Mischievous and loyal with almost no filter, R2-D2 quickly established himself as a vital character in the Star Wars mythology. The future of the Rebellion rested in his memory bank as he delivered Leia Organa’s message to Obi-Wan Kenobi and Death Star plans to the Rebellion so it could find the super weapon’s weaknesses and destroy it. He was even Luke’s astromech during the Battle of Yavin. R2-D2 played an important role in most of the movies to follow, whether he’s saving C-3PO and the Rebellion on his own, aiding a young Anakin Skywalker in battle, or even nudging an older Luke along to take up the mantle once again to aid a young Jedi. And, more often than not, there’s a staggering body count in his wake.
We don’t really think of R2-D2 as a cold-blooded droid, per se. He’s part of the Republic, the Rebellion, and then the Resistance; basically, he’s one of the good guys. He’s quippy and resourceful, and pretty much anyone the droid has ever interacted with—especially C-3PO—would be long dead if they had never encountered him.
R2-D2 has never had a full memory wipe, making him one of the few characters who’s witnessed everything from The Phantom Menace to The Last Jedi. He’s a threat just based on the decades of information he has stored on his memory drive, and he could easily have given it all away if he ended up in the hands of the Empire or the First Order.
But from a certain point of view, R2-D2 is also one of the deadlier killers that the Republic (and later the Rebellion and the Resistance) has to offer—and this is in Star Wars canon that features BT-1 and 0-0-0, trigger-friendly droids with similar appearances to R2-D2 and C-3PO, respectively. There should be just as high of a bounty on him as his human counterparts.
Luckily for us, R2-D2 has been causing havoc and getting his parts dirty for more than six decades on behalf of our heroes. But if you’re with the Empire or the First Order and see a blue and white astromech coming your way? Run.
R2-D2 as the (probably) unintentional killing machine
Soon after witnessing his attempts to reach Obi-Wan Kenobi in A New Hope, Luke noted that he had “never seen such devotion in a droid.” That devotion is only part of what makes R2-D2 such a unique droid, even if his build is rather unremarkable. He’s been a trustworthy presence ever since, to the point where Anakin Skywalker’s unwillingness to run a memory wipe temporarily put the Republic’s secrets at risk of being intercepted by the Separatists in the first season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
Soon after R2-D2 is back with Anakin, however, he strikes. R3-S6, an astromech assigned to assist Anakin, is revealed to be a Separatist spy that sabotaged missions. Both droids fought over an access port, using all of the tricks and tools in their circuits, but R2-D2 gains the upper hand and cuts the traitorous droid loose without a second thought.
R2-D2’s real show of force is seen several decades later as he sets off on a rescue mission to save, of all droids, C-3PO. In the official Star Wars comic (which takes place between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back), R2-D2 sets off by himself to save C-3PO from the Empire. It’s a task that R2-D2—based on his build and programming—should have never been able to accomplish; his attachment to C-3PO, as much as he complains about him, is also seen as unhealthy for a droid.
The comic, Star Wars #36, is a standalone issue that encompasses much of what we love about Star Wars: a high stakes (for droids, anyway) rescue mission, action, and a daring escape. But more importantly, it showcases just what R2-D2 is capable of.
Thanks to a weapons upgrade from Chewbacca, a lowly R2 astromech can take out an entire ship of stormtroopers and Imperial fighters to get his friend out of danger, and he even fends off Darth Vader long enough to meet up with Luke and the Millennium Falcon.
And the entire time, the Imperial forces have no idea what they’re facing off against, describing R2-D2 as “the biggest, nastiest droid they’ve ever seen.” Even Darth Vader is seemingly unaware that the droid he once owned could pull all of that off.
R2-D2 as an accomplice and commander
As an astromech, R2-D2 can only do so much. He can calculate and manipulate on the digital level, but he often needs a hand in finishing the mission—or he’s utilized to aid whoever he’s serving.
For example, he was able to reprogram a handful of battle droids (who were built to serve the Separatists) to help the Republic forces infiltrate a high-security Separatist prison to rescue a Jedi Master in Clone Wars. They called R2-D2 “Commander,” sparking indignation from C-3PO and served him well up until their deaths. Later on, he became part of a droid squadron set on a secret mission to collect a module held by the Separatists.
He also has a knack for convincing others to fight alongside him and his friends when he can’t literally reprogram them. Ordered to repair a group of droids by the Death Watch so that the faction can use them as target practice again, R2-D2 instead talks them into fighting the Death Watch so that Ahsoka Tano can escape capture. In the Star Wars comics, R2-D2 is able to talk a bunch of Jawas into making the laser cannons of an AT-AT functional enough to fire onto an Imperial factor as Darth Vader closes in on them.
And although R2-D2 is taken offline right before Luke makes his one-in-a-million shot, you can argue that he had a small role in destroying the Death Star. If it wasn’t for him, Luke could have been in much worse shape.
After the fall of the Empire, R2-D2 has played more of a low-key (yet vital) role for the Resistance. Having been offline for much of The Force Awakens, he helped piece together the map that would lead to the first Jedi Temple (and Luke Skywalker). He convinced his one-time master to help Rey with an old-fashioned guilt trip, and his connection to the Millennium Falcon allowed Rey and Chewbacca to locate the last of the Resistance on Crait at the end of The Last Jedi.
But if R2-D2 needs to get his circuits a little dirty in Episode IX? He may have been out of the game for decades, but he’s more than capable of holding his own.