This article contains major spoilers for the latest episode of Star Wars: The Bad Batch, titled “War-Mantle.”
When Captain Rex contacts the Bad Batch and asks them to divert from their mission for Cid to rescue an old clone friend of his, Hunter has little choice. This sends the group to the planet Daro, a planet in the outer rim thought to be empty, with no known settlements or installations. The Bad Batch finds signs of a struggle that lead all the way to a secret military installation. They break in and find Gregor, Rex’s missing friend, and break out of the facility. Unfortunately, in their getaway, Hunter takes a bad fall and orders the rest of the squad to leave him behind.
Captured, he’s confronted by Crosshair who hints that this entire operation was a trap.
Gregor, or CC-5576 as he’s referred to for most of the episode, is a clone commando who has been featured significantly in the animated Star Wars offerings. His first appearance came in the fifth season of The Clone Wars. Led by Colonel Meebur Gascon, R2-D2 and a number of other droids were sent behind enemy lines to capture information and end up crash landing on the planet Abafar. In the remote settlement of Pons Ora, they run into Gregor, who has completely lost his memory and works as a cook in a restaurant. That arc ends with Gregor seemingly giving his life for D-Squad to escape, after regaining his memory and re-donning his Clone Commando armor and exploding in a blaze of glory. This is what he refers to when he says, “I got blown up once and survived.”
This is the closest thing we’ve had to an explanation for Gregor’s survival. There was no mention of it when he appeared as one of Rex’s best friends in Star Wars Rebels. Gregor eventually fought alongside the Rebels of Phoenix squadron at their last stand on Lothal. He died in the arms of Captain Rex, grateful to have chosen a cause to fight and sacrifice his life for.
We’ve already talked a bit about Operation War-Mantle, as it was first mentioned in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and it was the plan to convert the Imperial army from clones to conscripts. This episode gave us our first look at the next step in stormtrooper armor.
The armor worn by these new recruits, loyal to the Empire, is a pretty direct middle step between the clone armor and the stormtrooper armor worn in A New Hope, but it’s also a reference to some of the classic art of Star Wars, taking cues from some of artist Ralph McQuarrie’s earliest paintings of the troopers.
It was also interesting to see these stormtroopers using masiffs, the reptilian beasts first seen in Attack of the Clones, as hunting dogs. Masiffs have been seen all across Star Wars, most recently in the second season of The Mandalorian when Din Djarin had to settle them down before approaching and negotiating with the Tuskens.
Though their appearances were brief in this episode, the scenes between Admiral Rampart and the leadership of Kamino were revelations as far as what happened to Kamino. It’s heavily implied that the Empire is simply taking what they want from the planet and killing or destroying everything left. Although it happens off-screen, it’s heavily implied that this is the end for Prime Minister Lama Su.
Nala Se, the chief medical scientist of Kamino, is captured and drafted into the Empire. It’s curious where she might end up or what she might work on. Does this open her up to working with Galen Erso in the future? What future could she possibly have in store? And how will Omega figure into that? It leaves open a lot of questions and it will be interesting to see how the show wraps these up, if at all, over the final two episodes of the season.
Looking at the references and deeper details of this episode offers a lot of richness. The opening of the film comes right from a Steven Spielberg movie, with hints of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The lighting and animation teams outdid themselves, bringing to life the flashlight chase sequence in the woods like E.T., opening up onto the rock towers just like the ones seen in Close Encounters. The music matches, too, with Kevin Kiner and his sons really pressing hard on the broader work of John Williams.
In fact, there are many references in the music to A New Hope and the original escape from the Death Star, offering us those proto-Imperial themes that were practically abandoned after John Williams hit upon the Imperial March in The Empire Strikes Back.
It is also interesting to hear other sounds and notes from other Star Wars movies make their way into the soundscape of this episode. I’d wager money that the scraping sound of the Marauder’s engine reactivation came straight from The Phantom Menace and the reactivation of Anakin Skywalker’s podracer engine after it had been sabotaged by Sebulba, an especially dangerous Dug.
The last episode left us wondering what Crosshair had planned for the Bad Batch and this episode brought it to us fully. At the end of this episode, Crosshair and Hunter meet face to face again, with Crosshair implying that this whole operation was a trap for the Bad Batch.
He was disappointed he only caught Hunter, though. He was hoping for the whole squad.
Will the rest of the defective clones, with Gregor in tow, come back for Hunter? Or finish Cid’s mission and leave him behind entirely? We’ll find out next week.
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