While one could easily argue the cinematic quality of George Lucas' prequel trilogy in general, the very concept of Order 66 remains one of the more intriguing aspects of the Star Wars story, one that echoes across the galaxy, and across the Star Wars mythos as well.
It's exactly this pivotal point that Star Wars: The Bad Batch explores, and how this rugged band of order-defying clone troopers disobey direct orders, and gets to the bottom of how exactly this fateful event came to pass.
While the branding and the central character gallery is different, don't be fooled, this is just more Star Wars: Clone Wars, for better or for worse.
So, a bit of context. Star Wars: The Bad Batch is coming from Clone Wars creator Dave Filoni and Lucasfilm Animations. In many ways, it's the exact team that designed, directed and produced much of the original Clone Wars series, and as a result, The Bad Batch retains largely the same visual identity, tone and vibe. It's in many ways a continuation, even if it merely parallels, continuity-wise, the last season of Clone Wars itself, portraying the final days of the war, the execution of almost the entire Jedi order and Darth Sidious' rise to power.
In fact, the opening of the first feature-length episode begins with that very moment, where every clone receives the cryptic message, ordering them to simply execute every Jedi in the immediate vicinity. Our collection of genetically modified super soldiers have a habit of breaking rules they don't understand or agree with, and they do just that. They rebel.
And so begins our tale, this time with a feature-length episode, setting up a bombastic season that expands on this critical moment.
And it's rather entertaining too, in a Clone Wars sort of way, and while it does break away from the bigger set-piece filled warfare themes of its sibling series, the similarities, both visual and narrative are inescapable. It is a piece that should be viewed as an extension of the Clone Wars overarching story, rather than a spin-off you could feasibly enjoy completely on its own merits.
It is well-crafted though, mostly because Order 66 is so compelling, and voice actor Dee Bradley Baker once again delivers varied and believable voices for squad characters Hunter, Wrecker, Tech, Crosshair and Echo. All are distinct, but not all get the time of day to shine, at least not in the larger first episode, where the conflict between Crosshair and Hunter act as a narrative centrepiece, and to great effect.
Other than that, well it strays so little from the platform on which Clone Wars was built, that you basically know what to expect. It's a purposefully broadly designed show, with exposition-heavy dialogue, a pinch of often unwelcome humour, but overall impeccably crafted.
Dave Filoni is obviously a skilled story-teller and Star Wars craftsman. Where Bad Batch disappoints, it does so in the sense that we basically know how all of this is going to go. If Filoni stays on, maybe a show that propels the universe forward, rather than paint in the small blank spaces left behind in time periods covered vigorously by other shows and films?
All that said, The Bad Batch is good entertainment, it looks pretty, sheds light on a compelling focal point in Star Wars lore, and I can't wait to see where it takes this seemingly interesting group of characters. It's familiar for sure, and perhaps a bit less exciting because of it, but Filoni knows how to craft Clone Wars stories, and so he does. Again.