Believing that MIA soldier Echo may still be alive, Rex's mission becomes doubly important. Alongside Bad Batch and Anakin Skywalker, the clone captain launches a dangerous covert rescue…
Okay, it only took a week, but we’re firmly entrenched back in The Clone Wars stratosphere with the second episode in the Bad Batch arc, “A Distant Echo” The title is purposeful, of course referring to the once thought dead ARC Trooper, CT-1409 aka “Echo” who as it turns out, not only survived, but is a pawn of the separatists.
Just like last week’s “The Bad Batch”, this episode stays mostly true to the animatic released all those years ago except for a few snippets. Once again, the fortune cookie “motif” at the beginning has been changed, this time from…
“Wars are not won with superior weapons, but with superior strategy.”
“The search for truth begins with belief.”
So, a little less edgy and aggressive, and more philosophical and serene. This style would carry over into the episode as well where we see the biggest and only real change in the story.
The opening sequence is reworked to instead set up a bit between Anakin and Rex. In the original, Obi-Wan meets Rex and Anakin in the hangar and they discuss the mission and the fact that the council didn’t approve it. They debate the worthiness of the mission and Obi-Wan leaves them to it, seeing Rex and Anakin won’t be dissuaded.
In this new version, it seems Anakin and Rex have an arrangement where Rex helps keep watch while Anakin contacts Padmé. At this point in the timeline, their relationship is still a secret to most but as you’ll see, not only does Rex know, so does Obi-Wan as well.
There’s an awkward moment where Sergeant Hunter doesn’t know what the hell is going on between Anakin and Rex, so he goes to prep the shuttle. They make their way to the barracks room, the same one where Rex was last week, and he keeps watch while Anakin is inside talking with a holo of Padmé.
This will scratch some heads as Padmé is clearly pregnant, the way she’s cradling her stomach says as much, and Anakin doesn’t say a word about it. There is the possibility of course that she doesn’t know yet and there’s nothing to tell, but I don’t buy that either. It’s something you tell your loved one in person, not through a holo-message, so it makes sense why she wouldn’t say something. But for him not to notice makes him appear aloof and detached, certainly something Anakin has been accused of before.
He is distracted however, something she picks up on, as the mission and Rex’s state of mind has him deeply troubled. They share some personal sentiments and that’s that. And good thing to because it’s not too long before Obi-Wan approaches and is on to their scheme. As they part, Obi says he hopes Anakin gave Padmé his best, indicating he knew all along what was going on.
This sequence facilitated the cutting of what was supposed to be the next scene. In the animatic, they are boarding the Havoc Marauder and Anakin notices that the nose of the shuttle is decaled with a picture of Padmé, pin-up style. Wrecker makes the comment, “she can negotiate with me anytime”, Anakin isn’t happy.
A mostly harmless and funny bit but it makes sense to cut it out, especially after the sensibility of the previous scene. You can’t show a maybe pregnant Padmé one second, then a pin-up shot of her in the next, and just as with the opening fortune cookie bit, they’ve chosen a softer, more personal approach.
Is it a response to the realities of today’s culture or just a narrative choice after the inclusion of the Padmé/Anakin scene? Probably a bit of both and for what it’s worth, the original scene is a funny one, but I can understand how some, or many, find it tacky or distasteful. In the end it’s about tone, and it just doesn’t fit with the new tone of the episode.
The rest of the episode pretty much matches up with the animatic with Rex and Anakin still getting used to Clone Force 99’s way of doing things. The action is heavy and intense from the moment they land on Skako Minor, including a run in with the Poletec, the primitive locals who worship flying reptiles called Keeradaks, creatures which will come into heavy play next week.
Wat Tambor, who again, gets a heads up from Admiral Trench, tries to play the Techno Union being neutral card, but since this mission isn’t sanctioned, that doesn’t hold water. He’s ready nevertheless and seems confident he can repel this attack, which he nearly does.
After endless amounts of droids destroyed, we eventually get the end, and the McGuffin of these first two episodes, Echo. As Rex and Tech head into a large chamber they find Echo confined within a stasis chamber, hooked up to several hoses and cables. It’s an emotional moment as Rex is reunited with his long-time once thought dead friend and seeing him in this state is shocking to say the least.
This Borq-esque Echo is despondent and confused but hearing Rex’s voice seems to click something in him. With Tech’s help, and a battle raging outside, they begin to try and disconnect Echo from this machine as the episode ends.
Great, great episode and seeing Anakin again, working alongside the Clones, destroying “clankers”, is pure joy. There isn’t too much aesthetically that’s different from episode to episode, Anaxes and Skako Minor have a lot of the same palettes making the flow between them appear seamless. Not only that, but the forward motion of the two make them seem nearly identical. Fortunately, these are all good things as the end result is pretty great!
I like the role reversal that’s in play, with Anakin being the calm and collect one, keeping the emotionally more reckless Rex under control, their relationship is at the heart of this episode. We know the outcome, but Echo could have just as easily still been dead and Rex risked not only his life, but the others as well trying to rescue him.
But Echo is alive, and with his existence now a known reality, it’ll be interesting to see how much slack they cut Rex, now that he’s not “crazy” like they thought. Also, I look forward to the Cody/Echo reunion, should be a good one.
This is one of those great Clone Wars episodes that finds a way to slip in some brevity in amongst high stakes and high emotion. Seeing Rex cradle his deeply wounded friend hits all the right notes and really expands on the notion that these Clones are more than just assembly line automatons, they are sentient in every sense of the word. Season 7 is two for two as far as I can tell.
Next week, we’ve got “On the Wings of Keeradaks” …
"With Echo recovered, Rex, the Bad Batch, and Anakin Skywalker look to fight their way out of a Separatist base."
Still in animatic territory, we know the episode mostly focuses on the group getting off Skako Minor with Echo and getting back to Fort Anaxes. But what changes will be made? We’ll find out soon enough!
Till next time…MTFBWY.
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