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The Mandalorian S3 Episode 1 Features A Forgotten Empire Strikes Back Droid

This article contains spoilers for "The Mandalorian" Season 3 premiere

"The Mandalorian" Season 3 picks up where everything last left off — that is, provided you've watched the Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) bits of "The Book of Boba Fett" and know what he and Grogu have been up to. As is the series' custom, it also features numerous nods at the many canon and non-canon stories from the history of the Galaxy Far, Far Away.  

"The Mandalorian's" Season 3 premiere features lots of cool droids. The most prominent of them is, of course, IG-11 (voiced by Taika Waititi), whose self-destruction sequence in Season 1 apparently wasn't enough to entirely demolish his body, and whom Mando is now trying to get revived for the sake of having some reliable-ish backup on his upcoming Mandalore jaunt. However, the episode's backdrop of the surprisingly well-faring Nevarro City hides plenty of other mechanical marvels to behold, from the tiny droids hauling Greef Karga's (Carl Weathers) cape to various 3PO protocol droids. In fact, one of these cameos just so happens to mark the unexpected return of a long-lost deep cut character from the "Star Wars" lore. 

K-3PO makes his grand return to Star Wars

As part of "The Mandalorian's" Season 3 premiere, one particularly niche 3PO-type protocol droid ended up making his first "Star Wars" appearance in a good long while. Early on in the episode, Din and Grogu are walking the streets of Nevarro City, taking in the sights and marveling how much the place is changed. On their way, they briefly pass a bright white protocol droid that a few hardcore fans will no doubt recognize as K-3PO. 

This white-colored droid resembling Anthony Daniel's C-3PO first appeared in "Star Wars: Episode 5 — The Empire Strikes Back" as a member of the Rebels, but he's been mainly been a niche fixture of the "Star Wars" canon since then. Based on this brief glimpse, it's rather likely that the monochrome droid is not actually the exact same character fans first witnessed fighting the good fight in "The Empire Strikes Back," but the visual design of the model is still quite unmistakable.

Apart from his original movie debut, K-3PO has popped up in a few other entries in the franchise. He's gotten some cameos in the "Star Wars Battlefront" games, featured in a small role for several of the "LEGO Star Wars" games, and has appeared in a couple other pieces of secondary and non-canon franchise material. Nonetheless, "The Mandalorian" marks the oft-forgotten droid's highest-profile appearance in years. 

What's K-3PO's deal, anyway?

While the K-3PO droid unit that appears in "The Mandalorian" Season 3, Episode 1 may not be same one that originally appeared in "Star Wars: Episode 5 — The Empire Strikes Back," some fans may nonetheless be curious about the role that the character originally played in the movie. Suffice to say, it's not a very big one.

Like his counterpart on "The Mandalorian," K-3PO is mostly resigned to being a background character in several scenes. He's frequently seen working with the Rebels' equipment at their secret base on the icy planet Hoth, and he's present when the iconic Battle of Hoth breaks out. Of course, this epic "Star Wars" battle doesn't really go all that well for the Rebels, and K-3PO is summarily destroyed in the chaos during the planet's evacuation.

Considering that the K-3PO on "The Mandalorian" is in perfect condition, and the show takes place years after "The Empire Strikes Back," it's probably not the same one from the original movie. However, destroyed droids like IG-11 have been brought back to life before, so there's still a possibility these two units are one and the same. If "The Mandalorian" ever elects to give this smaller "Star Wars" character a bigger role, perhaps fans will finally get a definitive answer.