Star Wars’ newest animated series, The Bad Batch, takes us right into the earliest days of the rise of the Empire. This means it starts getting to grips with a disconcerting question almost immediately: what happens when you say no to the Galactic Empire? But that’s not a question for most Clone Troopers… and maybe not all of our titular heroes.
“Aftermath” largely deals with, well, the aftermath of the final moments of the Clone War — Palpatine’s command for the Clone Army to execute Order 66, causing the Republic’s soldiers to immediately turn on their Jedi generals. In the years since we first saw it in Revenge of the Sith, Star Wars stories — in particular the last few seasons of Clone Wars — have explored the ramifications of how and why a simple command could turn Clones we’d once seen as allies into what would become the footsoldiers of the Galactic Empire. Eventually it’s revealed that every Clone has an inhibitor chip buried deep in their brains, waiting to be activated to ensure unwavering loyalty and aggression in the name of Palpatine’s rule.
Well. Most Clones’ unwavering loyality.
In exploring the execution of Order 66, “Aftermath” reveals that few of the titular Bad Batch actually know what the order does — and eventually, due to their status as “defect” Clones, their chips don’t work as intended, allowing them to retain a sense of free will to question the Republic’s new direction. That is, except for Crosshair, who not only exhibits some level of adherence to Order 66 anyway, but finds himself hauled in by Admiral Tarkin to have the effect of the chip intensified, effectively brainwashing him all the way into an Imperial Agent who can bring down his rogue former squadmates.
It’s an interesting choice that The Bad Batch takes what would’ve otherwise been a moral debate for its lead characters — and mostly is, as far as Hunter, Tech, Echo, and Wrecker are concerned — and makes it a case of flipping a proverbial “bad guy” switch to create a conflict in the squad. But according to executive producer and Bad Batch supervising director Brad Rau, the choice to portray Crosshair’s turn as caused by his chip was merely a shorthand for what felt like an inevitable division.
“We intentionally show that in the premiere episode — it’s an interesting thing that way that the chips work. We try not to get into the science of it too much even though we have this close-up of his head glitching, getting juiced up to be super Empire,” Rau explained to Gizmodo on a recent video call. “But really, just on face value without chips, I think Crosshair has always just been in that more splintered version of the group. His moral ideology lines up more with staying with the Empire. So, we try to approach it more from that standpoint as opposed to the science-fiction standpoint, but we did also intentionally put that in there as a way to emphasise what’s happening.”
“As a successor series to the Clone Wars, we’re really continuing the story of the Clones. Because their journey is not over yet, and I think that a lot of fans want to know what you’re asking and how that transition actually happens,” head writer and co-executive producer Jennifer Corbett added, speaking about how the show aims to address the Clone Army’s reaction to the establishment of the Empire — forced reaction or otherwise. “It’s interesting because we see it, initially, from the Batch’s perspective — they’re able to make the choice to leave, because they see it happen… but it’s all part of the beginning stages of the Empire we do explore in the series. The Clone story is what is central to The Bad Batch, so, we will be talking about those things.”
Whether in Crosshair’s case there’s any redemption on the cards — or a way to turn down his chip in the way it was “juiced up,” as Rau put it — remains to be seen. But we’ll have to wait and see just how the show’s going to address the potential that not all Clone troopers are going to agree with what the Empire becomes, chip or otherwise… especially when they, as Tarkin plans in the premiere, are on the outs one way or another.