Everything you need to know from Star Wars: The Clone Wars before watching The Bad Batch
If you are a Star Wars fan but have never watched any of the animated series (Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars: Rebels, or Star Wars: Resistance), you are getting another chance to start fresh when The Clone Wars spin-off Star Wars: The Bad Batch premieres on Disney+ this May the Fourth.
The new animated show features the exploits of Clone Force 99, the so-called Bad Batch of clones, who fans first met in the opening episodes of season 7 of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. While the Grand Army of the Republic's original clones were genetic copies of the bounty hunter Jango Fett, this elite commando force has been genetically modified to have special abilities.
This squad consists of Hunter, the leader who has Rambo-like hair and heightened tracking senses, Wrecker, who has enormous size and strength, Tech, who is highly intelligent and a technology whiz, and Crosshair, who has exceptional marksman skills. Also joining them are new member Echo, a "reg" or regular clone who had been captured by Separatist forces during the Clone Wars and turned into a cyborg. After his rescue by the Bad Batch in season 7, Echo felt out of place with the regs and joined their force. Each clone character is again voiced by the insanely talented Dee Bradley Baker, who voiced all the clones on The Clone Wars and has managed to imbue each of them with their own distinct personality.
Now if you haven't watched Star Wars: The Clone Wars and have a vague memory of the clones in the Star Wars prequels, this might all sound very confusing. Although I really encourage you to watch The Clone Wars in its entirety (and could spill thousands of words on why after a rocky start with The Clone Wars movie, it reaches Empire Strikes Back levels of greatness), not everyone has the time to catch up on all seven seasons and 133 episodes. So here is a bit of a crash course of everything you need to know about The Clone Wars to make sense of The Bad Batch.
The Clone Wars series takes place between the events of Attack of the Clones throughout Revenge of the Sith and follows Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi and the rest of the Jedi as they fight in the numerous battles that made up the conflict between the Republic and Count Dooku-led Separatists. If you recall, this entire war was engineered by Sith lord Sheev Palpatine as a grand power grab that led to the birth of the Galactic Empire.
The greatest advantages the show has over the films is that it gets to tell all the stories Star Wars mastermind, George Lucas, and his protege, Dave Filoni, had about the war but couldn't fit into the movies. This includes exploring the greater mysteries of the Force like it did in the episodes that make up the Mortis Trilogy of season 3 and reviving the previously departed villain Darth Maul so he could become the greatest chaos agent in the galaxy.
But more importantly, it gives some much needed shading to Anakin Skywalker. While Anakin acted like a bit of a whiny punk during the prequel trilogy, the show demonstrates how much of his bold, impulsive, and funny pre-Vader personality his children inherited (Leia's way around a wisecrack is definitely an Anakin trait) and how this great Jedi knight slowly became the twisted Sith lord the galaxy came to fear.
As for Anakin's master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, we find out he had his own forbidden love story (with the leader of Mandalore no less!) and almost ditched the Jedi because of it. And as Obi-Wan struggles to mentor his increasingly harder-to-control apprentice, Anakin must deal with the training of his own padawan, Ahsoka Tano, as her complicated journey from being a brash upstart to a great warrior. Her traumatic departure from the Jedi order after being framed for a bombing she did not commit becomes a key reason why Anakin starts to lose faith in the Jedi.
While the sibling-like relationship between Anakin, Ahsoka, and Obi-Wan is the glue that holds the show together, The Clone Wars wouldn't be anything without, well, the clones that fight the war alongside them. We originally met some of the clones like Commander Cody (played by Jango and Boba Fett actor Temuera Morrison) in the prequel trilogy but it wasn't until the animated show that we see how deep the bond ran between the Jedi and the clones that gave the war its name. And how Clone Protocol 66, the secret plot by Emperor Palpatine to assassinate the Jedi, betrayed not only the Jedi but the clones who were forced to enact Order 66 against their will.
But before that tragic event, the series examined the clones and their place in the galaxy from multiple perspectives, from commanders like Cody to troopers like Echo and Jesse to deserters like Cut Lawquane, and to so-called defective clones like 99, who inspired the name of The Bad Batch's Clone Force 99.
One of the most important clones is fan-favorite, Captain Rex, who acted as Anakin's second-in-command in his 501st Legion of clone troops and grows close to Ahsoka during the course of the conflict as they fought and saved each other multiple times. As Rex becomes a trusted friend to both of these Jedi, the inevitability of Order 66 and Anakin's turn to the Dark Side imbues their interactions with a terrible sense of foreboding.
Besides delving deeper into the relationships between the Jedi and the clones, the series demonstrates just how close the Jedi came to discovering the plot against them before it happened. At the beginning of season 6, Fives, a clone with the 501st Legion like Rex, discovers the Order 66 conspiracy when another clone named Tup accidentally executes a Jedi during battle when his inhibitor chip malfunctions. Fives realizes that every clone had been given the same chip with an eventual trigger to kill the Jedi, but he could only warn Rex that something was wrong with all the clones before he was killed.
When Order 66 eventually happens, Jedis like Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and the young padawan Caleb Dume (later known as Kanan Jarrus on Star Wars: Rebels) all managed to escape the Jedi purge along with a few other Force wielders, but tragically only Rex and few other clones avoid taking part of the slaughter. In the final episodes of The Clone Wars, Rex is able to resist his programming long enough to warn Ahsoka and she eventually learns what Fives knew. She knocks Rex out and removes his chip before he has a chance to kill her. Once he comes to, he's horrified to find out what he almost did against his will.
Declared traitors by the new Empire, both Rex and Ahsoka must escape the newly hostile clone forces that surround them but at a great price. Their former brother-in-arms die in a horrible ship crash and Rex and Ahsoka bury their bodies and her lightsabers along with them before separating for safety's sake.
While Rex appears in The Bad Batch according to its trailer, his reunion with Ahsoka happens later during the events of Star Wars: Rebels when he joins the emerging Rebellion as an aging soldier. Rebels also revealed that Rex's former clone comrades, Wolffe and Gregor, avoided being part of Order 66 by having their inhibitor chips removed at Rex's urging. Eventually, all three reached some kind of detente with the Empire after being decommissioned along with the rest of the aging clone army. They were eventually replaced by the conscripted Imperial stormtroopers but considering how hapless the stormtroopers were, the Empire might have had better luck defeating the Rebellion if it kept the clones.
Since The Bad Batch begins right as the Clone Wars is ending, with the Jedi decimated and Emperor Palpatine seizing control of the galaxy, the big question is where Clone Force 99 will fit into the new galactic world order. Do these modified clones have working inhibitor chips or have they somehow avoided being part of Jedi slaughter? If they have, that is going to put them on the wrong side of the emerging Empire.
While Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa are still newborns at this time and won't be heading the Rebellion anytime soon, early freedom fighters like Saw Gerrera (who we also saw in the trailer) might welcome a band of elite fighters who aren't too high on following the Empire's orders. Or will they find a natural place with mercenaries like Fennec Shand (who is voiced by her Mandalorian portrayer Ming-Na Wen), who might be able to use their skills to her own ends.
No matter where this Bad Batch of clones land, The Bad Batch most likely will fill in some of the blanks about this time period in the galaxy and will help build a bridge to later series like Star Wars: Rebels and The Mandalorian. And if you find this series to your liking, the rest of the Star Wars animated series await your discovery.