Disney+ and Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Bad Batch has found itself in some strange places recently. After a two-episode stint on Ryloth where the titular characters took a backseat to the origin story of Rebels icon Hera Syndulla, the team is back in action with a new mission…much like many of the missions the team’s gone on before.
The premise of “Infested” starts out like perhaps every other episode of The Bad Batch. The team returns to Ord Mantell after completing another mission for Cid. There’s little mention of the fact that Omega dejarik’d her way to paying them out of their debt to the Trandoshan and then some, leaving us little reason to imagine just why they’re still begrudgingly working for her. But as they arrive they find out Cid’s bar is under new management. A Devaronian named Roland Durand (Tom Taylorson) has taken over, and now Cid’s on the outs. That’s unless, as she offers to the Batch, she can swipe some spice Durand has secured for a deal with the Pyke Syndicate, cutting out the middle man and undermining his position enough to get her bar back. Hunter and the team, already tired from an unseen mission involving some Gundarks, are hesitant to accept, until, as always with The Bad Batch, things come down to Omega. Her can-do attitude is more than capable of puncturing Hunter’s scepticism, as it always is, and things are off to the races.
From there, there’s not really that much to talk about. The Batch and Cid go into Ord Mantell’s underground to find a secret minecart rail system that will get them access to a hidey-hole in her old office to steal the spice. The title of the episode comes in when it’s revealed that said rail system plays host to a massive nest of Irlings, endangering the team as they try to get the Spice back without getting their faces gnawed off by a swarm of batlike beasties. And that’s really the episode — the same setup we’ve seen plenty of times before, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom but with more space bats, and then the resolution. Cid gets the spice to deal with the Pykes (and her bar back), Omega’s ability to bond with basically anyone within a few meters of her pushes Cid and the Pykes to only take one of Durand’s horns for his failure rather than outright kill him, and all’s right as rain. It’s fine! Same old Bad Batch, nothing more, nothing less.
The twist here, at least, is that instead of brushing up against the burgeoning intents of a rebellion against the Empire as they have been recently, Hunter and the crew find themselves being entangled in the fringes of Cid’s more seedy associates in the criminal underworld. The return of the Pykes from Clone Wars is interesting because it delineates work that is, inherently, not good. We’ve seen what the Pykes do to people who cross them when Ahsoka and the Martez sisters tried to deal with them in Clone Wars’ final season. Dealing with Spice is a very different ballgame to, say, smuggling weapon supplies to resistance fighters or saving people (and rancors) from slavers.
But The Bad Batch fails to really engage with this, outside of Cid chiding Hunter that it’s best to just do what the Pykes want and disengage immediately as the episode wraps up. To the show, and to the team, it’s Just Another Mission, the same lesson they’ve learned from all the other missions we’ve seen them go on — Hunter’s reluctant, Omega’s optimism gets the better of her, and the desire to help someone in need overrides her brother’s scepticism. None of these characters have yet to really grow beyond this same internal conflict, or really question why they’re doing what they’re doing.
Once again, it must be stated that this is, in general, a solidly fine episode of The Bad Batch. It has all the hallmarks of what makes the show work — stunning visual spectacle, fun action, and, perhaps the thing most tantamount to keeping the show humming, Omega’s earnestness slicing through the untrusting malaise of a galaxy in decline. But all these cannot cover up the fact that the series feels like it’s in something of an odd rut, spinning wheels until it can arrive at the inevitable grand climax of another direct encounter between the Batch and Crosshair (or perhaps Fennec, unless her perfunctory “stay tuned to Disney+ for The Book of Boba Fett this fall!” appearance is well and truly done now).
“Infested” is so cut from the same cloth as several episodes before it this season and pushes these characters so little beyond where they’ve already been pushed, that it feels less like an episode coming weeks before the season’s endgame and more like one that aired the week after its premiere. If The Bad Batch has some grand character work to unfold, or a skirmish between our heroes and their rivals to set up — one that requires leaning on its intimate connections to the rest of Star Wars or otherwise — now would be the time to deploy it. There’s only so much treading water the series can do before the charm of its potential can stretch any thinner.
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