Becoming the Bad Batch: War-Mantle
As much as the show is about the defective group of clones that gives it its name, The Bad Batch is about the true birth and evolution of the Empire. In Revenge of the Sith the Empire is created and in A New Hope it is fully formed. The 20 years in between were long a mystery, until the era of Disney and the creation of such projects as Rebels, The Bad Batch, and Rogue One.
The latter is to thank for the title of the recent episode of The Bad Batch, “War-Mantle”, which sees the Empire transitioning away from clones and moving towards enlisting citizens en mass to become stormtroopers. Project War-Mantle is one of the many Jyn Eros mentions while looking for Project Stardust in the vault on Scarif, but it may be the most influential of them all. By removing clones and replacing them with stormtroopers, the Empire created a galaxy wide cult of individuals who thought that what they were doing, even the things they knew to be wrong, were an acceptable price to pay for peace.
Stormtroopers are the children of the Empire, an apropos analogy considering the use of birth and death symbolism throughout both the series and this episode in particular. The planet that the Batch goes to to rescue CC-5576, aka Gregor, is full of trees that are symbolic of life. But rather than simply putting a variety of trees, the creators intentionally used phallic trees to represent the Empire’s impregnating itself into the galaxy. That idea has another layer when considering that the military base they have built into the innards of a mountain (notably also phallic) has literally impregnated the Empire into the literal planet itself. This is extremely similar to The First Order’s installation on Starkiller Base, as presented in The Force Awakens.
But there are some 50 years to go before that behemoth comes to be. For now, the Empire is far more concerned with killing the past in way that would make Kylo Ren proud. But where Kylo and The First Order try to win with brute force, the Empire is more nuanced. They want to not just destroy you, they want to do it in a way that makes you look like the villain. Prime Minister Lama Su knows this all to well, decreeing, “We have empowered them, to our own determent.” And possibly to their own deaths. With their scienfitic advancements well known, as Nala Se points out, it is highly unlikely that the Kaminoans existed during the Galactic Civil War and played no part. Instead, their genocide is more likely, and if the Empire has it their way the Kaminoans may even do it to themselves.
For some, however, it is not about the powers that be. For Crosshair it is about his former family, now sworn adversaries. Its about The Bad Batch. It is no coincidence that Crosshair starts the episode on the ominous Kamino, with its dark skies and rainy weather, whereas The Bad Batch are on a planet that is bright and full of nature. The dichotomy between the two is being visually established so that by the end, when Hunter and Crosshair come face to face, it feels like the natural progression of the story. Hunter essentially sacrificed himself for his family, the antithesis of what Crosshair did in the first episode, on a planet that visually calls back to said episode. There is even a moment where Hunter is surrounded by troops that is reminiscent of Hunter’s face off with Caleb Dume in the first episode of the series. The audience is being reminded about just how far the story has come while staying firmly grounded in the here and now, where its focus belongs.
With two episodes left, the season (or series if that is the case) will come to its conclusion by bringing these threads to a head. The Kaminoans must disappear, the Empire must seem even more viscous and vile, and Hunter must be saved from the grips of the devil he knows all to well.