Star Wars: The Bad Batch’s first season has been an up and down adventure of cameos and conflict, one that, by and large, has surfaced the arcs and stories of people beyond the titular clone squad more than it has offered any kind of introspection and growth for its heroes and their mirrored antagonist. Its finale episode lays the groundwork for future potential at least, even if it also exposes just how much more needs to be done with these characters to make that potential matter.
Not a lot actually happens in “Kamino Lost,” which, were it not meant to serve as an endcap on this chapter—the first of more to come, as we now know—would be a refreshingly spartan canvas for The Bad Batch to hang its interpersonal clone conflicts on. After Admiral Rampart laid horrifying waste to Tipoca City and the defining iconography of the Prequel era as we know it last week, this episode sees the Batch, now in an uneasy entente cordiale with Crosshair, forced to escape from the sundered ruins of their homeworld, now a graveyard to a life they can never even contemplate returning to.
If last week was a spiritual passing of the torch between the prequel era and the earliest days of the earliest trilogy in Rampart’s assault on Kamino—forcefully closing the book on its visual aesthetic and most important ideas at the hands of symbolic, cauterizing fire in the Empire’s shadow—then perhaps there’s something to be said that “Kamino Lost” lingers in the ashes of those flames. It’s a dark episode, if not quite as thematically as it is literally, as the squad and Crosshair pick their way through damaged support struts and waterlogged tunnels, and drag themselves kicking and screaming through the murky depths of Kamino’s waters in an attempt to make it back to their ship off world. There is no real antagonistic force in the episode—it is also perhaps telling that the Empire’s clear-cut remove of its past legacy in the Republic is that Rampart commands his cruisers to leave the destruction before it’s even fully complete, assured in its inevitability as he is uncaring. There is only survival, and whether the Batch and Crosshair alike are, momentarily or otherwise, capable of putting trust in each other to attain it.
The real conflict then, is in Crosshair’s uncertain force throughout the episode. With the shocking revelation last week that he’s long had his inhibitor chip removed and is not a brainwashed servant of the Empire, but a willing loyalist of his own choice, much of that conflict is left to simmer unspoken in “Kamino Lost,” as the Batch and their former squadmate are equal parts frosty and open to each other. Omega, ever the empath, is the one that puts the most effort into trying to convince Crosshair that his place is with his brothers—helping him when he’s trapped by debris, urging that he is as capable of making the choice to change as he was making the choice to stay with the Empire—and she at least is rewarded with a moment of aid he grants her in the episode’s final setpiece, shooting a grappling hook to haul her and the surviving Kaminoan aid droid AZI-3 to the surface of the planet’s all-encompassing ocean after she nearly drowns. But that’s all the give Crosshair is willing to offer, once again turning his brothers and Omega down, and standing by the choice—his choice—to stay with the Empire as they solemnly leave him behind at the episode’s climax.
This part of “Kamino Lost” is the episode, and perhaps The Bad Batch’s first season at large, at some of its most interesting. When the series first began, I wondered if the choice of making Crosshair’s villainy a product of brainwashing rather than a personal choice was a necessary one, and I’m at the least thankful to have eventually been proven wrong. In a show, and a period of Star Wars at large, that is about the profound power of making your own choice in a galaxy that pulls you one way the other out of textual destiny or metatexual inevitability, having Crosshair not just make the decision to stay with the Empire his own, but stand by it when offered familial redemption, is an important moment for the series. It emphasizes that change is a painful process, and that, try as Star War might to make it seem sometimes, redemption is rarely as immediate as chucking your shitty boss down a reactor shaft. Change is a struggle and cannot be forced by the people around you, no matter your bond with them, and is a deeply personal choice to make. Crosshair has begun making his change, and no open hands or offers of brotherhood can sway him from it.
But it’s also a moment largely unearned by the show, meaning the emotion behind it just doesn’t land with the heft it arguably should. For a median on change and choice, it’s hard to reflect on just how little either Crosshair or the Batch and Omega themselves have actually grown over the course of this first season. They largely remain the archetypes they were when we were first introduced to them, their stories this season often left by the wayside to focus on the journeys of characters we’d previously met, from Fennec Shand and Cad Bane to Rebels’ Hera Syndulla. Crosshair’s journey has arguably suffered the most because of this. After the fascinating thought experiments of “Replacements” early on in the season, leaving his growth or important character beats like the removal of his inhibitor chip off screen (even worse, treating it almost as a Watchmen’s Ozymandias-esque twist reveal) means that when it comes to pay off those beats in the finale, no matter how interesting they seem on the surface, they just don’t have the resonance. He still feels like the same character we barely knew coming into the season.
Thankfully, there is still time for this to change. Now that we know that The Bad Batch’s journey is far from over, and that it has proved that, frustrating as it has been this season, there is potential here for some great storytelling in an era of its timeline that Star Wars is deeply fascinated with, a second season can return the focal lens of the show to the characters that should matter most to it. But time will tell if The Bad Batch is willing to make that choice—or, if like its current conflicted antagonist, its choices have been made for it long ago.
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