'Star Wars: The Bad Batch' season 3 finally gives us good Star Wars TV again

Emperor Palpatine in "Star Wars: The Bad Batch" season 3
(Image credit: Disney)

"Star Wars: The Bad Batch" kicked off season 3 — its final season — with a three-episode drop on Disney Plus last Wednesday (Feb. 21). Between the positive response to season 1 and season 2 as well as a bit of a rough patch for Star Wars following the disappointment of "Ahsoka," this show was one I was eagerly anticipating. Especially after seeing Asajj Ventress (Nika Futterman) return in the trailer of the final season.

While Ventress hasn't shown up (yet), I'm pleased to report that yes, Star Wars has returned to form. While by no means a perfect first three episodes, the beginning of season 3 has been the first good Star Wars TV we've gotten since ... well, possibly since the end of season 2.

There are a few reasons that the first three episodes start so strong, including a compelling villain in Doctor Hemlock (Jimmi Simpson), the director of the Emperor's secret Imperial Advanced Science Division. But the biggest reason I've loved it so far is because it feels reminiscent of the best Star Wars TV show ever made.

An image indicating spoilers are ahead.

(Image credit: Future)

Spoilers for "Star Wars: The Bad Batch" follow

Season 3 is more 'Andor' than 'The Mandalorian'

While "The Mandalorian" started strong, season 3 was a relatively poor showing. And given Dave Filoni is still involved in "The Bad Batch," it'd be reasonable to be concerned about season 3.

But it's not "The Mandalorian" this show is channeling — it's "Andor." Yes, there's some camp in the trailer, which screams action-filled epic, but this show doesn't start with action or camp. In fact, the entire first episode "Confined" takes place within the confines of Mount Tantiss, the Empire's secret research facility, where Omega (Michelle Ang) is kept prisoner by Doctor Hemlock.

The score sets the tone for much of this episode. It's equal parts foreboding, dark, and sinister and frankly leaves you feeling Omega's hopelessness. Omega is stuck here against her will, dealing with a proverbial sword of Damocles hanging over her head as she pines for escape before Hemlock can enact whatever evil he's been planning.

Her closest things to friends around her aren't inspiring confidence either. Her creator Nala Se (Gwendoline Yeo) is destroying evidence that Omega is the key to Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) and Hemlock's sinister plan, staving off the inevitable. Meanwhile, Crosshair (Dee Bradley Baker), a member of Clone Force 99 (the titular Bad Batch) is simply awaiting the inevitable in an actual prison cell within Mount Tantiss and Emerie Karr (Keisha Castle-Hughes), a fellow female clone and the closest thing that Omega has to a biological sister, is actively keeping Omega imprisoned.

In short, things are bleak for the first three episodes in a way that is very reminiscent of the Narkina 5 storyline of "Andor" first season (episodes 8-10). In fact, Mount Tantiss could easily stand in for Cassian Andor's underwater prison. Episode 2 is an interlude that has us following Hunter and Wrecker of the Bad Batch (both voiced by Dee Bradley Baker) that honestly took me out of the show a bit, but episodes 1 and 3 feel like they could have been written by 'Andor" writer Beau Willimon.

Hemlock is a compelling villain

Doctor Hemlock and two clone commandos in "Star Wars: The Bad Batch" season 3.

(Image credit: Disney)

As I mentioned earlier, I'm loving Hemlock as a villain. The guy is pure mad scientist but not in a deranged way — rather, he's cold and calculating. 

Still, there's no denying his evil. In one scene, he abandon's his soldiers to the forest rather than risk resources to save them. In another, he tells Omega she's cruel for freeing a wounded animal that will undoubtedly die in the harsh wilderness.

And when he interacts with the Emperor, it's clear that not only does he believe in the Emperor's cause but that he views the Sith Lord's goals and his to be on the same track. He's also a bit power hungry, a trait Palpatine seems to admire. 

You know you're the bad guy when the Sith Lord admires you.

'Star Wars: The Bad Batch' feels determined to correct the mistakes of Star Wars past

By the end of episode 3, we learn that the project Hemlock is working on is Project Necromancer. If that sounds familiar to you, it should. It gets mentioned in season 3 of "The Mandalorian" and ultimately results in Palpatine's resurrection in "The Rise of Skywalker."

Connecting this show to what may be the worst Star Wars movie of all time is an intentional choice, and it feels like one aimed at righting the wrongs of that movie. By making the Omega and the Bad Batch part of its story, the show not only can give legitimacy to the awful sequel trilogy movie, but also to the disappointing ending of "The Mandalorian" season 3. After all, if you become invested in that storyline here, maybe you forgive its inclusion in the properties that take place after this show.

While I won't complain if "The Bad Batch" does manage to make the sequel trilogy matter and wash out the bad taste of recent Star Wars TV shows and movies, ultimately, I just hope it's good in its own right. With just 12 episodes left to leave its mark, I'm hopeful that these first three episodes and its overall track record are signs that we'll finally get a satisfying end to a Star Wars story for the first time since long, long ago.

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Malcolm McMillan
Senior Streaming Writer

Malcolm McMillan is a senior writer for Tom's Guide, covering all the latest in streaming TV shows and movies. That means news, analysis, recommendations, reviews and more for just about anything you can watch, including sports! If it can be seen on a screen, he can write about it. Previously, Malcolm had been a staff writer for Tom's Guide for over a year, with a focus on artificial intelligence (AI), A/V tech and VR headsets.

Before writing for Tom's Guide, Malcolm worked as a fantasy football analyst writing for several sites and also had a brief stint working for Microsoft selling laptops, Xbox products and even the ill-fated Windows phone. He is passionate about video games and sports, though both cause him to yell at the TV frequently. He proudly sports many tattoos, including an Arsenal tattoo, in honor of the team that causes him to yell at the TV the most.

  • Malvenue
    Dave Filoni is THE BEST thing that's happened to Star Wars since Empire Strikes Back. I suspect the article author has never seen any of the animated series after the original Clone Wars.