Star Wars: The Clone Wars has finished off the first arc of its seventh season. The final chapter of the arc, “Unfinished Businesses”, yields sharper emotional beats than the penultimate chapter, following up on the rather bittersweet moment when the rescued clone trooper Echo (Dee Bradley Baker, who voices every clone) repeats “the good old days” with ambivalence.
While it’s hazy on how Echo feels about his re-integration into his Republic military, from the moment he reports for duty in his new distinctive armor with his signature handprint on his armor, it’s evident he has accepted he isn’t going to be the same soldier on the battlefield. He seems just as loyal as before. Due to the digital implants the Separatists forced into his body, Echo offers his abilities to help the Jedi, Rex, and the Bad Batch infiltrate an enemy Separatist ship. However, Echo and Rex have to navigate some skepticism about whether Echo’s Republic allegiance is still true. Echo is constantly dutiful to his Republic mission, although it turns out that he has changed even in ways he’s unsure of.
It’s fun to observe the battlefield professionalism between Jedi and the clones. Some overdue insight is provided to the Bad Batch and their brotherhood. Tech’s mental aptitude makes him a standout member of the Bad Batch. Crosshair enacts a neat little sniping scene where he plants reflective devices in a corridor that allow his shot to bounce through multiple droids with slick precision. Wrecker scores the most comedic gold, such as when he smashes through poor B1 droids to the point where even the clones feel bad for the droid, and Wrecker enacts his best moment—“This is the happiest day of my life”—when he finally gets to blow something up. Mace Windu (Terrence “T.C.” Carson) also has a comedic moment where he stalls the droid battalion by trying to bargain with them and he partakes in a genuinely tense sequence where he has to tap into the Force to defuse a bomb.
Despite the fun action, the episode’s path doesn’t feel fully formed despite the rather warm-hearted destination. The central existential crisis—Echo’s unspoken realization that he doesn’t quite fit in his old environment and Rex clocking in Echo’s alienation—is not fleshed out and feels lost in the flurry of action. While Echo’s decision to join the Bad Batch, who are both renegades and servants to the Republic, is a warm send-off that gives plenty of consideration to his state of mind, the opportunity for dimensions are mere suggestions throughout the arc, such as the insinuation that the Bad Batch are drifting their way through the war for occasional purpose and aren’t too comfortable accepting the tokens—the honors—of the Republic institution they serve.
But for writing material and characterizations that should provide plenty of motivation, the motives for Echo’s departure and the Bad Batch’s eventual acceptance of Echo into their “non-reg” team remain muted. There was for want of meaningful interaction between Echo and the Bad Batch for the former to perceive the Batch as an alternative path. Does Echo quietly resent being left behind at the Citadel? Is he growing more resentful of his intended breeding? Did the Separatists’ co-opting of his body and mind lead him to question what he was bred for? Perhaps the lack of clear rationales was the point: Echo is exploring another avenue and is still in search of clear definitions for himself.
– The tarantulic Admiral Trench (Baker) bears one of my favorite alien designs. Shame he got taken out.
– You can’t expect Clone Wars to churn in every continuity, but among the character arc’s shortcomings is a missed opportunity that Echo is never seen contemplating the death of his brother Fives.
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