Away from the shadow of the Empire, Disney+’s Star Wars: The Bad Batch has found itself in a fascinating place of exploration early on in its run. Stripped of the military world that gave them order in the age of the Republic, our titular heroes and their new ward now have to make a way for themselves outside the rule of law. But even as it treads new ground, the show once again dives into some of Star Wars’ worst habits.
“Rampage” in ways good and bad feels like a spiritual mirror to last week’s Special Guest Star episode, “Cornered.” The main plot is, once again, simple enough — arriving on the seedy world of Ord Mantell, Omega and the Batch find themselves tasked with trading their services to liberate slaves and get information about the bounty hunter on their tracks. The worldbuilding is, once again, an intriguing exploration of a side of the Star Wars underworld that has been a subject of interest for the Disney era for a good while now. But once again, there is a completely needless shoehorning in of a connection to familiar Star Wars faces that feels even more perfunctory than Fennec Shand showing up last week, but…we’ll get to that.
Thankfully, that connection is not the bulk of the episode, as Fennec was last week, although her shadow lingers across “Rampage.” Tasked by Trandoshan freelancer Cid (Rhea Perlman) — a former Jedi intelligence contact Echo encourages the crew to reach out to — with performing what should be a simple hostage rescue, the episode is an origin story in some ways for the young woman Omega will become. She slowly but surely earns her place not just as the protectee of her clone brethren, but a rightful and capable member of the squad. We see it not just in the comfort she has with the Batch now — including a very adorable low-five with Wrecker — or how she’s slowly picking up her own bits of gear to fight alongside them, from Crosshair’s former comms gauntlet to a weapon we’ve seen her wield in the trailers: an energy bow liberated from the Zygerrian slavers.
But we also see it in the push and pull between Hunter’s desire to keep her out of harm’s way and the necessary realisation that sometimes Omega is going to be in that harm’s way, and has to be to help the squad out. Like, say, when things go horribly wrong the minute they start their smash-and-grab at the Zygerrian camp, and all get captured save for her, allowing Omega to show both her independence and her ingenuity to help create a distraction that gives Hunter, Tech, Wrecker, and Echo time to break themselves and the captive slaves free. It’s an important realisation, not just for Omega to prove herself as one of the Batch, but for Hunter in particular, that in the dangerous world the squad now lives in, Omega can’t just be put aside out of fear for her safety.
“Rampage” is also, in a way, the start of a new origin for the Bad Batch. Now intrinsically separated from the military machine that forged them in the first place, the squad feels like a set of tools that has been cast aside, and need to find a way to best implement what they know how to do — fight as a unit — in a world where doing so would draw the harsh eye of the Empire’s new masters (and their vengeful former ally). With one element of the underworld already a thorn in their side in the form of Fennec and the Bounty Hunter’s guild, in an uneasy relationship with Cid they find themselves entering another aspect of it: becoming contract mercenaries.
It’s a way to make a living, albeit a wary one, considering the heavy-handed threat Cid makes to Hunter at the episode’s end — that in revealing Fennec’s status in the Guild and why they’re being targeted by her, Cid now has leverage over some very useful allies. But it also provides a purpose in a galaxy that has robbed the Batch of the one it was literally made for — and providing that purpose once more through the murky world of mercenaries and bounty hunters will be an interesting avenue to explore as, away from the eyes of the Empire’s tightening grip, they find themselves formed by this new world.
All that is what makes this episode work, where it trips up is the revelation that the target Cid tasks the Batch with liberating from the Zygerrians — a child name Muchi — is a bit more than a humanoid child. It’s a young Rancor, and not just any Rancor: Cid’s client is none other than Jabba the Hutt’s majordomo, Bib Fortuna (Matthew Wood, reprising his fleeting role from The Mandalorian and The Phantom Menace). But Muchi, as cute as it is in the moment, will one day to grow up to be the Hutt’s infamous, sinister pit beast.
Thankfully, the twist that Muchi is not just a Rancor but the Rancor is not the crux of the episode, in the way Fennec was a vital point to hang “Cornered” on last week to its detriment. It’s a similar thing yes, in that Star Wars will frustratingly bend over backward to make connections to its past and make itself feel ever-increasingly insular. But because Muchi’s identity is not the actually important “origin story” of “Rampage” — nothing would’ve changed about the episode if this had been one of the presumably many Rancors that inhabit the galaxy far, far away — this particular indulgence feels significantly less egregious than the show turning Fennec into a primary antagonist and walking The Book of Boba Fett advertisement. It’s still very, very silly though.
But in the end, Star Wars is kind of that in the first place — silly indulgence and earnest character, coming together to make a story that’s at the least workable. And that pretty much sums up “Rampage” to a tee.