How The Bad Batch changed the way I watch Star Wars in about 30 seconds
Another May 4th has come and gone, and new Star Wars content is here: The Bad Batch, baby! First introduced last year in The Clone Wars Season 7, the Bad Batch is a squad of modified clones who don’t follow orders but god damn it, they get the job done, Chief, so either fire them or quit busting their asses! They do this all while cosplaying as John Rambo, Clint Eastwood, DC’s Cyborg, Marvel’s Drax the Destroyer, and British. This show follows the team after the Clone Wars and the 70-minute premiere, “Aftermath,” absolutely fucks. Like any good entry, it adds new context to the established world of Star Wars and, if you choose to accept it, completely retcons what you knew before. When I say “should you choose to accept it, I am not talking about the Caleb Dume retcon, which I learned about from Joshua Johnson (macearrrwindu on Tik Tok) as I started writing this, but I do acknowledge the disappointment that he and other Caleb/Kanan fans feel. What I am here to talk about today is Supreme Chancellor Sheev Palpatine’s declaration of the Empire and what its appearance in The Bad Batch really means, because it is wild.
Like other pieces of Star Wars media in the last few years, The Bad Batch’s premiere is very interested in seeing other perspectives on major events in the films: Battlefront 2 has an Imperial Special Forces team on Endor watch Death Star II explode while both Jedi: Fallen Order and Clone Wars’ final episodes show how Order 66 went for those who actually survived. Throughout the episode, the Bad Batch receives new information as the events of Revenge of the Sith play out offscreen: they receive word that Obi-Wan Kenobi is facing General Grievous shortly before Order 66 is enacted, they later learn that the war has officially ended, and then they watch as Sheev Palpatine announces the Empire. In about 30 seconds, the show implies some insane, but not out of character, details about who Sheev is.
Let’s break this down, shall we? The original scene of Supreme Chancellor Sheev declaring the formation of the Empire features a musical track titled “Rise of the Empire,” and plays as the sequence intercuts the declaration with the Jedi investigating the Temple and Anakin committing hella war crimes. It’s an epic and despairing piece that highlights the darkness that is covering the Star Wars world, but it does not appear in “Aftermath.” The scene in “Aftermath” does not cut away to show what’s happening elsewhere, so the music that plays for most of the speech is just some typical eerie bullshit to set the dark tone. The part of this scene that matters is the last 30-ish seconds when Sheev says the word “empire” and the classic “Imperial March” starts blasting. It’s unclear which type of sound this music is but I choose to believe it’s diegetic and I’ll tell you why.
Why would the “Imperial March” be diegetic sound?
For the layman, the diegetic sound is what you hear from the world of the movie, such as a sneeze or the scene in Return of the Jedi: Special Edition when they sing “Jedi Rocks” and we have to see the inside of that weird fuzzy fuck Joh Yowza’s mouth. My first reason for believing that the music is diegetic is because in Rebels and Solo, it’s established that the Empire does in fact use the “Imperial March” leitmotif in their propaganda. In the scene in “Aftermath,” the clones get fucking pumped for the incoming fascism, and while the team has spent the last three minutes discussing the clones’ behavioral programming that makes them completely on board with anything Sheev wants, the “Imperial March” echoing through the chamber has that extra kick. That’s why so much propaganda features great music; if you’re not careful, it can draw you in.
My second reason for believing that it’s diegetic sound is because it fits Sheev Palpatine’s character perfectly and I mean PERFECTLY. The man loves being evil so much that he giggles with glee any time he gets to fuck somebody up. The thought of being murdered in order to make someone else evil makes him rock hard. He’s a diva who plans so far ahead that he began building two armies, the Death Star, and a secret fleet of Death Star ships years before he needed to use any of them. He’s such a fucking theater kid that he stayed in character for half of his political career and then announced a new form of government like it was his big moment on opening night. You don’t think he would have had the “Imperial March” cued up for exactly this moment like god damned Megamind?
Am I wrong?
An argument could be made that my claim is false because during the original scene in Revenge of the Sith, the “Imperial March” doesn’t play. I would argue that we did not hear it because it was important for the audience to hear “Rise of the Empire,” which helps connect the three scenes that are playing out. Even if there was no music playing in the senate chamber, however, the “Imperial March” could still be playing over the loudspeakers on Kamino to pump up the troops. But of course, because Sheev is an evil diva who plans insanely far ahead, the “Imperial March” was definitely written beforehand and was played as part of the presentation for everyone watching to hear.
What it means
So what does this mean for the larger story of Star Wars? It means that while Sheev was plotting to assassinate politicians, start a war, commit genocide, build a secret space station, and overthrow a government from the inside, he was also producing theme music. There were nights where he worked late trying to figure out how he wanted it to sound. He probably bounced his ideas off of his advisors, especially that blue one with the staff, Vice-Chair of the Senate/Grand Vizier Mas Amedda. Even Count Dooku must have had a part in it considering his role as Sheev’s number two and how close the time of his death was to the time of the declaration. They had to secretly hire musicians to compose and record this music for them, which had to involve either paying them enough to keep quiet about it, or murdering them immediately after finishing the song, or Dooku had to be the middle man using his codename “Tyrannus,” like he did when recruiting Jango Fett. I think that’s the most likely option, personally.
It also means that in order for the song to play, it had to be sent to the C-SPAN team that broadcasts the Senate hearings. Mas Amedda probably had to walk into the booth, hand the A/V team a mixtape, and say “Play Track 66 as soon as he says ‘Empire,’” to which they probably asked when that will be and Mas replied “I don’t fucking know, man, you know how he is. Just play it when he says ‘Empire’ or we will literally be murdered.” The movie doesn’t show it, but you just know that Mas Amedda breathed a huge sigh of relief when the music played at the right moment. He and Sheev definitely celebrated and high-fived over it when they got back to the office.
While some retcons from the Disney era of Star Wars are disappointing and some might be egregious (see: The Rise of Skywalker), some are just unintentionally incredible. What we’ve been able to learn about Emperor Palpatine is amazing and it should have been totally obvious before. Whether it was intended as diegetic or not, the music passes as a part of the world and if you accept it as such, you get all those juicy character details about our favorite evil space prune. Personally, I think it’s delightful and I hope The Bad Batch continues to show events and character actions that unintentionally change the way we view the world of Star Wars.