Star Wars: The Bad Batch has surprised fans with a “tragic” cameo appearance from a major character in its first episode, which overlaps with the devastating events of Revenge of the Sith.
The series follows Clone Force 99, an elite team of genetically modified troopers first introduced in The Clone Wars, as they navigate the treacherous years following the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Empire.
The story begins just prior to Emperor Palpatine’s fateful Order 66, with the squad sent on one final mission against the Separatist forces to support two Jedi, who will be quite familiar to fans.
*Beware: the rest of this article contains spoilers for The Bad Batch episode one.*
In a surprise twist, it is revealed that The Bad Batch are providing back-up for none other than Jedi master Depa Billaba and her young padawan Caleb, better known as Kanan, one of the main characters in Star Wars: Rebels.
Freddie Prinze Jr. reprises his role for the cameo, which reveals an emotional origin for the character that had previously been alluded to in Rebels and expanded universe material.
When Order 66 is called, Billaba’s clone squadron begin attacking her and she buys just enough time for Caleb to flee before being gunned down, leaving him to fend for himself in a terrifying new world.
The Bad Batch executive producer Brad Rau spoke to RadioTimes.com about the cameo appearance, telling us the team intended to make the new series a bridge between The Clone Wars and Rebels.
“I think this time period in the Star Wars universe is really untapped,” he says. “There’s a lot of mention of the rise of the Empire, but we haven’t seen a lot of stories that take place in this time period on screen.
“It is really interesting as the Empire is rising, but not in full power, and what that means for the galaxy and different species on different planets. But also the characters that are alive and kicking around the galaxy at this time are really interesting.”
Realising that Kanan is a character that fans are particularly fond of after several seasons of Rebels, Rau adds that he and the writers were “really careful” about finding the best way to include him.
“One thing we always try to do is make sure that we don’t just grab all the action figures and play with them, that would make it feel unrealistic,” he says. “So we’re really, really careful when, if ever, we do come across characters like Caleb.
“Kanan is such an awesome character, we were all thrilled. And it was also very tragic because we know what happened, so it’s kind of this bittersweet thing that we could see him in that moment.”
Ultimately, it is Hunter, the leader of The Bad Batch, who allows Caleb to get away, as his inhibitor chip is not as powerful as that of a regular clone, and thus he does not feel compelled to carry out Order 66.
Caleb goes into hiding as the Empire grows more powerful, changing his name to Kanan and later taking on a padawan of his own: Ezra Bridger. For more on how that goes, check out Star Wars: Rebels.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch episode one is streaming now exclusively on Disney Plus. You can sign up to Disney Plus for £7.99 a month or £79.90 a year now. Check out more of our Sci-Fi and Fantasy coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what’s on tonight.