While we eagerly await the return of The Mandalorian, the season 3 trailer that debuted at D23 this weekend is full of easter eggs and hints as to where this season will take our favorite father and son duo Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) and Grogu.
One of the more unexpected and intriguing of these easter eggs is the return of the astromech droid R5-D4. We’ve seen R5 in The Mandalorian before as one of Peli Motto’s (Amy Sedaris) many droid companions, but the trailer hints at a bigger adventure in this droid’s future as he joins Din and Grogu in the N-1. See for yourself:
In case you need a refresher, R5-D4 first appeared in A New Hope as one of the many droids for sale by the Jawas. He’s the droid whose motivator blows just before Uncle Owen is set to purchase him. This leads to Owen buying R2-D2 instead. And we all know what happens from there.
Now, even though R5’s current canonical standing may categorize him as little more than a background droid who missed his shot at becoming a galactic hero, his history in Star Wars comics shows that R5 is actually a droid legend on par with L3-37, K-2SO, L0-La59, R2-D2, IG-11, C-3PO, and BB-8.
We’re of course talking about the time Star Wars revealed R5-D4 was actually a Jedi all along.
The 1999 debut issue of the Dark Horse series Star Wars Tales featured an eight-page What If/Elseworlds-style story by Peter David and Martin Egeland that tells the tale of Skippy the Jedi Droid (apparently R5-D4’s real name). According to this comic, Skippy is Force-sensitive and has visions of the disaster that would befall the galaxy if he went to the Lars farm instead of R2-D2. Basically, Vader will capture R2 and kill Leia, the Rebellion will fall, and Luke will die alone on Tatooine. So instead of getting to be best buds with Luke like he desperately wants to, Skippy malfunctions on purpose so that the future he envisioned won’t come true.
But none of this was ever considered canon, even back when George Lucas still owned Star Wars. And when Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012 and wiped the canon clean in preparation for the Sequel Trilogy, R5’s heroic exploits went tumbling into the sarlacc pit for good.
Fortunately, R5’s story has been revisited for the Disney era since then. And he’s a hero once again!
His canonical backstory told in the short story “The Red One” written by Rae Carson for the 2017 anthology From a Certain Point of View similarly sees R5 blow his motivator on purpose, but this time because of R2-D2, not because of spooky Force visions. At first, R2 tries to sabotage R5 so that he’ll be free to find Obi-Wan, but when R5 learns that R2 is part of the Rebellion, something inside of him clicks. R5 decides to sacrifice himself for R2 rather than go after the freedom he has craved during the four years of his captivity. R5 later escapes the Jawas and seeks out the Rebellion, eventually finding his way to Peli’s shop in Mos Eisley by the time of The Mandalorian.
Needless to say, the fact that we’ll finally get to see R5 on a proper adventure with Din and Grogu is a step in the right direction for R5, even if we still wish the little droid were also secretly Force-sensitive. Wouldn’t it be nice for R5 to get some canonical vindication for the sacrifice he made as Skippy?
We’ll see the further adventures of R5-D4 when The Mandalorian season 3 hits Disney+ in 2023.