The thirteenth episode of The Bad Batch was a return to form as far as the serialized adventure of the week format is concerned. Titled “Infested”, the episode could have been called “The Return of the Theme” for all the recurring ideas brought in from the first 12 episodes of the series. Arguments could be made that the slow burn format being used to tell this story are to the series’ detriment, but if the three ideas present in “Infested” are key to the resolution to be found in the final three episodes of the season, this season and this series may just infest our hearts in the best way.
Light and Dark
Light and dark being present in Star Wars? Plot twist! Of course, the duality between the two is the key marker of the series at large, thus it is especially important for them to be presented in animation with its younger demographic. That does not make it any less important.
When facing off against the Ordo Moon Dragon in “Replacements”, this dichotomy takes the forefront as Omega defends herself with naught but a flashlight. In Luke Skywalker fashion, she throws her weapon away when she realizes that wielding the light as a weapon is actually the problem. A visual callback, this uses the already established story of Star Wars to inform Omega’s character, labelling her as a heroine in her own right.
When in the mines of Ord Mantell, Omega has a flashlight again. This time, however, it is not a weapon. It is a guide, for in a way she has become the light guiding this team. She encouraged Hunter to fight for Ryloth, showed her ability to add to the team in “Common Ground”, and overall has established herself as the moral compass for this family. Her light, both literally and metaphorically, are important when trekking into the darkness they face here. When paying attention to the ebb and flow of that light, one will see that Wrecker actually drops his light into the dark nest of the irlings. The light, and hope, seems lost until Tech drops a bigger light down the cavern. This all consuming light obliterates the irlings as it delivers a very important message to the audience. The light may fall, but it will always rise again.
On Ryloth, the Empire had established a mining system to excavate and consume, with no concern for the economic and natural impacts it may have on the planet. They took what they valued, regardless of the consequence.
On Ord Mantell, the mines are much older than the age of the Empire, a clue to the idea that Ord Mantell is the hive of scum and villainy it is because that which is valuable has already been taken. But history always holds some value, even if it is just the tunnel we go through to get to the future solution, as is the case with Cid and the Batch. To resolve the hostile overtaking perpetrated by Roland Durand, they must go through the darkness and face the infestation of the irlings, analogous to the Empire itself.
This is not a jovial jaunt through the woods to grandmother’s house, though, with the threat of the irlings ready to strike at a moment’s notice. Then there are the predatory Pykes, the wolves ready to take what they want and throw the scraps to the side. What they want is their spice back, and so once more The Bad Batch has to descend into the darkness and face the infestation of the irlings. This is wherein the idea of light and dark is more flushed out, but it is the reentry that is important when considering the metaphor of mining. When they first went into the mines they lost the spice, a valuable but inherently dangerous drug, much in the way that returning to Kamino would cause the eventual betrayal of Crosshair. In a way Crosshair’s mind was mined, being manipulated by Tarkin and the Kaminoans to make him ever more pliable. It may take a return to Kamino for them to save Crosshair, give light to their brethren still controlled by their chips, and mine those final valuable details about Omega’s history.
The most prevalent of all themes in this season, choosing where they stand has been quite the challenge for a team of individuals that always knew their place. Like a kid leaving home for the first time, there is a culture shock that the Batch is not ready to face when Order 66 is executed.
There have been many instances where The Bad Batch has had to at least face the reality that, as Rafa puts it, “In the end we all choose sides.” Rex offered them a chance to become soldiers again, an offer that Hunter declined in favor of protecting Omega. Trace and Rafa offered to help them stand for what is right. Even the struggle between bounty hunters Fennec Shand and Cad Bane created a question of who is on who’s side, and what their motivations may be.
But Cid has been the only consistent side they’ve stuck to. While this began as a means to an end, and eventually a form of indentured servitude, it seems that to some extent the loyalty that made them good soldiers has been transferred to her. She does have leverage over them, as the Empire has leverage over Crosshair via his chip, so like Crosshair it draws into question how much of this is loyalty and how much of it is survival. Nonetheless, Cid is at least loyal to Omega, promising to get the youngling out of the mess she got her into.
This idea is neatly summed up in the final moments of the episode, when Hunter asks Omega why she stood up for Roland “after what he did.” In the Star Warsest of Star Wars fashions, the pure clone answers, “I don’t know. Ruby likes him. Maybe he’s not all that bad.” Could the same be said for the biggest unresolved plot point remaining, Crosshair?