“War-Mantle” shakes things up right out of the gate by opening on a chase sequence on the planet Daro. A Clone Trooper is being hunted by a battalion of Stormtroopers and is ultimately captured. Later, Hunter and the Batch receive a transmission from Rex, asking them to help his friend out. Tech reminds Hunter that they’re on a mission from Cid and need to be paid, but Omega (as per usual) appeals to the boys’ humanity, and they end up heading to Daro. Meanwhile, tensions are running high as Admiral Rampart and the Imperials bide their time with the Kaminoans. Lama Su and Nala Se plot to escape with “everyone important.” On Daro, Echo fights Hunter and Tech’s skepticism that their target is even alive. Wrecker and Omega man the ship and wait for Tech, Echo, and Hunter. He reminds them that they faced dire odds to save him on Skako Minor, and they’re once again won over. After busting into an Imperial facility and some digging, they locate the clone, Gregor, specifically. Tech attempts to give the Stormtroopers orders that would divert them from the Batch’s path, but his outdated code sets off an alarm, and they have to run. Hunter pages Omega and Wrecker for pickup, but the Stormtroopers figure out where they’re going, and there’s a fight. Gregor and Tech make it onto the ship, but they have to fly away from the exit to evade enemy fire. When they come back, Echo makes it aboard, but Hunter falls to the ground and is captured by the Empire. Over comms, Omega pleads with Hunter to order the boys to pick him up, but he refuses, ordering them to go home. On Kamino, Admiral Rampart comes to Lama Su about Nala Se’s treasonous escape attempt. However, he hires Nala Se and seemingly has Lama Su executed. Crosshair pays Hunter a visit in his new home – an Imperial holding cell.
“War-Mantle” is just the return to form The Bad Batch needed after last week’s “Infested.” It’s not the best episode yet or anything, but the story is back on track, and the focus is on the characters, where it belongs. The return of the storyline on Kamino is a major plus. It feels like it’s been a while since we checked in on the Kaminoans, although we saw Admiral Rampart in the Ryloth story arc. The tense relationship between the Empire and Kamino was one of the most exciting elements of the first few episodes of the season, and one I’ve been missing. And after several episodes giving us a taste of the underlying tension, it finally bubbles over in “War-Mantle.” This episode finally shows just how duplicitous Nala Se is, too; I don’t like Lama Su or feel sorry for him by any stretch. But Nala Se has been disobeying his orders here and there all season. Her joining the Empire and leaving him to his death is just the culmination of several such betrayals. It seems particularly dumb for Lama Su to have kept relying on Nala Se after she let Omega escape in “Aftermath,” which he has made clear he understood to be the case. It’s not like he wasn’t aware that she did that, and it was a pretty significant act of insubordination. I still wonder why Nala Se cares so much about Omega, anyway. Does she love her? Is it just pride over a creation? Does she see her as an asset she can exploit to be useful to the Empire? I find the latter option most likely, but I’m sure we’ll find out in the next two episodes.
On that note, I’m so glad they’re ending season 1 on a three-episode story arc. The Ryloth arc was one of the best parts of the season so far, not to mention “Aftermath,” which has rarely been surpassed. “Aftermath” really felt like a movie and got me invested in the characters who I didn’t care much about in The Clone Wars. The Ryloth arc delved into the backstory of one of my favorite Rebels characters, making the series feel even more interconnected. When they put out episodes like that, it makes me wonder why something like “Infested” is worth the money to animate it. It looks and sounds great but offers little in the way of substance. Often, shows that adhere to one 22-minute episode a week feel rushed to me. Even Avatar: The Last Airbender, my favorite TV show of all time, had episodes that felt like they missed something. There was a glance, a line of dialogue, or a theme that was promising but underexplored. This problem is more pronounced in The Bad Batch. I wish they would commit to long-form story arcs like ATLA and The Clone Wars. If the series gets more seasons, it could segue to that format as The Clone Wars did in its later seasons. I hope it does because, overall, I like The Bad Batch. Several of the episodes I’ve mentioned have displayed the promise the series represents. And I like Hunter, Omega, and Wrecker. I just wish they would do more with the other characters, and Cid would go away, never to be mentioned again.
I feel ambivalent about the return of Gregor. I liked him in The Clone Wars (even if he was in one of the worst arcs) and Rebels, and I am interested in seeing the events that transpired in-between. However, The Bad Batch has a cameo of a pre-existing Star Wars character, usually from the other animated series, seemingly every episode. I’m generally okay with it, especially in the cases of Hera, Kanan, and Rex. Rex was all but given to appear in this series. I worry, though, that people will hold this against the show; people complained like crazy when Lando and a young Princess Leia appeared in Rebels, and I found those cameos tasteful and subdued. Rebels didn’t rely on popular characters too much, in my opinion. I wish The Bad Batch would space out its character returns better, more like Rebels and The Clone Wars did. Characters like Grand Moff Tarkin, Admiral Yularen, and Jabba the Hutt appeared throughout The Clone Wars, and it was never distracting. On The Bad Batch, it feels gimmicky, primarily because of how often they do it. It also feels like it comes at the expense of more important stories and the main characters, like Crosshair. I love what we’ve gotten of him, but we need more. He’s the Batch’s most personal enemy, one of their own. There should be more exploration into this. Meanwhile, Tech and Echo have barely been explored yet. “War-Mantle” is a good episode for Echo, with his speech about how the guys should do for Gregor what they did for him. His loyalty to Rex is also touching. If it weren’t so close to the finale and focused on setting up the conflict for that, I would have liked this to focus on Echo more.
I enjoyed “War-Mantle” a lot more than “Infested,” and I think it’s a step in the right direction for characters like Crosshair and Echo. I look forward to the next two episodes, the showdown with Crosshair that must be coming, and seeing how Omega and the boys bust our favorite Rambo clone out of prison.