The Bad Batch is better than The Mandalorian.
The Bad Batch is actually about something. In the half-season that has been released so far there is everything you expect from Star Wars; battles, conflict, The Empire and all the staple sound effects. But there’s more to it here because The Bad Batch is about parenthood.
It is too much to ask something in the Star Wars brand to be about raising a baby, not a child, a baby. I don’t have kids so when I think “baby” I think of dirty nappies, sleepless nights and crying. When I think Star Wars I think of Lightsabers, starships and conflict. The former is very far from the latter and therefore on paper “Star Wars show about parenthood” sounds like something that wouldn’t even get passed the writing phase.
Now here comes The Mandalorian. It’s about being a parent! Except it isn’t. The Mandalorian is about expanding the Universe through the eyes of someone who has a baby with him. Din Djarin is a tour guide for Star Wars a la Jack Burton or Mad Max, his job as protagonist is to be our point of view to watch cool things happen to other people. People like Bo Katan, Boba Fett and Ahsoka Tano, this is not inherently a problem. Where things have gone askew is thinking The Mandalorian is, at it’s core, about fatherhood, the titular Mandalorian always finds a convenient babysitter or daycare to plop Grogu at whilst he zips off to save the day on his adventures. This isn’t true for every episode, though it still feels a touch disingenuous. Especially given how Grogu (or Baby Yoda) isn’t a character, he’s a macguffin.
The Bad Batch’s Omega is an actual character, she is curious, upbeat, brave, accepting and innocent. The perfect formula to balance out the rest of her adoptive family and the perfect starting point for a character arc about learning how to live and adapt in a dangerous environment (I.e most of the galaxy). Grogu, on the other hand, likes to play with shiny things, which is understandable because Grogu is a “baby”. A fifty year old baby who occasionally uses The Force. The Mandalorian is about parenthood in the same way Captain America: The Winter Soldier is about Cap adapting to the modern world; All fluff, no crunch.
The Bad Batch has that crunch The Mandalorian is lacking, both parent and child learn from each other and from their experiences as members of this new unit. In the episode “Cut and Run” we see Omega both delight and recoil in fear at experiencing a new environment, the air and ground of a new planet, learning to play, interacting with other children and facing very real danger. We see Hunter act the soldier in response because that’s all he knows, until after some advice from a friend (who has a family himself) and actually talking to Omega, he figures out that he can’t simply give Omega to someone else because “It’s for your own good”, Hunter can’t cut and run because he needs to learn how to be a father to the daughter that adopted his family.
When Din Djarin needs to go on an adventure, he either leaves his baby somewhere safe or keeps him in his blaster proof pram, when the Bad Batch go on an adventure, Omega shares in that and every bit of danger that comes with it. When I watch The Mandalorian, I find myself Oohing and Aahing when something I recognise is revealed. When I watch The Bad Batch, I want the story of this new weird found family to unfold.
The Mandalorian shares some parallels with being a parent, The Bad Batch is about becoming a parent.