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Star Wars: The Clone Wars Final Season Episode 1 Explained

Contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Clone Wars season 7, episode 1 "The Bad Batch"

The time has finally come: Star Wars: The Clone Wars is back on our screens, taking its final turn on Disney+ after spending nearly six years in the dark. Following the cancellation that cut The Clone Wars off after an abbreviated season 6 that ended in March 2014, the George Lucas-created, Dave Filoni-developed show has emerged from the grave for a 12-episode revival

The first installment of The Clone Wars' seventh and final season dropped on Disney+ on Friday, February 21 against a thick hum of excitement from fans, who banded together create a #SaveTheCloneWars campaign that ultimately led to the series' second life. Entitled "The Bad Batch," the episode opens with an epigraph that reads, "Embrace others for their differences, for that makes you whole." 

It's then revealed that the rocky planet of Anaxes, which holds Republic shipyards, is under attack from Admiral Trench's (Dee Bradley Baker) Separatist Forces. A massive tarantula-like being with cybernetic enhancements, Admiral Trench and his forces face the "two-pronged assault" that Mace Windu (Terrence Carson) and Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter) lead on the ground and in the air. But after weeks of battling, the Republic's strength begins to fade.  

This sets up the storyline for "The Bad Batch," which features an interesting twist and a jaw-dropping revelation. Here's the first episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars' final season explained.

Captain Rex's theory on the Republic's numerous losses on Anaxes

In efforts to break up their string of losses, the Republic forces take a moment to evaluate their past mistakes and come up with a new strategy. A major reason why Admiral Trench's Separatist baddies continue to pummel the Republic's Clone army is down to Captain Rex (Dee Bradley Baker), a skilled clone trooper working as Anakin Skywalker's Captain alongside Commander Cody (also Baker). Enemy forces are consistently outsmarting Rex's plans, leaving the Clones vulnerable to droid attacks the more they use a certain tactic. 

Speaking with Mace and Anakin, Rex theorizes that the Separatists are using analytics to predict the Clones' strategy, and because their counterattacks are so specific, they must know Rex's playbook. But that's only part of Rex's theory as to why the Republic is losing. As he tells Cody immediately after their meeting with the Generals, Rex believes his fallen friend Echo is behind all of this.

"I didn't tell the Generals. They might think I'm crazy. In fact, you might think I'm crazy. I think Echo is alive," Captain Rex tells Commander Cody, who says that it's impossible for Echo to be alive given that he died at the Citadel on Lola Sayu when trying to secure transport and escape enemy forces. (As a reminder, this happened on Star Wars: The Clone Wars season 3, during the 2011 episode "Counterattack.")

Captain Rex continues on nonetheless, explaining that the way the droids are countering the Republic on Anaxes implies they know his strategies, which are all battle plans that he and Echo drew up together. Though Commander Cody is firm in his belief that it's impossible Echo is alive, Rex says that "Echo's fingerprints are all over" the Separatist strategies. He posits that Echo has been brainwashed in some way, forced to hand over to the Separatists every move the Clones would make. 

Assembling the Bad Batch and finding out the truth

From there, Rex and Cody round up a small crew of Clones to lead to the Separatist Cyber Center and discover the truth behind the situation. The group is Clone Force 99, better known as "the Bad Batch," a foursome of mutant clone troopers comprised of Crosshair, Hunter, Tech, and Wrecker (all voiced by Baker). They each have their own quirks — Crosshair isn't "much of a conversationalist" but is an expert marksman, while Tech could talk someone's ear off about random facts — and form a tense dynamic with Captain Rex and Commander Cody, whom they call "regs."

The usual action and intensity ensues as Rex, Cody, and the Bad Batch face off against a pack of battle droids and a sea of creepy-crawling robo-spiders, which leaves Cody wounded. When that fight is over and a minor spat is had in the aftermath, the crew agrees to follow Captain Rex's plan to infiltrate the Cyber Center. They soon take hold of an outpost near the Cyber Center, blasting Separatist droids left and right as the background music swells. Admiral Trench states that the Clones must "know about the algorithm" since there's no clear advantage to seizing the outpost. 

After Tech and Rex make their way into a hub of the outpost, Tech taps into the Separatists' computers and analyzes its data per Rex's instructions. He locates the particular program Rex mentions — which turns out to not be a program at all, but instead a live signal originating from Skako Minor, a planet controlled by the Techno Union. An analysis of the audio transmission uncovers a shocking truth: the individual who send it bears the operating number CT-1409 — Echo's number.

The closing moments of Star Wars: The Clone Wars season 7, episode 1 double down on what's going on: Echo is alive, and has indeed been relaying the Clones' tactics to the Separatists. 

Who is Echo in Star Wars: The Clone Wars?

Clearly, the biggest aspect of The Clone Wars' final season premiere that needs unpacking regards Echo and who he is.

Nicknamed for his ability to follow orders so well it seemed like he was echoing words through actions, Echo was a member of the Domino Squad — a clone trooper cadet unit led by Commanding Officer Hevy and including fellow Clones Cutup, Droidbait, and the much-loved Fives. Stationed on Kamino, where they completed their Citadel Challenge to graduate into the Grand Army of the Republic, the Domino Squad faced tragedy when they moved to Rishi Station and were tasked, along with Captain Rex, with protecting the Rishi moon base. Separatists struck down on them, killing the majority of the squad. Only Echo and Fives remained of the Domino Squad, and the two went on to join the 501st Legion after Jedi Generals Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker commended them for their bravery and promoted them to the rank of ARC trooper.

On the Clone Wars season 3 episode "Counterattack," Echo and his 501st Legion teammates ventured to Lola Sayu in efforts to rescue Jedi Master Even Piell (Blair Bess) from prison in the Citadel and obtain from him coordinates to the Nexus hyperspace route. Piell died in the midst of the chaos, and while attempting to escape after the mission was deemed successful, Echo seemingly died as well.

The Clone Wars' season 7 premiere doesn't reveal exactly how the Separatists turned Echo to the dark side, but some fans may already know how this particular arc could play out. Four unfinished Clone Wars episodes surfaced online many years ago, and they're still available to watch today. The episodes make up — wait for it — the "Bad Batch" arc, and one installment is essentially the exact same episode as the Clone Wars season 7 premiere currently streaming on Disney+. This has led fans to believe that perhaps some or all of the previously leaked episodes were completed for inclusion in the Clone Wars season 7 bundle. If this is the case, well, the revelation that Echo is alive is only the start of serious trouble yet to come.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars season 7 will return with episode 2, "A Distant Echo", on Friday, February 28.