The galaxy’s greatest evil had to start somewhere. In Star Wars: The Bad Batch, we’re witnessing the Empire’s infancy, and with it, some less-than-glamorous growing pains.
As the Empire irons out its infrastructure planning, chain codes are being implemented across the galaxy, while Wilhuff Tarkin — not yet a Grand Moff — informs the Kaminoans that maintaining a clone army is not a viable option for the Empire. But was the decision to move away from clones purely a money issue, or something more?
A recent fan theory circulated by Redditor u/CrinerBoyz suggests part of the reason the Empire turned to a conscripted army was another economic factor — the galaxy’s job market. Ask any politician, and they’ll tell you the key to a healthy economy is a robust employment rate. Providing stable jobs, perhaps within an army tasked to oversee the entire galaxy, would be one way to send employment soaring.
In The Bad Batch Episode 3, the Elite Squad Trooper known only as ES-01 tells his teammates why he prefers the Empire to the Republic.
“With the Empire, I get paid, I get fed, and I have a roof over my head,” he says. “That's more than the Republic ever did for me.”
Yes: when you join the Empire, you have to give up your name, your history, and the rest of your personality. But all your basic needs are accounted for, and steady work provides plenty of opportunities to improve your circumstances. It’s not a perfect analogy, but consider why thousands of young American adults join the military, many of them going on to attend college and land higher-paying jobs.
ES-01, despite expressing a positive outlook on his new career path, is seen to have kept his own moral compass somewhat intact. This is ultimately his downfall. When ES-01 refuses to kill civilians on a mission to hunt down Saw Gerrera, the treacherous Crosshair takes matters into his own hands and executes the trooper. Joining up with the Empire, despite its benefits, carries a high amount of risk, as ES-01 discovered too late.
Outfitting any army with personally motivated soldiers comes with its fair share of advantages. Clone troopers were built to obey, but they didn’t have much to fight for outside of serving those who commanded them. Conscripted soldiers bring into battle more personal histories, from families and friends to upbringings on homeworlds they hope to one day return to. That kind of humane context can be more motivating than any order from Emperor Palpatine, though it also leads to moments of compassion Crosshair can’t comprehend.
The Bad Batch is already providing plenty of insights into the stormtroopers we typically enounter as more faceless and anonymized entities throughout Star Wars. But behind every helmet, at least at this point in the series, is a person who wanted a better life for themselves, defending something they may or may not believe in. Stormtroopers, in other words, are people too. Hopefully, The Bad Batch will continue to put their humanity front and center.
The Bad Batch is now streaming on Disney+.