Can The Mandalorian‘s original characters find life beyond their TV show and its merchandise? Even before they started appearing in other canon Star Wars media, at least one member of Din Djarin’s clan seems destined to go down as one of Disney’s most iconic additions to the franchise. Regarding the clan’s friends, Ming-Na Wen earned the chance to prove that Fennec Shand can cross mediums, when she joined the cast of Dave Filoni’s The Bad Batch. I educated myself on the Bad Batch by watching the Clone Wars arc that introduced them, followed by the first three episodes of their spin-off. (I watched the premiere on May the 4th, and the second through fourth installments back-to-back.)
The Bad Batch delivers some insight into the Batch’s lives during the rise of the Galactic Empire, which uniquely-powered Clone War veterans Hunter (Dee Bradley Baker), Wrecker (Baker), Tech (Baker), Echo (Baker), and their newest recruit, Omega (Michelle Ang), refuse to serve. Fennec Shand’s guest spots promise a look into the mercenary’s younger days, with the first marking my first time seeing an original Mandalorian character animated, aside from parodies and toy advertisements. The news of Ming-Na reprising her sounded especially exciting when considering none of those toy advertisements – including The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special – had any of the Mando figures deliver intelligible dialogue.
Airdate: May 21, 2021 (#4)
Writer: Christian Taylor
Director: Saul Ruiz
The Galaxy’s a dangerous place to be on your own.-Fennec Shand
When the Bad Batch visits Pantora for a supply run, the bounty hunter Fennec Shand attempts to capture Omega. Fennec finds Omega wandering lost in the marketplace, but Hunter helps the kid escape her grasp. Fennec and Omega’s friends proceed to pursue her all across the city, and even below and above it.
The Bad Batch doesn’t feel as complex as The Mandalorian does, but still delivers distinctive characters with engaging chemistry, and thrilling action and visuals. Fennec’s portrayal provides a natural prequel for her Mandalorian appearances. Her early interactions with Omega demonstrate her familiar qualities of both manipulation and concern, as she earns Omega’s trust by stealing some snacks for the both of them. She also distinguishes herself from The Mandalorian Season 2’s depiction of an older, more seasoned Fennec through her selfish independence. Her instances of refusing to let someone die at her hands in this episode imply that she doesn’t have a completely evil personality, but they seem motivated mainly by her desire to collect Omega’s bounty through any means necessary – means that do sometimes involve attempted or successful kills on someone else. While this marks the most sinister vocal performance I’ve heard from Ming-Na Wen, she performs it with as much dignity as I normally expect from her as an actress.
Fennec’s youthful energy and the medium of animation naturally allow for some impressive set pieces. Pantora’s crowded urban environment provides additional opportunities for action and emotional tension, especially during a chase across an aerial freeway. Even though Omega needs the rest of the Batch to keep her out of trouble, I give her credit for resourcefully shaking Fennec off her trail more than once. The Bad Batch viewers who’ve never seen The Mandalorian can find relief in the cartoon turning unfamiliarity with Fennec Shand into a plot point, with Hunter vowing in future episodes to learn more about her and her unknown boss.
While I waited for Fennec Shand to show up on The Bad Batch, I wondered if the show could get away with boasting a Macau-influenced enemy. This episode does emphasize nefarious aspects of her character, but hints that she might not always remain the Batch’s enemy. When Omega naively invites her to join them, Fennec seems flattered by the offer. Regardless of whether or not she accepts, her motivations for bounty hunting seem to revolve more around survival than spreading evil – a purely malicious mercenary might turn down a gig that forbids harming the target at all. In the meantime, the entertainment of “Cornered” successfully lured this Mandalorian fan to The Bad Batch, and convinced him to turn the cartoon into a weekly ritual.
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