Warning - This article contains spoilers for the premiere of Star Wars: The Bad Batch.
Another Star Wars Day has reached the galaxy, and with it came the riveting premiere of The Bad Batch.
The hotly anticipated direct sequel to Star Wars: The Clone Wars brings the familiar faces of Clone Force 99 under the spotlight for a journey set in the early days of the Empire. The series' extended premiere episode put the unit to the test by challenging their beliefs and role in the galaxy, resulting in both heartbreak and intrigue.
But, the Bad Batch wasn't the only familiar figures to return to animation. Among the many recognizable friends and foes, the appearances of Caleb Dume and his master, Depa Billaba, in the episode's opening sequence left the most significant impact when Order 66 was declared.
As moving as the moments were, many fans recognized that there was a direct contradiction to a previous Star Wars piece in the canon - Kanan, Marvel Comics' 2015 tie-in to Rebels. One of the lead creative heads on the series has now opened up about the galaxy far, far away's latest canonical retcon.
A DIFFICULT DECISION FOR THE GREATER GOOD
In an interview with Fandom, The Bad Batch executive producer Jennifer Corbett shared that the opening sequence with Caleb Dume was the most time-consuming aspect of the series' pilot:
“I can tell you that that particular sequence we spent the most time on in the pilot, from writing to production to editing to reshooting, because a lot of talk went into how we wanted to portray that pivotal moment with Dave Filoni and with Brad..."
Corbett explained that every choice was made for a reason, but the creative team still wanted to stay true to the Kanan comic series:
"Everything we did was for a reason and it might not match 100% but it’s sort of just wanting to honor what existed but also give another take on it in this story.”
HOW CANON IS THE STAR WAS CANON?
When Lucasfilm announced a relaunch of the official Star Wars storyline in 2014, the move came with the understanding that all stories released from that point forward would be part of the new canon. The EU, now monikered Legends, had the tendency to override other bodies of work frequently, and this move was an effort to maintain total continuity.
Seven years later, many new stories have already stepped on the toes of their fellow Star Wars canon tales to varying degrees of extremity.
The first big alteration to the storyline came when novel Ahsoka's prologue was retconned by the Siege of Mandalore arc in The Clone Wars' final season. The sequence in question is the duel between Maul and Ahsoka, the color of the former Jedi's lightsabers, and just how exactly Order 66 went down from her perspective.
With the prologue being told as a flashback, there's enough of an out for Dave Filoni to cite the book's take as faulty memory, and, in truth, the show's version of events improved things. In the case of Ahsoka, Filoni didn't know he'd have the opportunity to complete The Clone Wars, so there's some leeway there as far as creative decisions go.
There was also the slightly altered backstory of Cobb Vanth, as seen in "Chapter 9" of The Mandalorian. The local marshal of Mos Pelgo acquired the armor of Boba Fett after a skirmish in the Aftermath trilogy, but The Mandalorian Season 2's premiere presents things as a peaceful exchange with Jawas. Again, the case can be made that Vanth was omitting or remembering events differently in the show than how the novels shared them, but a retcon is a retcon, nonetheless.
Another recent, and by far the most egregious, retcon was the Emperor's survival from Return of the Jedi. This is one of many retcons JJ Abrams performed in The Rise of Skywalker, alongside Rey's true heritage, the origins of Snoke, and Finn's force sensitivity. And the ass-pulled Palpatine decision was only explained on-screen as "somehow [he] returned". Lucasfilm is still in the process of attempting to explain this perplexing return, and in doing so continues to re-contextualize Episode VI and Anakin Skywalker's story.
This now brings us to the latest retcon, as seen in the premiere episode of The Bad Batch: the death of Depa Billaba and how Caleb Dume (who some may know as Kanan Jarrus) survived Order 66. The comic Kanan presented the sequence as occurring at a campfire, where Caleb and his master fend off the surprise attack by their clone comrades.
The way things transpire in The Bad Batch is completely different. For one, the presence of the Bad Batch unit shakes up the sequence entirely, as none but Crosshair were brainwashed by Order 66. Depa Billba's lightsaber color was changed from green to blue, and the attack on the Jedi took place during the daytime in a clearing in the snow. Billaba refused to strike down any of her clones, including Captain Grey (who's rank and armor color were different in the comic), as opposed to killing many as she defended herself in Kanan.
CANON ERRORS WITH KANAN JARRUS?
It's not that the retcon of Kanan is bad, per se; in fact, the surprise inclusion of Caleb Dume and yet another moment from Order 66 being depicted on-screen was extremely well done, and it certainly had an impact on the Clone Force 99 soldiers. But the decision to change things up begs a big question: Why?
Was there not a way to incorporate the events of Kanan seamlessly into animation while simultaneously giving the Bad Batch a presence? Having Kanan's Order 66 experience in animation is great for the character, but the ramifications the sequence will have on continuity seems to extend a trend that Lucasfilm was trying to avoid.
George Lucas certainly made his fair share of retcons back in the day; Luke and Leia were not originally intended to be siblings, nor was Vader their father, and Maul came back from what seemed to be certain death. However, Lucas was never very concerned about overriding the books in the EU, as he saw just the six films and The Clone Wars as his official story.
Spring ahead to the Disney acquisition of Lucasfilm, wiping the continuity slate clean, and the same problem still persists. The necessity for the aforementioned retcons is arbitrary and the merits for each can be assessed on a case-by-case basis, but one has to wonder what the purpose is of having a canon storyline when things can be altered on a whim.
Will Lucasfilm be shifting to a tiered system as the live-action and animated projects continue to be pumped out? With just five films and a few TV series proving to be difficult to juggle with the current books, comics, and games, the task won't be getting any easier as nearly a dozen shows are in various stages of production for Disney+, as well as several films due for theatrical release in the coming years.
This is less a criticism of the approach to the opening sequence of The Bad Batch than it is an inquiry regarding the future of the franchise. It will be interesting to see if Lucasfilm will address the ongoing issues with the canon, or if things will largely be touched on during interviews with creative leads who call the shots. One way or another, the original plan for the new canon seems to be changing, and it will only be a matter of time until the current state is made clear.