Warning: This review contains major spoilers for Star Wars: The Bad Batch Season 1 Episode 3
Things get dark in Star Wars: The Bad Batch episode 3 – and that's not just because Clone Force 99 gets stranded on the dark side of a moon.
“Replacements” is a short, tight episode that feels like the series shifting into a less outright kid-friendly tone. That's largely due to one of its two main plot points: the Empire is moving away from cloned soldiers, whose allegiance is forced upon them, to recruiting people whose allegiance must be learned. Crosshair is still the subject of tests to increase the strength of his inhibitor chip, the results of which give us the darkest scene we've seen in the series yet, and one of the darkest in Star Wars, period.
But first, our batch of dads and their foster kid Omega are kicked out of lightspeed by their shambling ship and crash land on a moon. They've got to replace a power capacitor in order to get the ship running again, so Tech and Echo don rebreathers and head out to do the work. What follows is an almost bang-on recreation of the asteroid scene in The Empire Strikes Back, as the show gives us a fun little horror moment that looks and sounds spectacular. A beast crawls across the hull of the ship, leaving deep lacerations in the metal and making off with the power capacitor. Hunter and Omega track it, while simultaneously, on Alderaan, Crosshair and the new recruits under his tutelage track Saw Gerrera.
Omega finding a place with Clone Force 99 and Crosshair being forced into a leadership position with the Empire is beautifully contrasted and emotionally intense. Omega manages to get the power capacitor back from the Moon Dragon by observing and understanding it and never uses the blaster she takes off of Hunter, who temporarily loses his rebreather and faints. This successful solo mission wins her Hunter's approval (again) and gets her an official room aboard their ship – the first real room she's ever had.
Conversely, Crosshair's new recruits (an interesting attempt at diversity that always comes off a bit weird when they're working for the bad guys) follow him to Alderaan and refuse to kill civilians, just like Clone Force 99 did during the premiere. The Empire is going to have a hard time finding loyal soldiers when they could just make them.
Now fully loyal to the Empire, Crosshair's grim execution of the resisting trooper and the surviving civilians is a stark, dark, parallel to Omega's plotline. It’s a genuinely chilling scene. In particular, the small bloom of fire flickering on the end of a flamethrower is incredibly realistic and horrifically sinister, and moments later the camera pans away from the flamethrower as it's clearly used against innocent people. Where The Bad Batch is pulling Omega out of the dark and into the light (quite literally, as the final scene shows her climbing into her new 'room' lovingly created by Wrecker), Crosshair descends deeper into the depths of villainy.
Bad Batch episode 3 continues what seems to be the series' trend of well-written, beautifully directed drama that feels more succinct than its animated predecessors. “Replacements” may have a much more adult tone than the previous episodes, but it's clear that the showrunners are deftly threading a concise story throughout. Once again, it all comes down to Omega, who, if the Kaminoan are to be believed, is in danger of being ripped from her chosen family sometime soon.
The Bad Batch episode 4 debuts May 21 on Disney Plus.