Warning: This article contains spoilers for Star Wars: C-3PO #1.
The Star Wars comics have been filling in the gaps between the franchise’s seven movies to date. While Poe Dameron’s new series so far reveals some of the secret missions and inner-workings of the Resistance, C-3PO’s answers a much simpler question looming on some fans’ minds after The Force Awakens.
A new one-off comic, Star Wars: C-3PO #1 by James Robinson, Tony Harris, and Joe Caramagna, takes the question of how did C-3PO get his red arm in The Force Awakens head-on in a story that manages to humanize the creatures who are anything but.
Fans first noticed C-3PO’s new red arm after it appeared in preview photos last August. It wasn’t the first time the droid lost some limbs because of his masters’ involvement with the Jedi or the Rebellion, but previous replacements matched the rest of his body. When asked about it, J.J. Abrams had a cryptic response, noting that “Moments like Threepio’s arm came from the desire to, well, mark time.”
The comic places C-3PO at the center of a mission for the Resistance to bring Omri, a First Order protocol droid they believe has information on the location of Admiral Ackbar. Once the ship crashes and kills all of the human crew, the droids are left to their own devices as they trek across desert-like conditions to complete the mission. Along the way, the droids come to a few realizations about humanity and how they’re driven to fight and sacrifice themselves for a cause they’re programmed to believe in.
For one, C-3PO’s droid mindwipe after Revenge of the Sith is played for laughs for the audience, but it’s also used as a way to explain why he and R2-D2 didn’t recognize Obi-Wan Kenobi or perk up at the mention of Anakin Skywalker in the original trilogy. But what’s rarely touched upon is how that action affects him and the ethics of erasing a droid’s mind whenever the master pleases; C-3PO still has flashes of those days that he can’t explain and doesn’t even feel he should be articulating.
It’s particularly through Omri, who despite his programming has some very human thoughts, that this is explored. He and C-3PO make it until the end as C-3PO’s droid comrades die off one by one in particularly cruel and callous ways—and of course C-3PO loses a limb along the way. The droids go to such great lengths to keep the mission going because that’s what they’re supposed to do, but by the end the line between droid protocol and humanity blurs even more; Omri’s sacrifice goes against everything he’s supposed to do, but he does it for someone else. It’s his choice.
The answer to how C-3PO got his red arm is a simple one, and you can easily answer that in a single sentence or even a tweet. But for him, the gesture is much more meaningful.
He does it because nobody else will remember them because the Resistance can just get new droids, and nobody would likely understand him if he tried to articulate it. It’s the least he can do. Even if it’s only for a little while.