The Mandalorian Season 3 Just Changed Star Wars History With One Weird Detail
Wait, the red one did what?
Look! This R5 unit has some weird canon! That’s right, the droid that almost took R2-D2’s place in A New Hope — R5-D4 — is back in action once, again, in The Mandalorian Season 3. After he was unable to piece together IG-11 in the previous episode, Mando heads to Tatooine to get another droid, and that’s where we get into a deep cut from the first Star Wars movie ever — Star Wars.
But, according to Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris), the career of the droid R5-D4 is more illustrious than we previously knew. Here’s how Mando Season 3 has maybe changed the history of the Rebellion, ever so slightly.
Spoilers ahead for The Mandalorian Season 3, Episode 2.
Who is R5-D4 in Star Wars canon?
Although Luke Skywalker refers to R5 as “this R2 unit,” R5 is obviously an R5 unit. But, like R2-D2, R5-D4 is an astromech, meaning he’s the type of droid that guides a starfighter through hyperspace. In A New Hope, Uncle Owen and Luke almost bought R5 from the Jawas instead of R2, but because of a bad motivator, this droid was left behind, and R2 was picked instead. This fact, of course, sets up the entire story of Luke Skywalker, because R5-D4 obviously didn’t have a secret message or the Death Star plans stored inside of him.
According to the canon short story “The Red One,” written by Rae Carson, and published in the 2017 anthology From a Certain Point of View, R5 sabotaged himself after R2-D2 claimed the Rebellion needed him to. R2 was so persuasive, that he basically talked R5 into blowing up. This story reconciled several Legends tales that suggested the same thing: R5-D4 was really a hero, who blew his own motivator to save the galaxy. We’ve seen him on screen since Mando Season 1, but now, there’s a new wrinkle: did R5, “the Red One,” fight for the Rebel Alliance, too?
R5-D4, Rebel hero
Peli Motto outright tells Mando that R5-D4 used to be part of the Rebel Alliance. Is she lying? Clearly, she’s fibbing a bit about R5’s abilities, mostly to make a quick buck. But it’s possible that this change to the Star Wars canon might be legit. In the 1989 Star Wars Roleplaying game book, Galaxy Guide 1: A New Hope, it is revealed that R5-D4 became a spy droid for the Rebellion. Now, most of the ‘80s roleplaying stuff is no longer canon, but, the 2015 reference book, Ultimate Star Wars, which is considered canon, also mentioned that R5-D4 eventually became part of the Rebel Alliance.
So, in between A New Hope and Mando Season 1, R5 got up to all sorts of action, and then, somehow, found himself back on Tatooine. Either that, or he was a spy droid for the Rebels the entire time, just like in Legends canon.
Either way, because of all of this background, and because R5 actually knew R2’s mission, this means that this droid is more than just a punchline. Although he’s skittish when Din Djarin takes him to the surface of Mandalore, we should probably assume that R5-D4 has been in some huge scrapes. C-3PO constantly complained about the danger he was in, even though he’d seen more action than most droids.
So, despite his underrated reputation, it’s possible the R5-D4 is even more hardcore than Mando and Baby Yoda combined. In other words, this droid has seen things you people wouldn’t believe...