The moment J.J. Abrams returned to the final Star Wars trilogy for The Rise of Skywalker, the fandom groaned. Not because the movie would be bad, but because Abrams is a spoiler-phobe. Any chance of plot points getting out ahead of time disappeared like the twin suns sinking under the horizon of Tatooine. But the new Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker trailer does give away a significant loss, or at least it heavily suggests one. This Star Wars theory about Threepio’s fate has fans packing tissues to head to the theater.
C-3PO, human-cyborg relations, is perhaps the most crucial role in the entire Star Wars canon along with R2-D2. These characters have been in every Star Wars movie central to the Skywalker action. They even made a cameo in Rogue One. (C-3PO actor Anthony Daniels was also in Solo: A Star Wars Story, but not as Threepio, making him the only actor to appear in every live-action Star Wars film ever made.)
One reason these droids have been able to span the 42 years is simply because they are machines. They don't die. They can be left to fall into disrepair, as fans saw with R2-D2, but that's different.
But this immortal status has been called into question with the following scene in the final Star Wars trailer. Check out the 1:14 mark.
"Taking one last look at my friends" certainly sounds like Threepio's time is up. But why? The going theory is it ties back to the prequels.
C-3PO and R2-D2 are first assembled in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. They're created by a child prodigy named Ani, who works as a slave on Tatooine alongside his mother, Shmi. That child prodigy, as fans are well aware, grew up to be Anakin Skywalker, and then turned to the Dark Side as Darth Vader.
It was Star Wars' greatest retcon of two characters. It necessitated the end of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith to throw in an order from Bail Organa to mind-wipe both droids. Otherwise, it makes no sense that Threepio and R2 wouldn't know Luke and Leia, or mention their parents in the original trilogy.
The prequel was also the story of Palpatine's rise, from Senator to Emperor to Malevolent Master of Darth Vader. Threepio lived through it all and saw a lot of things during his time with Anakin. He may know more about Palpatine than any creature in the galaxy. There's just one problem: He doesn't remember it.
Fans suspect the Resistance, faced with the Emperor's comeback, must find out who would have any information on Palpatine. Only, they discover to their horror their best hope been nattering away at them the whole time, insisting on telling them the odds. They need to undo the mind-wipe, and access those memories. (That's what fans believe the above image of "red-eyed C-3P0" is.)
As anyone who has dug into computers knows, data's never really gone. But to access it will require deleting everything Threepio's experienced since then, including his memories of Master Luke, Princess Leia, and all his friends.
It may win them the day, but if this theory is correct, the Threepio fans have known since 1977 will be gone.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker premieres on Friday, Dec. 20, 2019.