Palpatine’s cloning conspiracies aren’t only about Baby Yoda and Order 66. Star Wars canon — via The Bad Batch Season 2 — has just revealed that the story of the Empire’s cloning programs is much bigger than whatever’s happening on The Mandalorian.
Spoilers ahead for The Bad Batch, Season 2, Episode 11, “Metamorphosis.”
At some point before A New Hope, human stormtroopers completely replaced the Jango Fett clones created on Kamino. But the Empire didn’t abandon cloning and genetic manipulation. The Mandalorian offered proof that an Imperial cloning program still exists, and in The Rise of Skywalker, we saw Palpatine return thanks to some extreme cloning experiments.
Recently, the nitty-gritty details of cloning have been explored in The Bad Batch. The Season 1 finale rebooted the clone-centric planet Weyland from Heir to the Empire and other non-canon books, and Season 2’s “The Clone Conspiracy” added new layers to the Empire’s plan to eliminate the original clone troopers. The clones may be out the door, but there are new, top-secret clone troopers being developed without public knowledge.
The planet Weyland was spelled Wayland in the old non-Canon timeline, and maybe the change is an Easter egg because in “Metamorphosis” the Empire is transformed into the Star Wars version of the Alien franchise’s Weyland-Yutani corporation. Here we learn that the Empire’s cloning experiments go beyond creating troopers and making Palpatine immortal. Their genetic experiments are also trying to create unkillable monsters, not unlike the Xenomorph.
Much of the episode revolves around “the asset,” a creature that appears very much like a Star Wars take on a Xenomorph, but by the end of the episode evolves into a Godzilla-sized monster. This, as fans of The Clone Wars remember, is a Zillo Beast, the same creature the Jedi had to fight on Coruscant. In the episodes “The Zillo Beast” and “The Zillo Beast Strikes Back,” we learned that Palpatine wanted to clone this creature and use its skin as a blaster repellant for the Clone Army. Other than an appearance in a 2019 Kylo Ren comic, we haven’t seen a Zillo Beast in quite a while.
But what’s the end game here? What is Palpatine doing with this cloned Zillo Beast at this point in the timeline? If Palpatine has been interested in biological weapons since before Order 66, how does that fit into his plans to live forever? Does he just have a lot of evil balls in the air?
The only person who can explain this is a new character, Dr. Hemlock. Introduced in “Metamorphosis,” he’s a lead Imperial cloner who knows the remaining Kaminoans well. Early in the episode, Hemlock tries to get the imprisoned Kaminoan scientist, Nala Se, to help him fulfill the “Emperor’s purpose.” Nala Se says, “I know what Emperor Palpatine seeks to accomplish, and he will not have my cooperation.”
This conversation makes it seem like the episode is setting up more details about Palpatine’s immortality program, but by the end of the episode, the cloning puzzle feels much bigger and far more complicated. Tech says that “the Empire did not destroy the cities on Kamino to end cloning. They merely wanted to control it.”
In a way, “cloning” has become a catch-all word that seems to mean any genetic engineering, and so this episode brought back the Zillo Beast for purposes unknown. Eventually, the Empire recaptures the cloned Zillo Beast and puts it underground within Mount Tantiss on Weyland. Dr. Hemlock learns from Lama Su that Nala Se has a soft spot for Omega, and that Omega could hold the key to several cloning discoveries.
This last detail suggests that Omega is a bit like Baby Yoda, in that the Empire wants her because she’s part of a genetic puzzle they’re trying to complete. Before the reintroduction of the Zillo Beast, it was easy to think this was all just part of Palpatine trying to live forever. And maybe, to an extent, it is. But what if Star Wars canon is about to pull a bigger twist? What if there are way more clones running around than we thought? What if characters we’ve come to know and love are retroactively revealed to be clones? In the wild days of the ’90s, many fans believed Obi-Wan was really a clone. Some early version of The Empire Strikes Back would have revealed Lando as a clone. Could there still be clones hiding in plain sight?
The latest Bad Batch revelation seems to put all these options on the table. This world-building doesn’t seem accidental. Maybe what we thought we knew about the Star Wars universe is about to change. Or maybe Palpatine just wants to build Space Jurassic Park.