Warning: This article contains spoilers from The Mandalorian season 3, episode 2 “The Mines of Mandalore.”
R5-D4 has existed since the original Star Wars movie was released in 1977. 46 years later the astromech droid is still playing an important role in the franchise and he even becomes a hero again in The Mandalorian.
R5-D4 is the astromech droid that Owen Lars originally buys from the Jawas in A New Hope. Owen ends up buying R2-D2 instead when R5 seemingly malfunctions and appears to have a broken motivator.
This event forever alters the course of galactic history as R2 is carrying the Death Star plans and a message from Leia Organa. Those plans enable the Rebellion to destroy the Death Star during the Battle of Yavin. Leia’s message sets Luke on the path of becoming a Jedi and getting the plans to the Rebellion, which sets many other game-changing events in motion as well.
The canon short story “The Red One” by Rae Carson in the anthology From A Certain Point of View reveals that the malfunction was not a fateful accident and that R5 intentionally made it look like he had a bad motivator. R5 did this so R2 could complete his mission.
By sacrificing his chance to find a new home and escape the Jawas, R5 ensured that R2 would be able to complete his mission, a heroic sacrifice that ultimately saved the galaxy.
When the stormtroopers searching for R2 and C-3PO interrogated and killed these Jawas later on, R5 hid among the junk the Jawas sold. Afterwards, he was a free droid, now inspired by R2 to join the Rebellion and find a greater purpose.
R5 first appeared in The Mandalorian when Din Djarin went to Chalmun’s Spaceport Cantina in the season 1 episode “The Gunslinger.” In R5’s later appearances in The Mandalorian season 2, The Book of Boba Fett, and now The Mandalorian season 3, R5 has been working for Peli Motto, with his most recent appearance giving him a chance to shine again.
How R5 becomes a hero again in The Mandalorian
Even though he is reluctant to come along and fearful once he gets there, R5-D4 ultimately rises to the occasion when he accompanies Din and Grogu to Mandalore. R5 analyzes Mandalore’s atmosphere and takes an air sample from the planet’s ruins.
Despite being attacked by Alamites, R5 gets the readings he needs that show Mandalore’s atmosphere is not poisoned and is safe for Grogu, Din, and any Mandalorian who chooses to return to their homeworld.
Checking this was the main reason Din wanted to bring a droid to Mandalore, but it is not the last time R5 makes an important contribution in this episode. After Din is trapped by a nefarious creature in the mines, Grogu races back to Din’s N-1 starfighter.
It is R5 who flies them out of there–even while being attacked by another creature that followed Grogu from the mines–and takes them to Kalevala where Bo-Katan is so can help them save Din. Since Grogu cannot explain to Bo-Katan exactly where they went, it is R5’s data that Bo-Katan has downloaded so she and Grogu can work together and come to the rescue.
Grogu and Bo-Katan are the most heroic characters in “The Mines of Mandalore” and do the most to save Din, but they couldn’t have done it without R5. His actions not only help save Din, but also help bring Din and Bo-Katan together. Their partnership, seeing that Mandalore is not poisoned, and Bo-Katan discovering that the mythosaur is real provides tangible hope for the future of restoring Mandalore and uniting all Mandalorians.
R5 made a small sacrifice in the grand scheme of things all those years ago on Tatooine and it helped save the galaxy. His actions in this episode may go on to save Mandalore and the Mandalorian people.
At the very least, R5 has earned his place as Din and Grogu’s trusted droid. There is a shot of R5 in the N-1 starfighter revealed in The Mandalorian season 3 teaser trailer that has yet to be seen this season. R5’s heroic journey may just be getting started.