Executive producer/supervising director Brad Rau and executive producer/head writer Jennifer Corbett speak at length with StarWars.com about Clone Force 99’s journey in the Disney+ series.
Spoiler warning: This article discusses details and plot points from the entirety of Star Wars: The Bad Batch Season 1.
Family is wonderful but it can be messy. That’s true in our lives and especially in the galaxy far, far away. Star Wars: The Bad Batch has explored that truth over the course of its emotional and thrilling first season. When the Disney+ series begins, the titular Bad Batch, also known as Clone Force 99 -- Hunter, Wrecker, Tech, Echo, and Crosshair -- are riding high as the best of the best in the clone army. They work alone, do things their way, and are tight -- a family within a family, united through the genetic upgrades that give them enhanced abilities. But when Chancellor Palpatine issues Order 66, i.e., the command to kill all Jedi, it puts two of the squad’s biggest personalities in Hunter and Crosshair at odds; the frosty Crosshair aligns with the burgeoning Empire, while Hunter leads the team toward an uncertain future on the run, and with a young clone named Omega in tow. This setup begins a journey that sees the Bad Batch struggle with everything from paying the bills to raising Omega to, ultimately, trying to reach the soul of Crosshair. With Season 1 complete, StarWars.com called two of the architects behind The Bad Batch, executive producer/supervising director Brad Rau and executive producer/head writer Jennifer Corbett, to talk about Omega’s impact on her rough-and-tumble brothers, the making of that knock-down drag-out Fennec Shand versus Cad Bane fight, and what the destruction of Kamino means for the future of the clones.
StarWars.com: I wanted to talk about what I think is one of the big themes of the season, which is, “What is my purpose?” I’m wondering, by season’s end, how you think the Bad Batch view themselves and their purpose?
Jennifer Corbett: I think it depends on which member of the Bad Batch you asked. I think they all have a very different opinion of where they stand, in particular Hunter, Crosshair, Echo, and Omega. The question of “what’s my purpose” is really a show theme, because the Empire taking over and the galaxy shifting and changing, it’s continuous and it’s evolving, and so are they. What Hunter is trying to do is keep his squad safe, and Omega is just trying to learn how to survive in this world, having been kept on Kamino her whole life. Crosshair, now that we know his chip is removed, he’s trying to see if he really does fit in with the Empire. He doubles down and he decides to stay. This is what he’s going to do. And Echo is the one who is questioning Hunter the most on what they should be doing and wanting to do more. All three of them continue to have these internal discussions throughout the season and hopefully next season.
Brad Rau: We didn’t want to have everyone’s purpose locked in at the end of Season 1. It’s something that they deal with in a big way as we move into Season 2. What is their purpose from all of their different points of view? It’s going to be a big deal, something we really wanted to dig into.
StarWars.com: Omega was obviously a huge surprise for audiences. Behind the scenes, when was she created and how did you decide that she was going to be a huge part of the story? You very easily could have had a show just about the core team of the Bad Batch, but she takes the concept and puts it on its head.
Jennifer Corbett: That was a decision pretty early on in development of Season 1. When we were talking about what the Batch was going to encounter once they get back to Kamino, and the Republic falls and now it’s this Empire, how are we going to challenge this squad of elite soldiers? We’ve seen them proficient in combat, so what can we throw at them?
That’s how we started coming up with the idea of a younger clone that they come into contact with and who needs their help. Omega was created, and it was a really great opportunity to show a different side of the squad and show that they are not as equipped to be guardians at first, and how they have to navigate this every changing galaxy with her, and how she’s also growing and learning from them as well.
Brad Rau: [It was] the idea that these super-soldiers, what would take them out of their comfort zone? Sometimes it’s hard to come up with that military, strategic challenge that does take them out of their comfort zone. That’s when they work at their best. This was such a cool idea that [they] had early on the development to create Omega. Talk about taking out of comfort zone. They’re topsy-turvy. It creates some really interesting drama as we play through the rest of it. We love Omega.
Jennifer Corbett: We also just wanted another clone character to offer a different perspective. All they’ve known their entire lives is being a soldier. She is the complete opposite. She has had no training. She’s been isolated on Kamino, has a lot of different life experience, and has a lot of empathy. Having her interact with them, she’s kind of a moral compass for this squad as they’re moving forward. She provided a lot of personality to them and was mixing it up.
StarWars.com: I felt like she was a surrogate for Clone Wars fans on a certain meta level. I think we can all have our favorite members of the Bad Batch, but most of us, I would say, are not like these genetically enhanced super-soldiers. Here’s someone who’s along for the ride with them, who’s younger, and really is like, a fan of them. Was this on your minds, as well?
Brad Rau: For sure. I think seeing Omega look up to these characters is a really interesting way in. I think what’s really interesting, is that as we see her learning from them, you also see these tough guys learning from the kid. I think that’s where it gets really interesting to me. It’s not just having her be there as an audience surrogate -- which is great, there’s definitely a part of that -- but to see how she affects the way they go about things created some really interesting situations.
Jennifer Corbett: Yeah. Dan, you’re right. Her interaction with them is just relatable because, having grown up with three older brothers, they were people that I idolized. I just wanted to always hang out with them, and mimic them, and do what they did, so I could be as cool as they are. Audiences can relate to that, especially kids. Everybody has their hero, and the chance to get to work with your hero and be part of the gang is always something someone wants to do.
StarWars.com: One of my favorite aspects was the interplay between her and Hunter, which I think came to form the heart of the series, and all that they learned from each other. What did you want to convey through their relationship as the season progressed?
Brad Rau: There’s definitely an inherent father-daughter relationship even though they’re siblings. We had fun playing Wrecker, a lot of times, as the older sibling with Omega, and wanted to see all of the ups and downs of what that father-daughter relationship would be like between Hunter and Omega. A lot of times Hunter will come to a conclusion that might not be the right choice, and he has to learn from that, as well. Having that overall family dynamic, those two really are the heart of gold.
Jennifer Corbett: There’s also the idea of, “You’re never done learning.” Even Hunter, the leader of the squad, he is learning a lot from her. She’s learning a lot from them. I think we’ve tried to play that in a few episodes because we do see it mostly through Hunter and Omega’s eyes. Their dynamic is the heart of the show.
StarWars.com: One thing I really enjoyed about the series was that it took care to show that the clones did not just become evil when Order 66 happened. We saw this with Howzer helping the Syndullas. At the same time, I think you probably didn’t want audiences to feel that sympathetic toward them, because they did do this terrible thing, and they have done terrible things. Tell me about including this in the show and how tricky it might have been to pull off.
Brad Rau: That’s a doozy, Dan. There’s a lot in there and we talked about it a lot.
Early on, we intentionally wanted to stay away from a clone’s point of view. So when we see them right away in the premiere episode, in particular in the second episode when we see them on Saleucami, we don’t see any of them with their helmets off. None of the colors are on any of their gear. Even the way that their helmet distortion sounds is a little bit more evil-sounding than the clones normally would sound. The music cues that we used throughout Season 1, when we would show the clones, for the most part was intentionally to show them as the bad guys.
That being said, we wanted our guys to not mow them down. Even though early on, they’re not always using a stun blast, if you look carefully, they were careful to try not kill any of these guys if they could help it, at all possible. It was all part of the clones as bad guys versus the Bad Batch.
But someone like Howzer, it’s also very intentional that he’s been out on his tour so long that he never even had a chance to go back and re-kit himself with the bleached white armor. It also gave us an opportunity to take off his helmet and see his amazing hairdo and really get into him as one of the first clones we’re getting close to his point of view. We can see, yes, he has the chip, but he also has his own free will. He’s making these decisions. That was something that was a really big deal.
Jennifer Corbett: It’s such a big question, we could spend a whole interview talking about that. The clones are always so tricky. They’re fan favorites, and then all of a sudden, Order 66 happens and everything changes. I think we have tried to not just portray them as being the bad guys. They’re more the pawns of the bad guys, and how unfortunate that is.
Showing how there are millions of clone troopers out there, and you can see clones that their chips are working, they’re following orders, they’re aligned with the Empire. We have clones who have removed their chips like the Bad Batch and Rex, and how they’re doing things. And also, like Brad said, clones like Howzer who have the chip but are also able to process that what the Empire is doing is wrong. How that affects him as a leader, because he’s trying to get through to his squad, and hoping that he can snap them out of whatever’s going on, because he doesn’t know about the chip.
It’s a tricky balance, but it’s part of telling these stories in this show, because it’s not just about the Bad Batch. It’s still a show about the clones as a whole.
StarWars.com: How do you think the clones and the Bad Batch view their service in the Clone Wars? Do they see it as a worthwhile endeavor, this thing they were bred for? Or do they see it in some other way -- that it’s been tainted or it’s not what they thought it was?
Jennifer Corbett: The Bad Batch were always a different kind of unit. In the Clone Wars, they went from mission to mission and never stuck around for accolades and awards. They weren’t really in it for glory. They were in it because that was the job they were given. I think it’s not until the Republic falls and they see how the Empire does business they really start to realize how good the Republic was.
At the same time, their ideology wasn’t, “We have to restore the Republic.” It was more of, “We have to survive whatever’s going on right now and figure out what this Empire is and what means for them.”
Brad Rau: The Bad Batch, when they would complete an objective, it would usually not go according to all the details of how to get that objective. But they would pull it off. We even have Wrecker putting it, [mimes making a scratch on the wall] “Another successful mission!” in the premiere episode. They’re really good at doing what they do, but they don’t always go about it the way their superiors probably intended it.
That’s the fun thing about The Bad Batch. This idea that all of them, including the regs and all the clones, were created for this very specific purpose, to be soldiers in the Republic army, is really interesting now that the Republic is gone. Now what do you do? It’s something we wanted to get into. It was fun to get into that with the Bad Batch, just with this small group, trying to figure out how they survive, like we were talking about. How they go about getting food and getting fuel and all of these things, now that they’re not part of an army, we found as went forward were some of the juicier things to deal with for sure.
StarWars.com: Do you think, in Season 2, we'll see more of what becomes of not just the Bad Batch, but Joe Average Clone, who’s still out there in the galaxy?
Brad Rau: We will not let that storyline go undiscussed, for sure.
StarWars.com: I’d like to go through some of the bigger moments of the season. I’ll just say what it is and if you two can riff on it, and offer any insights into the making of it, or thoughts on the sequence, that would be great.
To start, Order 66 and Hunter and Crosshair’s interaction with young Caleb Dume.
Brad Rau: Sounds like Jen.
Jennifer Corbett: [Laughs] Talk about a fun sequence to be able to write and execute, because we started the show off with one of the most iconic moments in Star Wars history.
The Bad Batch, being in the Grand Army of the Republic, most of their battles were blasting droids. That’s a mission that they’re very good at. But when Hunter is relayed information from Tech that they have to execute Order 66 and the reg captain says they have to execute the Jedi, he’s using his free will to question why. You see him try to protect this kid because he knows something’s wrong. He knows this order is something he fundamentally disagrees with.
And then you see Crosshair, who is just following orders and doesn’t even question it. Thinks it makes sense, tries to complete his mission, and luckily he gets knocked out by Caleb. Later he becomes a problem, but right then Caleb is able to neutralize him.
Brad Rau: Even a little before that, building up to Order 66, we definitely wanted to show this was a legacy Clone Wars show, with Tom Kane giving us the amazing narration, and the music. It feels like, “Okay, like, we’re familiar, we’re right back there in The Clone Wars.” Even seeing The Clone Wars logo burn away to The Bad Batch logo, showing that we’re right away moving into this new chapter. It felt like we needed to see that moment. Even though we wanted to move through that, we needed to see that Order 66 moment.
StarWars.com: Wrecker’s inhibitor chip fully activating.
Brad Rau: Oof. That was awesome. I’m sure we both have a lot to say about that. It was something we wanted not just to come out of nowhere; we wanted to hit these tiny little bits of it. It’s funny because when we were rolling that over a few episodes, the headaches with Wrecker, there was discussion internally, “Is it obvious enough?” I think it was more obvious than we thought, honestly, which is good.
We show something is going on. You’re waiting for this coiled moment to pop. For me, when you see it actually happen -- who’s the one guy that you would not want to activate? It’s the big guy! He is just a destructive force of nature. When you see him go into that mode, the way that we played the music, the way Dee [Bradley Baker] performed Wrecker just a little bit differently, he’s this crazy Terminator killing machine. [It’s] chilling to see him go after Omega. They’d become such good buddies, and here she is practically crying, telling him to wake up. It’s what it was all about, building up to that moment. We did want to lay it out ahead of time so we could ramp up to that moment.
Jennifer Corbett: It was also just so heartbreaking because Wrecker’s the one who has the biggest heart and is the kindest out of the entire Bad Batch. You’re seeing him battle it, and you’re seeing the chip activate, and then once he hears Hunter in the background mention that they helped the Padawan escape, you hear the sound design kick in. You know what’s going to happen. Once he just goes off, yeah, it’s heartbreaking.
StarWars.com: Specifically with that sequence and when he turns on Omega, is it tricky to execute something like that when you know there are going to be kids watching?
Brad Rau: Yes.
StarWars.com: Is that something you talk about?
Brad Rau: For sure, 100 percent. From very, very early on, through all the versions of the script until when we were designing how that all works and how it went into story when we were shooting it, to the kind of shots we were shooting, like how close we were to Omega versus how close to Wrecker, and the fact that she runs first. We wanted it to be scary and chilling, but there were a few shots we pulled that were just too much. He was right on her heels, that classic Jason Voorhees chasing someone. “Oh, wait a minute, we might be going too crazy.”
There’s this really interesting thing that our episodic director Saul Ruiz worked out in the moment where Omega escapes into the second chamber and Wrecker pulls up the door. There’s this little camera fake out where you think he’s going to get her, but she’s underneath a different thing. Even that moment isn’t technically a traditional jump scare because the jump scare version of that was too scary. We talked about all of that, and even how the score works. It’s chilling and scary, but we pulled back just a little bit, based on what you’re talking about, for sure.
Jennifer Corbett: We talked so much about that moment and how it would end. There was even the idea of, is he able to snap out of it? Does Omega talk him out of it? But it didn’t seem true, and it didn’t seem realistic, because if Rex couldn’t stop himself against Ahsoka, and that’s a long relationship that they have, it just didn’t feel accurate to have Omega be able to break him out of that. It adds to the tragedy of the clones in that it’s beyond their control.