Belonging and The Bad Batch: Cornered

The rise of the Empire came quietly sneaking up on the galaxy through the machinations of Palpatine, but once its flag flew there was no denying it. The new regime challenged the identity of all citizens. In this restructuring, rogues such as Clone Force 99, The Bad Batch, would have to figure out who they were going to be now. Even worse, they would have to find a way to put food on the table

In the episode “Cornered”, the team of misfit clones has to figure out how to do exactly that. Like a kid moving away from home for the first time, they are not able to go to the Republic’s pantry and grab more rations. “Without the Republic to provide us these supplies, we’ll have to acquire these necessities on our own,” is Tech’s way of telling the team that the reality they once knew is utterly and completely gone.

Thus far in the series, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs has been taken apart from top to bottom. Many clones, as is apparent via Rex in Clone Wars season seven, question their own self-actualization, the top tier of the hierarchy. But The Bad Batch, being incongruent in comparison to their millions of brethren, know who they are; they are also able to be creative in how they approach their missions and achieve their goals. Order 66 takes this from them because they no longer understand the societal norms. Likewise goes their feelings of prestige and accomplishment, which Maslow deemed “esteem needs.”

Thankfully they had each other to hold on to and trust. This insured the protection of Maslow’s middle tier, which deals with intimate relationships and friendships. However, when Crosshair betrays them this comes into question. Omega plays a role in this tier’s dissembling as well, albeit not out of malice nor malintent. But she does change the dynamic of the group, thus shaking the foundation in her own way. 

Now The Bad Batch is down to the bottom of the hierarchy, basic needs. The second tier, safety, still plays a role in “Cornered.” Yet the reality that they not only need safety, they need the very foundation of basic needs, takes center stage. Physiological needs, which includes food, water, and in this case fuel, are the single most important things in existence. Without these things, one dies, making it quite difficult to climb the ascending tiers.

This destructuring of identity has been a key element of the show thus far, and that doesn’t change here. If anything it becomes more apparent, as Tech is literally changing the identity of their ship. To do so, and to acquire their physiological needs, the team has to land their ship on Pantora. They have descended to the very bottom of the hierarchy in every conceivable way. 

The Hierarchy of Needs is an apt and appropriate name for Maslow’s structure, but another could be The Hierarchy of Identity. Consider someone who is starving. Said individual’s identity becomes entirely centered around finding food. More often than not this person will do anything necessary to acquire food, with escalating flexibility of morality and conscience as the starvation worsens. As the old saying goes, “Desperate times call for desperate measures.” The Bad Batch has become desperate. They have not sacrificed their morals in a literal sense, but they have become the very thing they fought against in the war. 

In the Clone War they fought against a group breaking away from the established power. Now they are a group breaking away from the established power. In the Clone War they fought against droids, and in “Cornered” Echo has to pretend to be a droid. This is a fantastic piece of irony in that Echo is more droid than any clone has ever been, and harkens back to Tech’s “more machine now than man” comment in the first episode. Thankfully the heroes are not having to sacrifice their morals and the audience, with the ability to see the entirety of the story, knows they are doing the right thing. Instead, it shows that there is always something to learn from the other side, things to take away and add to oneself. In fact, the show probably would have ended with the capture and execution of the team in this episode had it not been for a group of droids helping to repair the team’s home and getaway car. 

The question of who to trust is not going away, with the introduction Fennec Shandnas a tail. Here she is set up as a villain, and there is a good chance she will remain such. However, having seen her supporting the heroes in season two of The Mandalorian, this is no guarantee. She could become the next Thrawn, in a sense, where she is a hero in one story and villain in another. Will this cause confusion for audiences? Yes. Is that the point? Possibly. 

When she meets Omega, Shand removes her helmet in the same fashion as The Bad Batchers. Psychologically this is a sign to Omega that she can trust this individual, making her vulnerable to Shand’s deception. Unto this point Omega has more or less been hopeful and optimistic. She has seen the best in people and situations. But this has not been because of her heart as much as it has been due to her lack of naivete and experience. “The war is over,” she says to Echo. “Isn’t that good?” Clear cut, simple, naïve. “Depends on which side you’re on,” Echo tells her. While Omega knew she, and her family of misfits, were different, Omega didn’t see the line in the sand.

Omega will no doubt choose the side of The Bad Batch, her chosen family. As she runs from Shand in an effort to get back to that family, the radio declares that there is a “315 in progress.” That combination of numbers is symbolic of a major change happening in one’s life, which is exactly what is happening for Omega. As Joseph Campbell would point out, doing so is a death and rebirth of some fashion. Here Omega descends (dies) at level 155, later reemerging her reborn self. The number is once more important, as 155 is supposed to symbolize new beginnings, balance, stability, and partnership. 

When they get back to the ship, Tech, Hunter, Echo, and Wrecker all sit in chairs surrounding Omega. Like a seesaw, she is their balancing point. If she is removed, they will fall apart until she can bring them back together. As the camera zooms in on her, her eyes tell a familiar story. Fear, uncertainty, insecurity. Omega may be evolved, but her journey is far from over. 

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