From the very first scene of the very first episode, it’s been clear Star Wars: The Bad Batch was serving a larger purpose. Primarily it’s a show about a team of enhanced clones but they also exist to explore places, characters, and stories we already know a little bit about. From Order 66 and Grand Moff Tarkin, to Saw Gerrera, Cad Bane, Captain Rex, and more, the Disney+ Lucasfilm series has seen more famous Star Wars characters than you’d meet at a Star Wars convention. This week’s episode continued that trend but took it to its limits, resulting in a crucial piece of Star Wars history that felt oddly removed from the show at large.
The title of episode 11, “Devil’s Deal,” refers to the deals planets are being forced to make with the Empire, whose message is basically “accept our rule or else.” However, the planet in this particular episode is no mere planet. It’s Ryloth — homeworld of the Twi’leks. And if you’re telling a Star Wars story about Twi’leks on Ryloth between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, there’s one person you want to see: Hera Syndulla.
Captain of the Ghost. Star of an earlier animated series, Star Wars Rebels. Arguably the best character to come out of Star Wars animation, ever. And, eventually, a Rebel pilot who survives to fight with the Rebellion from the Battle of Scarif all the way through the Battle of Endor and beyond. But this story takes place way before all that.
Hera is still a child, complete with her native accent, and she’s off on a mission as the story gets started. We’ve already seen the Empire forcing the government of a planet to speak on their behalf to settle down its people a few times on Bad Batch. Here, that person was Senator Orn Free Taa (who appeared in the prequel films before a larger role in The Clone Wars), but the crowd didn’t trust him. They wanted to hear from General Cham Syndulla, Ryloth’s military leader and Hera’s father. Begrudgingly, Cham told the people what the Empire wanted, that he trusted the clone army and that the Empire was the peace they had been fighting for. It’s obvious he didn’t quite believe that, but he knew it had to be said at that moment.
Hera didn’t see any of that though. She’d already been asked by her uncle, and Cham’s Lieutenant, Gobi Glie to spy on an Imperial refinery — all while daydreaming about flying, and Kevin Kiner’s score ever-so-slightly uses some John Williams to give us that feeling of possibility and wonder. The feeling is cut off quickly when Hera and her trusty droid Chopper (so good to see Chopper again) are captured. Because she’s a Syndulla, it’s a big deal that she’s been caught in a restricted area and so despite the clones giving her a pass, Cham and his wife Eleni get into it with Gobi. How could he put her in that situation, they ask? He asks them, how could Hera be spying on the Empire if they have nothing to hide? Cham and Eleni know he’s right but are just concerned for their daughter’s safety.
As for Hera, she just wants to fly and be part of the action, which is not what her parents want for her. To see the first seeds of not just her passion, but the conflict that extended all the way into Rebels where we learned she had a falling out with her parents, was immensely satisfying. Unlike some of the other cameos this season, it felt like it held a legitimate purpose outside of fanservice or interconnecting upcoming series. It also meant when Hera left Ryloth with Gobi on a seemingly simple supply run, something bad was bound to happen.
That something was the Bad Batch who, almost halfway into an episode of their show, finally show up (though Crosshair was with the Empire on Ryloth). Cid dispatched the crew to deliver Gobi some weapons for them to use against the Empire and as the deal goes down, Hera is drawn to our gang’s ship and the young girl sitting on it. She and Omega begin to geek out over the ship with Hera revealing her dream to basically live the life Omega is living: travelling across the stars, sleeping in a ship. The two seem to hit it off and the deal goes smoothly as Hera and her uncle fly away. As do the Bad Batch, on-screen for all of three minutes out of a 25-minute episode.
Back on Ryloth, Crosshair has been tracking Gobi’s ship and shoots him down when they come back home. Everyone on board, including Hera, is captured and news quickly gets back to Cham and Eleni — their daughter has been found guilty of treason without even standing trial. Mum and Dad are going to have to rescue her, which puts their whole planet in danger because Senator Taa has been looking for any excuse to get the way more popular Cham out of the picture. Betraying the Empire to rescue their daughter will do just that.
The Twi’leks reveal themselves to be more than capable of overtaking the Imperial transport in an action sequence that felt a bit like the Boonta Eve Classic, what with all the twisting and turning through canyons. Unfortunately, it’s all a setup because once Hera is freed, the Empire overruns them — they’ve been watching the whole time. They even have Crossfire kill Senator Taa now that he’s served his purpose in exposing the Snydullas as traitors against the Empire. In the skirmish, Eleni tells Chopper to get Hera out of there, as she and Cham are arrested for the attempted assassination of a senator. The episode ends with Hera on her own, trying to escape, with the Empire chasing her down.
As a Hera Syndulla origin story, “Devil’s Deal” was excellent. We got to see this beloved character growing up, talking about her dreams, and some of the complex political and emotional conflict she has, and will continue to have, with her parents. It was very Hera Syndulla: A New Hope. That all of that happened on a show called The Bad Batch though, when the Bad Batch appeared merely to deliver a few blasters, feels a little off. But that simply seems to be the nature of this show. It’s a way for Lucasfilm to explore the time right after the Empire took over the galaxy — to show how planets reacted, where heroes emerged, and how a few enhanced clones had a front row seat to the galaxy fundamentally changing forever.
Of course, it seems easy to guess that next week’s episode will be the Bad Batch called in to rescue Hera and extract her from Ryloth. If that’s where things are going, that story will hold more weight after this episode. Still, if I’m Hunter, Echo, Tech, Wrecker, or Omega, it definitely feels like I’m on the outside looking into my own show.