This Star Wars article contains spoilers for The Mandalorian.
The first chapter of the George Lucas‘ Original Trilogy would have turned out very differently had it not been for a bad motivator. Although R2-D2 is on a very important mission to get Princess Leia’s message to Obi-Wan Kenobi, A New Hope almost throws a wrench in the little droid’s plan when Uncle Owen initially chooses R5-D4 as his new astromech. But then fate intervenes: the rusty droid’s motivator pops out of its head, followed closely by plumes of smoke.
R5’s a piece of junk and now everyone knows it. The little droid had a shot to become the best pal of the galaxy’s greatest hero, and perhaps even go on a big adventure or two, but he blew it. Fortunately, we know, thanks to The Mandalorian, that those pesky Jawas eventually fixed poor R5 up, and that he’s now under the employ of Tatooine mechanic Peli Motto in Mos Eisley. Still, it’s very tempting to imagine what could have been.
Had R5 become the Lars’ new astromech droid, would R2 have somehow still reached old Ben eventually? Would Obi-Wan have circled around and gone in search of Luke just in time to save him from being slaughtered by the Empire like his aunt and uncle? And with Obi-Wan, Luke, C-3PO, and R2 all speeding off on the Millennium Falcon to Alderaan, would R5 also have been along for the ride in this alternate universe?
We’ll never know, although back in the day, writer Peter David and artist Martin Egeland tried to reconcile R5’s embarrassing role in A New Hope with a more honorable backstory. In a very non-canon story for Dark Horse’s comic book anthology Star Wars Tales, David and Egeland reimagined R5 as the brave “Skippy the Jedi Droid,” who made the ultimate decision to sacrifice himself so that R2 could complete his quest to find Obi-Wan. It certainly painted R5 in a better light: the little droid who had missed out on his chance to become an even bigger part of the saga in A New Hope had secretly made an incredibly heroic choice for the good of the galaxy.
But after his actions in the latest episode of The Mandalorian season 3, “The Mines of Mandalore,” R5 won’t even need this alternate backstory anymore. Not now that he’s stepped up and become Din and Grogu’s trusty droid companion on their own epic adventure to one of the most dangerous planets in the galaxy. R5 not only braves the remains of Sundari alone in order to survey whether the planet is still habitable but then helps Grogu escape the planet on their Naboo Starfighter so that they can go get Bo-Katan to rescue Din. Sure, R5 first gets himself captured by Alamites but even R2 got zapped by Jawas in A New Hope. But like our favorite Star Wars astromech before him, R5 comes through in the nick of time for the rest of the heroes, saving their hides from a mauling at the hands of Mandalore’s dangerous wildlife.
This is the moment R5 begins to carve out his own legend after years of just being the busted old droid who got left behind in the Original Trilogy. Future generations of fans won’t just remember R5 as the bucket of bolts with the bad motivator but the droid who helped Din and Grogu out of a tight spot. Even if you were disappointed that it wasn’t Taika Waititi’s IG-11 filling the role of protector for Grogu in the episode, there’s no denying R5 absolutely delivered. Let’s just hope this isn’t the last we see of R5 with his new friends but the start of a long, satisfying journey.
The Mandalorian season 3 streams on Wednesdays on Disney+.