A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, there were two droids central to the story of the Skywalker family: C-3PO, a protocol droid created by Anakin Skywalker, and his astromech companion R2-D2. The two were integral parts of both the original and prequel trilogies in the Star Wars series, and were also featured in the sequels, The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Though their roles were minimized in the last two saga films, there is reason to believe that the ninth and final Skywalker film, The Rise of Skywalker, will feature them more prominently. In fact, Episode IX may give Threepio and Artoo their biggest roles to date, if certain context clues and quotes from actor Anthony Daniels hold fire. Might these robots hold clues that will be of enormous importance in the final installment? And what could those clues be? We have some theories.
Threepio and Artoo have been there from the beginning.
The first released film, Star Wars: A New Hope, opens with Threepio and Artoo as they are transported to Tatooine. Artoo is carrying a special message meant for Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Threepio is his abandoned companion. That means, in a way, the story is being told from their perspective, something that creator George Lucas always intended. In the book, How Star Wars Conquered the Universe by Chris Taylor, Lucas said Artoo was meant to be the main narrator of Star Wars:
“The entire story of Star Wars is actually being recounted to the keeper of the Journal of the Whills—remember that?—a hundred years after the events of Return of the Jedi by none other than R2-D2.”
That tracks, especially when you consider the prequels, where we learn the origins of the droids: C-3PO was the creation of a precocious Anakin Skywalker, and R2-D2 belonged to the Naboo defense force, where he worked on Queen Padmé Amidala’s starship. That means the droids ostensibly represent the two halves of the couple that would eventually create our Skywalker protagonists Luke and Leia. Indeed, in the sequel trilogy, we see that Artoo is still an integral part of Luke’s identity, and Threepio is leading the Resistance with Leia.
Those ties to the past could certainly come into play in The Rise of Skywalker. We already know at least one of the droids will have a bigger role to play going forward.
Anthony Daniels will have a major role in The Rise of Skywalker.
In the June 2019 issue of Vanity Fair—which, in keeping with tradition, has a Star Wars cover—it’s stressed that C-3P0 has what might be his biggest role to date in The Rise of Skywalker, or at least one of the most important. “We worked with Anthony a lot, like, Anthony is really part of this adventure,” said Rey actress Daisy Ridley of Anthony Daniels, the actor who plays C-3P0. “[It’s] the most I’d ever worked with Anthony, and he was really there—mostly every day.” Elsewhere in the piece, Daniels said that Threepio does something that “surprises everybody” in the film, though he wouldn’t hint at what.
Additionally, the photo spread features an image of the departed Luke Skywalker standing next to R2-D2, surrounded in flames. This is presumably another flashback to the burning of Luke’s Jedi temple, which was referenced and briefly seen in both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. So why are we seeing it again? This photo could hold a major clue to the plot of The Rise of Skywalker.
The droids could be the key to conquering Palpatine.
The one big thing we know from The Rise of Skywalker trailers is that Emperor Palpatine—who was defeated in Return of the Jedi—will be back in some capacity. But how? There are a lot of theories floating around online, but ours focuses primarily on the droids. Let’s start with Artoo. In addition to Luke and Kylo, he’s the only main character who was present for the destruction of Luke’s Jedi temple. We know that Artoo has the ability to record video, so what if he was able to capture what truly happened that night? And what if it wasn’t Kylo who burned it after all, but another malicious force? It seems pretty unlikely that Palpatine himself was present for the temple burning, but it’s possible he was manipulating the situation somehow. Was he using Kylo like a puppet? Did he appear in some sort of ghost form? We have a feeling we’ll see more of this event, and that Artoo will be the one to show us.
As for Threepio, there are a few possibilities. Unlike Artoo, he had his mind wiped after the events of the prequels, so he doesn’t know he was created by Anakin. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t equipped with something Anakin might have left behind, like a hidden message or ability. He might even contain a video message from Anakin himself, like Artoo had of Leia in A New Hope. Maybe the “surprising” thing he does in The Rise of Skywalker has to do with this, and maybe it will also have a clue as to how to vanquish Palpatine.
It’s also possible Threepio has some sort of ability to procure vital information from the Death Star. A while back, we theorized that the film may find a way to reveal to the galaxy that Vader turned back to Anakin before his death. What if the team bring Threepio to the second Death Star, find some sort of video recording as “proof” of this, and secure that video in Threepio? Kylo Ren—Vader’s grandson—would likely either want that information kept secret, as it could threaten his status in the First Order, or it could help in his own redemption if it was news to him.
Regardless of how it all shakes out, we can’t wait to see how our favorite droids help close out this trilogy. It’s their story, after all.
Images: Disney, Lucasfilm