Star Wars: The Bad Batch retcons a Jedi backstory that’s key to Rebels


Disney Plus’ new computer-animated Star Wars series, The Bad Batch, continues the trend of the interconnected galaxy. The 70-minute premiere, “Aftermath,” opens with the titular clone soldiers, known for their mutations and enhancements, facing a changing galactic order during and after the events of Revenge of the Sith. But with just a few scenes, the show’s impact reaches further into the future.

[Ed. note: The rest of this story contains spoilers for The Bad Batch episode 1.]

In their opening fight, the Batch operatives cross into the tragic backstory of Jedi padawan Caleb Dume, who may be just a supporting character in the series’ story, but as fans of other Star Wars animated properties know, turns out to be a major player. Caleb survives the Jedi-assassinating Order 66, and grows up to be Kanan Jarrus, the teacher of young Padawan Ezra Bridger on Star Wars Rebels.

Back in 2018, CinemaBlend asked Clone Wars executive producer and Rebels creator Dave Filoni if Caleb/Kanan and his Master Depa Billaba, a background Jedi in the prequel trilogy, would ever make an appearance in the revived Clone Wars, which ended last May. Filoni answered, perhaps teasingly, “It’s an exciting thought for sure, so who knows?” This manifested with Caleb’s and Depa’s holo-cameos in the last season of The Clone Wars. In The Bad Batch, the master and apprentice now have speaking parts, voiced by Archie Panjabi and Freddie Prinze Jr., who returns to his Rebels role.

The Bad Batch scenario fits Kanan’s backstory as spoken in Rebels: Clone soldiers shoot down Depa as he runs away. But the show also reconfigures and overrides the extensive canon in the 2015-2016 Marvel Star Wars: Kanan comics, written by Rebels writer Greg Weisman with art by Pepe Larraz. A planet by the name of Kaller remains the site of Kanan’s tragedy, although it wasn’t snow-covered and the narrative omits his interaction with Kallerian civilization. Comic readers will notice more major adjustments to the background of Caleb Dume/Kanan Jarrus.

Caleb’s relationship with clones

Caleb side-eyes Captain Grey the clone trooper in Star Wars: The Bad Batch Image: Lucasfilm Ltd.

By the time the Bad Batch appears on screen, Caleb has built a rapport with Wrecker, the muscle of the group. But the former’s history with other clone comrades is absent. A key element of the Kanan comics was his friendship with two clones, Commander Grey and Captain Styles, who are activated by brain chips to turn their blasters on him and Billaba. In his green-streaked armor, Captain Grey (named in the end credits) appears to be a composite of both.

Onscreen, Captain Grey is last seen being kicked unconscious by Billaba. Interestingly in the Marvel comics, Grey and Styles continue their hunt of Caleb, then Grey fights his brain chip enough to have a moment of tear-stricken lucidity and sacrifices himself and Styles to allow Caleb to flee.

Caleb gets a new do

In eight striking panels, the Kanan comic depicted Caleb cutting off his Padawan braid and adopting a ponytail to go into hiding. It represented the relinquishing of his Jedi identity and a rite of passage into a life of crime. CGI-ed Padawan Caleb already wears a small ponytail.

Where is that holocron?

caleb/young kanan in bad batch Image: Lucasfilm Ltd.

Before Order 66 is executed in the comic, Caleb sat cosy by the fireside and fiddling with his master’s recent gift: a Jedi holocron, a cubic data container. The holocron omission feels glaring because it plays a role in Rebels. It contains Obi-Wan Kenobi’s warning holo that instructs surviving Jedi to stay away from the temple. It later falls into Maul’s hands (long story) and is used to track Kenobi on Tatooine.

Caleb was besides his Master

The Bad Batch inadvertently whisks Caleb away from his master’s impending execution. But in the comic, he is right beside Billaba when she orders him to run. The television staging is less violent. Billaba decapitating a soldier and Caleb being forced to strike down his own friends are omitted. She also does not shout, “I’ll be right behind you,” an ominous line echoed in Rebels.

If Caleb does not pop up again in The Bad Batch, there’s presumably wriggle room for him to live out the rest of the backstory laid out in the 12-issue comics: Caleb starting anew under the mentorship of the Kalleran Janus Kasmir, which would be years before he would pair up with the rebel Hera Syndulla in John Jackson Miller’s 2014 A New Dawn novel, the prequel to Rebels and the first Star Wars novel under Disney’s canon.