Longtime Star Wars fans are used to spotting easter eggs in The Mandalorian, with the season 2 opener full of cool nods to TV shows, movies and games from across the franchise. One of the nicest was an appearance from R5-D4, the red and white astromech droid that Luke and Uncle Owen initially purchased from the Jawas in an early scene in A New Hope. But just as R5 was rolling towards the homestead, his motivator blew, causing Luke to choose R2-D2 instead.
If that hadn’t happened, Mark Hamill’s hero may never have bought R2, seen Leia’s distress call, met Obi-Wan and likely would’ve remained on Tatooine his whole life as a moisture farmer. And without Luke to blow up the first Death Star and turn Vader back to the light, it’s doubtful that the Galactic Empire would’ve fallen. All this makes R5-D4 an unusually important background character and one definitely worthy of a cameo.
But real Star Wars scholars will know that it’s not just blind luck that caused that motivator to blow. In a short story in the collection A Certain Point of View, writer Rae Carson revealed that R2 and R5 had spoken to one another while in the Jawa Sandcrawler, with R2 explaining that he was on a crucial mission for the Rebellion and needed to get free. Despite wanting to be sold himself, R5 decided to help out and nobly blew his own head plate, apparently merely making it appear that he was faulty.
Of course, things got a little weirder in the old Legends continuity. In the Dark Horse comic Star Wars Tales, R5 was revealed to be Force-sensitive due to midi-chlorians in his mechanical systems. After meeting R2, R5 began to have visions of the future and his role as a hero alongside Luke, not realizing his destiny was to intentionally malfunction right then and there.
It’s a little sad that R5’s been forgotten on Tatooine, but at least he seems to have a good home with mechanic Peli Motto. And I guess the moral is that it’s not always the big damn heroes that save the day. Sometimes the little guy can play an equally important role, too.