Are Star Wars Droids Metaphors for Their Owners? (Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Episode 19 “Double Agent Droid” Recap)


Star Wars Rebels’ Chopper finally got his own story. But was “Double Agent Droid” more about his owner Hera, and droid relations in general?

Nothing says Filoni animated Star Wars shows like droid-centric episodes. In The Clone Wars, these episodes were usually filler but always loved by fans. The Wizard of Oz parody adventure with R2 and Threepio is a fan favorite to this day. These episodes (or even story arcs) are often a welcome respite from the heavy plot lines, instead of obvious animated filler.

Droids also hold a special storytelling function within the Star Wars universe. George Lucas famously claimed that R2-D2 is the narrator of the entire saga, recounting his adventures in flashback. R2 and C-3PO appear in every Star Wars film, and often act as a catalyst for every main event. R2 and BB-8 are the center of major quests, and R2 was an active and highly capable soldier in the Clone Wars. K-2SO was the first of Rogue One to sacrifice himself for the Death Star plans.

Source: Lucasfilm/Disney XD

Nothing says Star Wars like a tall, British droid bickering with a sassy astromech. By introducing AP-5 to Phoenix Squadron, Chopper finally got the Threepio to his R2. This episode focused on their growing dynamic, and the carbon-based/droid dynamics within the team. It also brought up some uncomfortable questions about droid sentience and protocols in wartime. (And had a lovely spotlight on Wedge Antilles!)

Apparently, droids are a huge tactical liability. But they’re also living beings.

“Double Agent Droid” confirmed a few things many people have always wondered about sentient droids and espionage. It showed the worst case scenario – complete enemy takeover. We’ve seen uncomfortable portrayals of droid/living relations before (was “we don’t serve your kind here” racist or something?). But this throws a whole new wrench into things.

Not to be too Asimovian about this, but what does droid sentience mean in a universe with a unifying life Force? And what does it mean when that sentience can be turned off and taken over remotely, like in this episode? We’ve already seen droids almost completely destroyed and brought back to “life” through reprogramming, even refitting in new bodies (which brings up a whole host of other scifi philosophy questions….) The Clone Wars made viewers seriously consider droid sentience when every lovable “Roger” was left to die, even though it could clearly be revived with some reprogramming.

Source: Lucasfilm/Disney XD

This episode cemented the importance of droid memory wiping within the Star Wars universe as well, which has its own problems. As many have pointed out, Threepio’s memory was wiped, but not R2’s, leading to a whole host of sad implications. In “Double Agent Droid”, Hera makes it clear that she wipes Chopper’s memory after every hyperspace jump. This mean it must be common protocol, for both the Empire and Rebel Alliance. Does constant memory wiping also erase a bit of droids’ personalities? Is it right, in this fictional reality?

Yes, the Empire does some questionable stuff with artificial intelligence.

As this episode reminded us, both droids and cyborgs are important parts of the Star Wars universe. The Empire unit that took over Chopper was made of cyberntically-enhanced engineers, similar to the original saga’s Lobot, or Rebels’ earlier AJ^6 Cyborg Construct, Tseebo. In Rebels Season 1, these cybernetic enhancements were essentially a lobotomy (hence, the name Lobot in the movies).

This was a huge and ugly revelation, but it seems like these Imperial cyborgs are completely sentient. In this case, they seem like the cream of the intellectual military crop, with a commander plotting against the rebels Thrawn-style. Despite being half-droid themselves, they have no trouble taking over an entire droid’s being.

Source: Lucasfilm/Disney XD

It seems implied in Star Wars that the Empire (and possibly the Separatists before them) regard droids differently than more rebel-minded galactic citizens. AP-5 makes a comment in this episode that imperial droids aren’t innovative. In the Clone Wars, even commanding tactical droids could be outsmarted by Anakin Skywalker. K-2SO only gains a personality after Cassian’s reprogramming, and has to act emotionless when going undercover. It begs the question whether some in the galaxy regard droids as more “alive” than others, and program them accordingly.

So where does droid personality come from?

If some droids are completely emotionless, others are like fun pets, and others are like people and members of the family, who decides this? Obviously, it’s the original programmer, which is a tremendous responsibility. Apparently, people in Star Wars play god all the time by creating droids.

But if a droid can be so easily possessed (and yes, this was the “one team member gets possessed and everyone else has to figure it out” episode) why use them so much in war? How can you trust a droid if it can be controlled or taken over remotely? Is this just a fact of life in a galaxy far far away?

Source: Lucasfilm/Disney XD

In the end, this episode is supposed to make you appreciate Chopper and AP-5 as valuable members of the team, and worthwhile characters. While it asks some troubling questions, it also brings up some interesting character implications about carbon-based characters like Hera.

Maybe droids are narrative foils for their creators.

It’s a common Star Wars trope for a protagonist to be a gearhead with a customized droid. Anakin created C-3PO, and was bosom buddies with R2D2. Cassian reprogrammed K-2SO himself, and BB-8 was attached at the hip to Poe Dameron. R2 truly becomes Luke’s droid after he fixes his serious damage and goes through a battle with him in A New Hope. It’s no surprise that Rebels star droid is Hera Syndulla’s special creation.

Salvaged from a Clone Wars campaign on Ryloth, Hera made C1-10P her own, despite his already old age. In a way, I think this episode was meant to remind us of this connection. We haven’t seen a lot of Hera lately, and she was a true BAMF in this episode. Yes, she was trying to keep the Empire from getting to the base, but she was also trying to save her friend. We saw a dark, commanding and even violent side of Hera as she blew up an entire ship to avenge Chopper’s possession.

Chopper’s always been loveable with a bit of a dangerous side, and maybe that’s because Hera is, too. Both are all bark and no bite, until they really BITE. Chopper’s takeover reminded Hera that her family and rebellion is fragile, and she didn’t take it lightly. This is a stark reminder of many of Anakin’s actions in the Clone Wars, where he went to great lengths to save R2 several times.

Next: How the Star Wars Dub Team Recorded in Spanish Without Watching Rogue One

He also rubbed off on C-3PO and R2. Just like Anakin, R2 is snarky but effortlessly capable, while C-3PO is helplessly awkward in social situations, and overly protective of Padme. C-3PO and R2 are also the catalysts for everything, much like how Anakin is the Chosen One. Maybe Chopper’s violent but capable nature reflects something about Hera that we don’t know yet. While we thought this episode was about Chopper, maybe it was about Hera the whole time.

Star Wars Rebels airs on Disney XD’s website and app every Saturday, and on Disney XD every Saturday at 8:30/7:30c. Stay tuned on Culturess for all the latest SWR news.