Star Wars: The Clone Wars was a fantastic show that defied all expectations when it aired on Cartoon Network starting in 2008. Despite its shaky beginning as a terrible theatrical film, the TV series’ deep characterization and serialized storytelling showed audiences what happened between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. The show ran until 2013, when it was “wound down” after Disney acquired Lucasfilm and all its properties. Then another season ran on Netflix. Finally, last year, the last-last season made its debut on Disney+ and it seemed the show would finally rest… until The Bad Batch made its debut this week.
On its surface, The Bad Batch is supposed to be a different show from its predecessor, with new characters and taking place in a previously unseen era of Star Wars history: the Rise of the Empire. While Rebels showed us the formation of the Rebel Alliance and served as a prequel to Rogue One and A New Hope, The Bad Batch bridges the gap between Revenge of the Sith and those later works. Which is a fine goal. As I’ve said earlier, one of the key strengths of Star Wars is its deep lore and willingness to expand its universe.
However, The Bad Batch doesn’t represent a huge departure from Clone Wars, starting with the characters: the five titular soldiers were introduced a while back in the first arc of the final season of Clone Wars. That is, the final season that aired last year. (Editor’s note: those four episodes were originally made available in an unfinished form on StarWars.com.) And, to The Bad Batch’s credit, you don’t need to have seen those episodes to understand who the characters are or what they represent: the first episode of the new series does a good job of introducing them and their mission.
But it’s still not a show for a Star Wars newbie: Neophytes would still need to know what a clone trooper is, who the Separatists are, and… pretty much everything that happened in Revenge of the Sith between Emperor Palpatine and the Jedi. It’s still a show that relies on prior knowledge, and not just the basics like “the Jedi have magical powers and there are spaceships.” It assumes you are familiar with the seven prior seasons.
Yes, you should probably watch Clone Wars before you watch Bad Batch. It’s a show made for fans of Clone Wars; it even uses the same dated CG animation style as that show, unlike Rebels and Resistance which both changed up the art style (the latter more than the former). Yes, The Bad Batch is clearly meant to be a spinoff of Clone Wars, as it opens with the logo of its parent show burning away to reveal the new title, and the first episode opening with a newsreel narration from Tom Kane. But it is also the first animated Star Wars series to make its debut on Disney+, which would make it a natural jumping on point for new fans. They’re not going to feel too happy when they realize that it’s building on seven seasons of prior story. Heck, I’ve watched Clone Wars and I still found myself heading over to Wookieepedia to look up specific characters or episodes. It got me thinking that maybe I should just rewatch all seven seasons of the old show.
And I’m not sure that’s something I particularly want to do. I watched the cartoon when it was on Cartoon Network, rewatched it on Netflix before binging the new season and I had made my peace with it being over. Then last year there was suddenly a new season on Disney+, because even though the Netflix season was supposed to tie things up it didn’t. While that seventh season at least tried to show us where Ahsoka Tano and Rex ended up, The Bad Batch just suggests we’re not done with the Clone Wars era, and may never be.
Update: This post originally said The Clone Wars takes place between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. It actually took place between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith and the text has been amended to reflect that. I blame Jawas.