Can you make a Star Wars story without Jedi?
Minor spoilers for the first episode of The Bad Batch ahead.
Years ago I asked this question on Facebook after watching the first episode of Rebels: Can you do a Star Wars story without a Jedi? I was upset at the time when a show about the Rebel Alliance ended up in a Jedi character, making him the master of our new force-sensitive lead character, Ezra Bridger. I received a number of replies that said, "No, the Jedi are an integral part of the franchise, it's not Star Wars without a Jedi." However, in the past few years we've seen Rogue One and Solo, and now we've seen the new animated show The Bad Batch, yet another test of the premise of Star Wars without a Jedi.
So there's a certain technical peculiarity here: the show begins with the instigation of Order 66, in which the newly appointed Emperor Palpatine orders the Republic's clone army to exterminate every Jedi they see. This was originally depicted in Revenge of the Sith, but gained new meaning when the Clone Wars cartoon debuted as the clones were more featured and given different personalities. They became humans instead of background props; People who felt and cared about things ... including the Jedi.
This was one of the Clone Wars show's strengths, as the cartoon worked out things that barely had any screen time, like Obi-Wan's and Anakin's relationship. This character development and that of the clones gave Revenge of the Sith a new horror that hurts even more if you know the background story. (Without that, it's a downright mediocre movie, even though I like it.)
But we've never seen the Command 66 clones perspective. They bonded with the Jedi during the Separatist War, and now their internal programming is telling them to murder these comrades at guns. While the rebels were showing us some former clone troops, they had been "deactivated" and were therefore not affected by the order. The Bad Batch is the story of five "broken clones" who were on the ground at the time, watching their Jedi comrades murdered ... and becoming very confused as a result.
Tech, Echo, Hunter, Wrecker and Crosshair
After the initial circumstances of the opening, the episode is a glimpse into the lives of the soldiers when Clone Force 99 returns to Kamino and now has to deal with the consequences of the dissolution of the republic by Palpatine. If you've ever wondered how things actually went back then, this is a pretty decent look at republic to empire sales and how ordinary citizens felt about it. But while it actually explores a pivotal point in Star Wars history, no Jedi are seen after the opening sequence. What Makes It a Star Wars Story?
While the Jedi are certainly a distinctive and instantly recognizable feature of the universe, and the saga films revolved around a Jedi family, one of the other defining features of the Star Wars universe has always been its very detailed make-up of the world. That casual bar bounty hunter or that haughty Senate dignitary? They have names and background stories. These back stories were filled in not only on screen but in shows, novels, and comics as well.
Yes, the reason for this level of detail was merchandising: it's easier to sell an action figure when the character has a name. But it was branded into the franchise almost from the start, so I'd say it's as much of Star Wars' DNA as the Jedi. There are so many interesting fantasy ideas floating around the universe and so much Star Wars media outlets have focused on showing you as much as possible. Even Bad Batch delves into the story, with some of the fan-favorite characters appearing, referencing some of the events depicted in Clone Wars. The show even starts off with the same old newsreel voice that recounts for us the events of the last season of Clone Wars and parts of Revenge of the Sith.
So far, it's probably fair to say that Bad Batch is really just another season of Clone Wars that takes the bold step of getting past the Jedi and exploring other aspects of the universe. The main character of The Mandalorian may not be a Jedi, but in the end the show is still about the Jedi. When naming the show The Bad Batch, the focus seems to remain firmly on the clones. There will still be a lot of blasters and starfighters and crazy aliens around. And most importantly, it will tell us what happened in the time when the Jedi were in decline. The final piece still makes it an integral part of the Star Wars universe, whether or not someone is wearing a lightsaber.
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