When season seven of Clone Wars went from an idea to an actuality, hype immediately surpassed anything since the announcement of Disney buying Lucasfilm and declaring that Episode VII would be a reality. While the “Siege of Mandalore” is undoubtedly one of the best entries into Star Wars canon, full stop, the other two arcs of the season were bland in comparison. The first centered around Clone Force 99, aka The Bad Batch, and served as a serviceable reintroduction to some of the major players of the period. It felt very much like old and new Clone Wars meshing into one.
After season two of The Mandalorian released to as much, if not more, acclaim as its predecessor season, The Bad Batch is primely positioned between the remnants of goodwill left by The Mandalorian and the hype of Kenobi and The Book of Boba Fett. If Bad Batch can hit with all ages and corners of Star Wars fans, it could heal this fandom by creating a streak of well-received content.
These clones speak to a part of fandom that is oft forgotten. They are “other.” Their “desirable mutations” make them special, but they also make them outcasts who are only as worthwhile as what they can bring that the “regs” can’t. New content coming out, particularly via streaming, means that all the new fans brought in by the sequel trilogy are but the tip of the iceberg. The question then becomes, will we meet those new fans, with all their differences and “otherness,” with open arms, as a Jedi would, or try to hunt them down like Grand Moff Tarkin? One can bring love and connection to our galaxy, the other will leave a foul stench for generations to come.
The new fans are not the only “others.” While the conversation around representation for the LBGTQ+ conversation has vastly improved over the last few years, mental health advocacy and representation has continued to lack. Once again, Bad Batch has the potential to ignite that conversation at a time when the world, in the aftermath of a pandemic that caused thousands to lose loved ones, jobs, and identity, truly needs it. Many of these people, as well as millions of others, will either develop or deepen a life-long battle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
PTSD is most widely known for being an after effect of war, which makes it quite plausible that The Bad Batch will confront it on some level or another. This won’t be a first for Star Wars animation, though. Rebels dealt with how PTSD affected characters such as Kanan and Rex. (Arguably all of the Ghost team could be said to have PTSD on some level, but Kanan and Rex are shown to clearly be dealing with it.) As Kanan says, “Battles leave scars. Some you can’t see.” The pandemic will most certainly do that, and Bad Batch has the chance to help people find solace in their struggle and open the conversation around the topic in a safe and manageable way.
I don’t pretend to be a doctor, therapist, or even an expert on any of this. I am simply someone who has lived with PTSD and a slew of other mental health diagnoses. As someone who is on the autism spectrum (the low end but there nonetheless), it can be hard to understand the complexities of life at times because I have difficulty relating to others. Star Wars has always been the way that I understand what is importantly in life. It has helped me to have context for my own tragedies and triumphs, and has helped me to understand what others are going through.
The Bad Batch is a chance for more people to do the same. It is a chance for more empathy in a fandom ravaged by a vocal minority intent on spreading hate. It is a chance for each of us to think about how the happenings of that galaxy far, far away speak to our selves, our communities, and the people we push to the margins. To do anything less would be a tragedy of Palpatine proportions.