Every time an episode of The Bad Batch lands, Fantha Tracks will be giving their responses, and here are our initial gut feelings, deep dives and thoughts on the eleventh episode of season 1 of The Bad Batch – Devil’s Deal. Beware of spoilerific elements in here.
In this week’s episode of The Bad Batch, Devil’s Deal, a fan-favorite returns to the galaxy far, far away and gets a worthy backstory for a legacy character!
For the past ten episodes, we’ve followed the ever-growing story of Clone Force 99 and young Omega as they find their place within the budding Empire. But, the eleventh episode breaks away from all of that. Devil’s Deal connects the current timeline with stories and characters that have come before it, and by doing so, strengthening the overall narrative.
The opening scenes take us back to Ryloth and familiar faces like Senator Orn Free Taa (Star Wars: Lords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp), General Cham Syndulla, and Eleni Syndulla (Hera Syndulla’s parents), and Captain Howzer. Here we see the beginnings of what will become the “Free Ryloth Movement” that will track from the early onset of the Empire and up through Rebecca Roanhorse’s novel, “Resistance Reborn,” the leadup to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
As the Empire moves in on Ryloth, we get to refamiliarize ourselves with a younger version of our beloved “Space Mom,” Hera Syndulla! Oh, and she’s accompanied by the zany, sassafras astromech, Chopper. Yes, it’s a thing a lot of us fan-fiction(ed) about, and now it’s canon.
The setting is reminiscent of Luke on Tatooine dreaming of joining the Academy and gazing out at the twin suns setting over the horizon as he hopes and dreams of better days to come. Like Luke, Hera dreams of being a pilot and getting off-world. For her, flying is a feeling, and she longs to make her dream a reality. It’s an up-close and personal, character-building moment that adds depth and relatability to Hera’s arc.
As this episode moves forward, the Empire tightens its grip on Ryloth, and Cham, Eleni, and Uncle Gobi realize that giving in to the Imperial way leaves them vulnerable. So, Uncle Gobi persuades young Hera to come along on a supply run by offering her the chance to pilot his ship. Well, that’s a no-brainer for Hera, so she jumps at the opportunity and tells Chopper to cover for her.
And this is when we finally meet up with Hunter, Wrecker, Tech, Echo, and Omega. It’s a unique and bold move by the story architects behind The Bad Batch. The entirety of the episode takes place on Ryloth and is mainly Syndulla family-focused, but this particular scene stands out. It’s a pivotal moment for Hera and Omega as Omega asks permission to show Hera around their starship. For the first time in Star Wars, we have a kid-to-kid heart of hearts, and it’s a bar setter.
Of course, like all good things, they come to an end. And with a Star War, it gets gritty real quick. So, as our friends return to Ryloth, Hera and Uncle Gobi are charged with treason against the Empire, and all heck breaks loose. Senator Orn Free Taa wants to throw Cham under the speeder bus as well, but Cham won’t have it. As the plot unfolds, it’s not hard to see where things are going. After all, the Empire has its agenda, and sadly, the Syndulla’s took the bait.
Now, whether or not Senator Orn Free Taa survived the headshot wound is yet to be seen. Although according to Star Wars: Lords of the Sith, set around five to six years after the formation of the Empire, the Ryloth Senator is alive and well. I guess we have to wait one more week to find out!
Until then, the mission is over. Now pass the Mantell Mix!
So eEpisode 11 hits us, and with a large turnaround from the previous episodes – as I suspected, this is likely the breather before we roll into the last episodes of this first season at full tilt. Much as we had last week, we start with a senator preaching to his people how the Empire is going help them become a prosperous economy once more, after the years of fighting during the Clone Wars. The plant is one that is huge familiar to viewers of Rebels and The Clone Wars as it’s home to the Twi’lek’s, Ryloth. Also brought back of course are Cham Syndulla, his wife Eleni and their daughter, a young Hera, along with her trusty companion Chopper.
Whilst the Empire manages persuade the senator and Cham that ‘peace and order’ is the way forward, Cham’s lieutenant Gobi is less convinced, and when there is a weapons amnesty he arranges with his contact to get more weapons “in case”. These weapons are of course purchased from Cid, and so are delivered by the Bad Batch. Omega and Hera seem to hit it off, but the Twi’leks are soon heading back where Crosshair has been tracking them and shoots their ship down.
Vice Admiral Rampart is more involved in the story this time around, so I hope this is the beginning of more from him, as up until now the threat to the Bad Batch has mainly been from bounty hunters chasing after Omega rather than the Empire. The story advances to the Empire’s way of taking control of planets by utilising the galaxy’s relief that the war is now over. The whole episode had a feeling of making some of Hera’s backstory and motivation fit in future projects (including Rebels which is obviously far further forward in the timeline) and save for their cameo we don’t have any focus on the Bad Batch – as I said before, I think this is to give the next part of the story arc more weight.
What started out as a show about a group of soldiers scheduled to vanish without a trace by 0 ABY has suddenly branched out into much a larger story. So large that the Bad Batch barely makes a cameo on the latest episode of their own show. Well, except for Crosshair. He turns up quite a bit, and nearly singlehandedly drives the plot forward.
Despite my limited familiarity with animated Star Wars (long story), it was neat to see Hera and Chopper make an unexpected appearance. The theme song that played while Hera was gazing off into the sky reminded me a little of “Princess Leia’s Theme” with a bit of “Han Solo and the Princess” mixed in, giving it a brief but strong John Williams vibe. How do accents work in the Star Wars universe, anyway? With the season opener kicking off with a padawan Caleb Dume caught in the middle of Order 66, we have a budding Rebels prequel unfolding within this series. Pretty cool.
It’s also worth noting that the episode dedicated nearly two full minutes of screen time for Hera and Omega to share. That can’t possibly be an accident. I’m sure that in time we will appreciate the significance of their exchange, whether in this show or beyond. To squeeze in another quick note to fill out this paragraph, I continue to enjoy this visually unusual era of Star Wars history where Imperial rule is being enforced by clone troopers.
Speaking of clones, what’s the deal with Howzer?
The dominoes fell quickly at the beginning of this episode. None were bigger than Eleni Syndulla saying her daughter Hera’s name, leading to a cutaway and Chopper’s antenna peeking over some Ryloth rock before the reveal of the young Syndulla (of course voiced by the magical Vanessa Marshall).
This mini origin story of Hera taking her first steps toward the Rebellion—coupled with her schoolgirl infatuation of flying (including nods to Luke Skywalker in A New Hope) pulled me in tight for a Filonian Rebels hug that only tightened when the Bad Batch actually made their brief appearance.
As Hunter and crew supply weapons to Gobi Glie, Cham Syndulla’s top lieutenant in the Twi’lek Free Ryloth movement, Hera is provided a tour of the Havoc Marauder by Omega. Their interaction is innocent but shares so much of what we know to be Hera’s future—and also allows us a kid’s eye view into how Omega describes her world to another person her age. Her pride in showing off her room, created by Wrecker, is a lovely, pure moment.
On the other side of the spectrum, the Imperials are digging in and continuing their stranglehold on the galaxy, one planet at a time. Vice Admiral Rampart continues to show his cunning and how he earned the trust and respect of Grand Moff Tarkin. He plays Orn Free Taa, the blue, obese Twi’lek senator like a fiddle as his chess pieces cross the board of Ryloth in a very measured way. Part of the reason everything runs so smoothly is the skill and efficiency of his own top lieutenant, Crosshair.
The former Bad Batcher, remaining under the control of his inhibitor chip, scouts hostiles for Rampart, tracks Gobi Glie, and provides the deadly muscle and sharpshooting needed to see Rampart’s plan come to fruition—ending the episode with Hera’s parents, Gobi, and Serin arrested and framed for the attempted assassination of Taa. It was a perfectly crafted evil plan.
Bonus points in this episode for including Blurrg used by Twi’leks for transportation and the introduction of Clone Captain Howzer, who is showing that some clones are not impacted as much by their inhibitor chips—I wonder how big of a role he will play in the next episode?
Devil’s Deal is a setup episode. With the squad barely making an appearance, this episode was all about Hera. I certainly didn’t think this series would be going in this direction, making this turn all the more fascinating. As a series and a squad, the Bad Batch is still finding itself in the post-Clone Wars galaxy. Instead of merely leaving the new Empire, they attempt to make the galaxy a better place for everyone, including Omega. And now they are actively taking part in a rebellion.
Devil’s Deal had a comparable opening to Common Ground. Instead of Raxus, the Empire asserts its presence on Ryloth. The Ryloth senator, Orn Free Taa, who oozes sliminess, supports the Empire’s occupation as he would since he was pro-Palpatine during the war. The political revolutionary Cham Syndulla and his wife Eleni (who finally gets a name) only want what’s best for Ryloth.
At this point in the story, Hera is about 10-12 years old (although she does look older), so war has been a part of her life nearly from the beginning. In Rebels, Hera has seen and experienced more than her share of violence and oppression. Defeating the Empire is personal for Hera. Cham and Eleni’s daughter, Hera, acts like any kid would, looking away to the future. But first, getting off this rock and someday flying her own ship through the vastness of space.
I loved hearing Hera’s theme! Unfortunately, musical themes aren’t as prevalent in movies in recent years. Not only are musical themes a massive part of Star Wars, but they also call back to the use of themes in Richard Wagner’s opera The Ring. Musical themes, or leitmotif, contribute to the storytelling; it’s a short, recurring musical phrase associated with a particular person, place, or idea. Using them adds to the emotional depth of the story. It makes you feel the character and what they’re feeling and experiencing. Music is a powerful tool when used correctly.
Having Omega and Hera in a scene together was genius and necessary. Necessary to remind folks that Star Wars is for kids essentially. Adults need to chill and enjoy the things they love for what they are, just like how Hera loves flying.
What’s going on with Howzer? Howzer is a new clone who we assume has the activated inhibitor chip in his head. But he is acting with a conscience and concern for Hera, which is curious behavior. Definitely not the norm for an imperial clone. Perhaps it’s because the Syndulla’s aren’t Jedi, so Howzer doesn’t feel the need to terminate them? It will be exciting to see where Howzer’s story goes. Judging by his behavior, I’d say he’ll aid the Syndulla’s somehow.
While Cham wants peace for Ryloth, Gobi’s gut tells him the Empire is up to something. Even Eleni suspects the Empire has ulterior motives. The clones were supposed to leave at the end of the war, but they’re still on Ryloth marching about. Palpatine was supposed to step down as chancellor, too, when his term was up. Look how that turned out. In the end, Admiral Rampart setup Cham by having Crosshair assassinate Orn Free Taa but placing the blame on Cham.
Gobi reminds me of Saw Gerrera in that he wants to fight without too much thought of the consequences. However, Gobi’s tactics are more aggressive than Cham’s, and Cham has a family to think about. Cham is more like Mon Mothma, willing to fight only when absolutely necessary but advocating for peace.
There are so many character paths converging in The Bad Batch that will eventually lead to Rebels, Rogue One, The Mandalorian, and the War of the Bounty Hunters crossover story by Marvel. Star Wars canon has taken a beating over the years, and maybe some of that is deserved. However, I love the way stories and characters have been coming together in recent months.
The boundary between The Bad Batch and The Clone Wars is becoming increasingly blurred. Even when discussing this episode amongst friends, I would call this The Clone Wars, so I can’t fault casual fans for making the same mixup.
Part of me doesn’t want to speculate too much on Devil’s Deal only because I want to see where it leads. However, I genuinely believe Devil’s Deal will be revisited several times in the near future. I was surprised to see Hera and Chopper but also a little perplexed. I had simultaneous thoughts of “Hera!” and “what is she doing here?” Speaking of Chopper, it was cool to see him but he didn’t do much, but something tells me we’ll see Hera and Chopper again before the season’s done.
I’m going to stop there. I feel I could go on about half the night talking about this episode, but my thoughts are still a little scrabbled even after watching it a few times. I’m really intrigued by Hera’s appearance and what this could possibly mean for The Bad Batch later on. Keep in mind, in just a few short years after the events in The Bad Batch, prologues for Rogue One and Solo: A Star Wars Story happen.
Mark Mulcaster and Mark Newbold discuss Devil’s Deal on Episode 99 of Making Tracks
- Hardcover Book
- Horton, Cole (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 256 Pages - 10/05/2021 (Publication Date) - DK (Publisher)