What's the weirdest thing about Star Wars? In a list that includes Jar Jar Binks, potential Luke-Leia incest, and Dexter Jettser, it's bold to award that honor to the sympathy we feel for the rank-and-file troopers of Clone Wars. That said, it's certainly strange that these carbon-copy fellows can inspire so much sympathy.
With the debut of The Clone Wars Season 7 on Disney+, we are once again asked to worry about a group of identical dudes who will eventually murder the Jedi. In "The Bad Batch," not only are we introduced to a bunch of new Clones, but also reunited with some familiar figures.
Here's the rub: There's really only one guy we should care about.
Spoilers ahead for Clone Wars Season 7.
In "The Bad Batch," Captain Rex and Commander Cody team up with some badass Clones to figure out why the Separatists seem to be one step ahead of them. The subplot centers on Rex missing one of his old comrades named Echo. Before they head out, Rex looks wistfully at a photo and recalls leaving Echo behind. Commander Cody then tells Rex to move out. (You may remember him as the Clone assigned to Obi-Wan in Revenge of the Sith. He's the guy who gives Obi-Wan his lightsaber back on the planet Utapau, and tries to kill him three seconds later when Order 66 comes through.)
The point is, even though all these guys look the same and are mostly distinguished by different hairstyles or dominant personality traits, we're constantly reminded they're literal clones of Jango Fett. Voice actor Dee Bradley Baker does an amazing job of giving the Clones specific personalities, which is even more impressive with the diverse group in the Bad Batch. Still, at the end of the day, the varying personalities of Clone Wars are a retcon. Any depth comes not from the films, but only from The Clone Wars cartoon.
This is why Rex is the only guy you should care about in The Clone Wars Season 7. Other than Ahsoka, he's literally the only person here who has an arc that we don't already understand completely. Seeing Anakin and Obi-Wan again is great, but we know how their stories play out. Rex isn't like that. Unlike nearly all the other Clones, Rex did not succumb to Order 66. He was much older and ended up joining the Rebellion instead.
In the Rebels episode, "The Lost Commanders," we met an older Rex, Gregor, and Wolffe, all Clones who managed to avoid their original programming and remain good guys. At this point in Clone Wars Season 7, that future is still a long way off for Rex. The story of this season isn't just connecting the dots between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, it's also about establishing how and why Rex got away during Order 66, and what that experience did to him.
As the final moments of "The Bad Batch" prove, Rex is a Clone Trooper who cares deeply for the other Clones he served with. Right at the end of the episode, Rex learns that Echo, that old friend he mourned earlier, is actually alive. Now, he's motivated to rescue him.
Star Wars isn't a sci-fi franchise known for its nuance. It tends to attack themes in broad strokes, and even when there are some shades of grey, its a rare thing. (Like the best moments of The Last Jedi.) But by focusing on Rex, The Clone Wars Season 7 does something Star Wars has never really tried before.
Here's a person who is exactly the same as every single guy responsible for slaughtering the Jedi. Yet, he's worried about his friend, and we're worried about them both. Rex's compassion and destiny as a clone who rebels against the Empire set him apart. Watching his story unfold just be interesting, it could also be deeply profound.
If we watch The Clone Wars as Rex's show, then it's almost like Star Wars is subverting its own tropes. The title Attack of the Clones was meant to evoke two-dimensional pulpy stories for yesteryear, but if The Clone Wars Season 7 stays on its present course, it's going to end up being the antithesis of cheesy.
New episodes of Clone Wars Season 7 hit Disney+ each Friday.