars is that it's Republic / Rebellion propaganda and I've fallen for the old narrative of "Slavery was acceptable because some slaves were treated well". It's interesting to think of Clone Wars et al as being unreliable.

Or that the shows were relatively straightforward but the "good" characters, otherwise devoted to the notion of freedom, had a massive blindspot when it came to the clones. I wish that Obi Wan or Windu or Yoda had been forced to justify why they kept the clones in bondage while fighting slavery elsewhere. Just once would have been nice. I'm sure they would have come up with something almost reasonable. Something like a promise to release all of them from service when the war ended, with a pension and a farm, and that somehow justified all the horrors. And that by treating the clones with a certain level of care & respect, the Jedi convinced themselves the clones were practically equals. Not slaves at all! No imbalance of power because we're all working together for the same purpose.

At any rate, the clone lifespan is interesting. Apparently, they have a maximum lifespan of 50 years. With many succumbing to old age between 30 to 40. Thinking about Rex, he's probably only 8 years old at most during the Clone Wars. Which would put him around 23-25 for his episodes in Rebels. By that point, he's already late middle age. White haired with a paunch.

And the questions of clone agency are also interesting. Majority of them seem to be doing a job they love, and they feel fulfilled doing it. Despite not having a choice on whether or not to have that job in the first place. But did they choose this mental state freely? Or was it the result of the inhibitor chip? Indoctrination on Kamino? Jango Fett's genes predisposing them to a love of combat? Resigned to their fate so they end up convincing themselves this situation is actually good? Wish the shows had addressed this in some detail. Maybe Crosshair will give them the excuse to do so.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 6:42 PM on August 7, 2021 [5 favorites]

Yes, I think if they want to speak to those questions about agency they will never line up a better opportunity than Crosshair. Which, BTW, I also wanted to point out what a phenomenal job Dee Bradley Baker did in this episode conveying the confused depths of bitterness, betrayal, and shame Crosshair is navigating right now! Whatever he's being paid, it's not enough. Unreal talent.

It's right that you point out how relatively fine the slavery appears to be for the clones, Teegeeack AV Club Secretary. But that's always the trick with Star Wars, right? The good guys are so often committing just a little bit of light crimes against humanity and the bad guys are so dramatically worse, so you start to catch yourself feeling nostalgic about the good times all the three-year-old enslaved soldiers were having at the slave factory. It's wild.

Of course the Jedi had a massive blind spot wrt the clones. They were stolen from their families and brainwashed from near infancy into a martial-religious order in service to a galactic government. It's not as though they get all that many choices about their lives, and as far as I know they aren't working for pay either. Anakin is the only guy out there noticing he's still calling someone "master" even though he's supposedly free. I'm not saying life as a Jedi seems all bad, especially in peacetime - but you can see why they might have a few blind spots about impressment into a fighting force, child soldiers, etc.
posted by potrzebie at 12:13 AM on August 8, 2021 [6 favorites]

Interesting points, and paralleling some of the lingering questions about droids and their personal agency. (Compare/contrast the clone control chip with the droid restraining bolt, which was very obvious (i.e. usually on the droid's exterior and clearly visible) and also very easy to remove with a simple tool.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:27 AM on August 9, 2021 [4 favorites]

Thinking about it a little more, they sort of addressed agency a little in a couple of the early Clone Wars episodes. There was the one where a clone went rogue because he had a clear view of their slavery. And then there was the mini-arcs about Cut the deserter. Who came to a similar conclusion, but decided to run away rather than fight back. I wish they had done more, but those do hint at clones having a fairly wide latitude of internal choice.

The response of Rex &co to Cut was also interesting. They ultimately let him go after initially being offended & angry. Which shows they have the flexibility to go against their training / indoctrination.

And then there was the storyline about the horrible Jedi commander wasting the 501st's lives in pointless attacks, and how the 501st decided to rebel and arrest him. Another bullet point for agency.

The good guys are so often committing just a little bit of light crimes against humanity and the bad guys are so dramatically worse

That's a great point. I think that's one of the things that keeps Star Wars (at least the Filoni-verse part of it) very interesting to me. That tension is always present.

Also a good point about the Jedi. I've thought similar things. Always wondered if they were modeled after Janissaries. A weird mix of abducted-as-a-child, slavery, and high privilege for both.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 11:38 AM on August 9, 2021 [3 favorites]

IMO the series had a some filler episodes and lots of things that pandered to hardcore fans of the extended universe (which doesn't include me), but I liked this one a lot. Looks like I'm going to be leaving this season looking forward to the next one!

I'm especially curious which way they go with Crosshair. If he's telling the truth about "This is who I am" it would seem to remove any chance of redemption.

as far as I know they aren't working for pay either

I feel this would be like saying samurai or English squires didn't get paid--it's a non-capitalist system and is sort of besides the point. They get ensconced somewhere high up the hierarchy.

As a casual fan, have they ever squared the circle involving droids and free will? They've always seemed a class of intelligent sapients with their own desires that get bought and sold and installed with restraining bolts with nary a concern for their autonomy.
posted by mark k at 4:12 PM on August 9, 2021 [2 favorites]

As a casual fan, have they ever squared the circle involving droids and free will? They've always seemed a class of intelligent sapients with their own desires that get bought and sold and installed with restraining bolts with nary a concern for their autonomy.

Don't forget the memory wipes.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:15 PM on August 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

They touched on droid sentience and rights as a side plot in Solo but it was played for laughs. I was so thrilled it was even a minor plot point but I can't say I was satisfied by the treatment.
posted by potrzebie at 5:28 PM on August 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

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