Belonging and The Bad Batch: Decommissioned

While letting a child shoot a bow in the same direction as the entry to a bar is not the best example of successful parenting (or business ownership), it is the perfect way for “Decommissioned” to start. An episode that centers around the continuing purgatory The Bad Batchers remain in as the Empire rises, “Decommissioned” shows that hitting the target is more than just will or luck. As Omega would put it, “It’s all about tuning out distractions.”

For all intents and purposes, being decommissioned puts an individual in purgatory. The purpose said person lived is no longer there to guide them, leaving them purposeless and looking for direction. Discovering this purpose and choosing the direction of life will define the identity of the individual. When you are a clone who was created for one thing and one thing only, being put in this kind of purgatory can be paralyzing. Hunter even admits that they just do the job without asking questions, not considering the morality of their mission.

But one’s morality, or lack thereof, defines their identity. Meeting the Martez sisters, characters who were morally ambiguous upon their introduction in The Clone Wars, acts as a mirror for the team (especially Hunter) and forces them to consider their current purgatory, morality, and mission.

“Decommissioned” excels at exemplifying this challenge by repeatedly having characters ascending and descending. Story-wise this makes the goose chase more dynamic than a simple back and forth. Metaphorically, however, it speaks of heaven and hell. (With regards to mythology these can have numerous names and interpretations, but for simplicities sake we will use heaven and hell as reference points.) Right after the team climbs the ladder into the facility, a la ascending into the heavens, the camera cuts to the hellish molten pit below.

Heaven, like the North Star, is the direction that one tries to go toward. Having the Batch and the Martez sisters chasing after a tactical droid head on the North conveyors, and later having Trace nearly leave through the North exit, is indicative that this was intentional. But Trace does not actually leaver. She heads straight towards hell to save Omega.

Trapped by a droid part, Omega is trapped by the past itself. That past, with its identities and definitions of reality, leads directly to hell. The molten magma consumes the old droids. The past is a trap that will take anyone not willing to evolve, but the past can also be an ally. Omega has to actually use a droid part to escape.

Truthfully, the past can help as much as it can damn, but what really helps one in search of their identity is having allies. With the transition from Republic to Empire, who is enemy and who is ally is a purgatory all its own. Hunter and Trace work together in order to save Omega, and only by working together do they all escape the facility. However, the Martezes are not the only ones once considered enemies that have become allies. The battle droids, reprogrammed from their original purpose, become the protectors the group needs to escape the lower levels, get into their ship, and ascend to the skies above.

This shifting dynamic leads right back to the main ally now turned enemy, Crosshair. While he doesn’t make an officially appearance in the episode, his presence is palpable through Wrecker’s mumbling, “Good…soldiers…”; he also hears Crosshair saying the same line.

Before this, Hunter orders Wrecker to be the lookout, position of guardian angel usually manned by Crosshair. Thus Wrecker ascends to protect his team. Later, though, he has to descend in order to protect the team from the droids that have cornered them. The back and forth, up and down foreshadows the future for Wrecker as much as it is analogous to Crosshair.

While heaven and hell are grandiose mythological concepts, they are essentially about getting out of purgatory. As Rafa puts it, “In the end, we all choose sides.” The greatest challenge of purgatory is not getting out but realizing that you are there in the first place. Hunter gets called out on this when he tries to justify taking the mission without questioning the morality. To him, not working for the Empire is enough. When asked why they aren’t he simply replies, “We’re different.”

But not being something is simply a distraction from being something. Trace and Rafa, after their interaction with Ahsoka, have joined something larger than themselves. This may be the beginnings of the Rebellion or simply a group of rebels, but “they’re trying to help people and make things better.”

When giving the tactical droid rod to Rafa, Hunter tells her, “You’ll use it for the right reasons.” This is a step in the right direction because he sees the, well, right direction. He just doesn’t know where along that path he and his crew belong. As he tells her, “Things were clearer when we were just soldiers.” They may have been fighting for all the wrong reasons, but they had direction. Purgatory can sometimes even be worse than hell.

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