If you’re still very curious how the Clone Army of the Republic evolved into the mostly all-human Stormtroopers of the Galactic Empire, don’t worry: The Bad Batch is fully dedicated to splitting all these genetically duplicated Jango Fett hairs.
In the third episode of The Bad Batch — “Replacements” — the story digs deeper into this moment of transition for the Empire, and in doing so, seems to introduce another variant of stormtrooper; the apparent prototype for the Death troopers, first glimpsed in Rogue One.
Here’s how the latest layer of stormtrooper-gate in Bad Batch recontextualizes Rogue One and the rest of the saga. Spoilers ahead for The Bad Batch Episode 3, “Replacements.”
Although the debut episode of The Bad Batch seemed to float an economic explanation for the switch from clones to human recruits, the third episode digs into this question even deeper. When an Imperial Vice Admiral named Rampart shows up on Kamino, he brings with him four new recruits. Rampart calls these people “Our first elite squad,” and pitches the idea of having an army of human troopers trained by really good clones.
After turning his back on the Batch, Crosshair is selected as the best person to command the new group of recruits, while Tarkin and Rampart chat about the idea of having a mixed army consisting of both clones and recruited/conscripted soldiers. But, the interesting twist is the way this new “elite squad” is dressed. In many ways, these troopers look like the Death troopers, first introduced in Rogue One.
Since 2016, Star Wars fans have wondered how to account for the existence of Death troopers in the overall canon. Obviously, we don’t really see these elite soldiers in the classic trilogy because they were invented for Rogue One. After that film, we see them pop up in Star Wars Rebels, and in The Mandalorian Season 1. Prior to The Bad Batch, Star Wars canon seemed to indicate that the Death troopers were created by Palpatine himself. However, most of the Death trooper “origin” comes from a now-defunct mobile game called Star Wars: Commander. There’s also an in-canon Star Wars comic (Darth Vader Annual #2) that pairs Death troopers with Darth Vader, taking place about 18 BBY.
In theory, however, the events of The Bad Batch happen in 19 BBY, a year before Darth Vader Annual #2, meaning, in all likelihood, we are currently witnessing the birth of Death troopers right alongside the invention of stormtroopers.
So, to be clear, the charcoal black uniforms of the new “elite” troopers in Bad Batch aren’t an exact match for the Death Troopers in Rogue One, and the helmets are a little different. Still, it feels very pointed that their uniforms are not white like regular clones and/or stormtroopers. Assuming that the new troopers from Bad Batch are the first group that will eventually become Death troopers, then there’s an obvious next question. Could Crosshair – formerly of Clone Force 99 — actually be present for the events of Rogue One?
At first glance, it doesn’t add up: Crosshair would be way too old for Rogue One, which happens literally in the same year as A New Hope. But Rogue One also contains a prologue that happens 15 years before the events of the rest of the movie (15 BBY), which puts it roughly 4 years after the events of Revenge of the Sith. Because Bad Batch happens right after Sith, that also puts it about 3-4 years before this Rogue One prologue.
Could Crosshair have stayed with his elite troopers long enough to go with Krennic to hassle Galen Erso? It all kind of depends on what happens with Crosshair throughout the rest of The Bad Batch. But even if he doesn’t stick with the Empire by the end of the series, the origin of both the Death troopers and the stormtroopers is well underway. The Bad Batch is ostensibly telling the story of Clone Force 99 on the run with their foster child, Omega. But, it’s also explaining exactly how the Empire got all of its muscle, one trooper at a time.