For the story of Star Wars to work, we have to believe that the Empire was good at taking control. But the more Lucasfilm digs into the previously unexplored era between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, the more we have to wonder if Emperor Palpatine’s plan for domination was any good at all — or if he just got lucky.
Lucasfilm’s latest animated series, The Bad Batch, is digging into the very thorny— and sometimes unconvincing — logistics of how the Empire managed to become the dominant government in the galaxy. And the show’s latest episode may finally reveal an answer that fans have been waiting for since 1977.
In Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine may have talked a big game about how the Republic would be “reorganized into the first Galactic Empire,” but how that actually went down reveals something that’s always been a bit confusing about Star Wars lore. Why would people support the Empire at all?
In the first part of The Bad Batch finale, we get a big clue as to why certain people who worked for the Republic were totally fine with working for the Empire. And it’s not all about good and evil. Warning! Spoilers ahead for The Bad Batch Season 1, Episode 15, “Finale Part 1.”
In A New Hope, Luke Skywalker was pretty apathetic about the morals of supporting the Empire. In fact, he was so apathetic about it he was looking forward to going to the Imperial Academy to learn how to be a better pilot.
“It’s not like I like the Empire, I hate it,” Luke whined to Obi-Wan. “There’s just nothing I can do about it right now.”
Since the dawn of Star Wars, the idea that good people — like Han Solo and Luke Skywalker — not only tolerated the Empire but actively wanted to be part of it, is strange. The Empire is coded as the Nazis of a galaxy far, far away. The Rebels are obviously righteous in wanting to take them down.
As Obi-Wan says in Revenge of the Sith, clearly, “Chancellor Palpatine is evil!” The audience knows this. Obi-Wan knows this. But why don’t the citizens of the galaxy know this? Has everyone just been pressured against their will?
How Palpatine rose to power in Star Wars
If you only watch the Star Wars films, the general feeling you get is that Palpatine tricked everyone into believing the Jedi were evil and only he could end the Galactic Civil War. Generally speaking, large groups of civilians dislike constant war, both in fictional galaxies and real ones. With this in mind, it’s easy to imagine why non-military folks in the sprawling Old Republic could be convinced that their old government did a bad job at keeping them safe. If you weren’t aware the Clone War were orchestrated by Palpatine, you’d be pretty excited about the fact he was able to end it.
This idea — that when fascism takes over, it's often presented as a positive thing for the greater good — may be George Lucas’s greatest contribution to the discourse.
In the book The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, Natalie Portman echoes the sentiments of her character Padmé Amidala, saying:
“Some people think bad people were always bad. They had this tendency toward aggression and control and power from the beginning. I think the most interesting thing about George’s theory of morality is that evil comes out of a good intention from a good person.”
Why Crosshair’s Bad Batch confession matters
On a big, political scale, all of this is meaty stuff. But what the latest Bad Batch episode does it prove how it plays out on an individual level.
After an entire season of Crosshair chasing his former squad members, they’re finally face-to-face again. Hunter assumes Crosshair is only behaving with loyalty to the Empire because of his inhibitor chip, the same chip that made the “regular” clones carry out Order 66. But Crosshair’s confession contradicts this assumption big time.
Although he’s super misguided, Crosshair believes that if his buddies “join the Empire, you will have purpose again.” It might seem like he’s just a terrible person — and the victim of mind control — but in the same episode, Crosshair reveals that he had his inhibitor chip removed, meaning his pro-Empire stance comes from free will. When Hunter asks him when he got his inhibitor chip removed, Crosshair replies, “Does it matter?”
This is the key detail missing from so much of what we assumed about how the Empire took over. Yes, The Bad Batch has gone out of its way to paint a huge majority of clones as victims, but the idea that some clones like Crosshair actually did want to go along with the Empire is not only realistic but representative of a larger point.
Clones like Hunter and Crosshair have way more in common with Han Solo in Solo and Luke Skywalker in A New Hope than we probably want to admit. At this point in their respective stories, none of these people are aware that Palpatine is a Sith Lord. For the most part, they’re operating out of desperation.
The reason why Crosshair wants to serve the Empire is the same reason Luke wants to join the Imperial Academy. Everyone is compromising to make the best of a bad situation and simultaneously find purpose in their life.
If Crosshair ends up turning on the Empire in The Bad Batch finale, it will be a classic Star Wars redemption in the tradition of Darth Vader and Ben Solo. But even if he doesn’t, his loyalty to the Empire at this point in the story is hyper-realistic.
Liberty doesn’t die because people love dictators like Palpatine, sometimes, they’re just trying to keep their jobs.
The second part of The Bad Batch finale airs on Disney+ on Friday, August 13.