For the most part, the relationship between humans and droids in the Star Wars movies has been one of master and servant, even when deep loyalty and affection are forged in the heat of battle. C-3PO, after all, always called his Jedi pal "Master Luke" until the very end, and we have to assume R2-D2 was beeping the same thing (with perhaps a bit more sass). In the new trilogy, BB-8 and Poe are largely inseparable, but the little droid rolls at the pilot's discretion. There was plenty of love between human and robots, but never any real equality.
Which makes Solo's saga of Lando and L3-37 particularly new and compelling.
**Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers for Solo: A Star Wars Story below**
The spinoff Star Wars movies give the franchise an opportunity to take a different approach to age-old traditions, and Solo introduces a new kind of relationship between human and droid. L3-37 is a self-made robot, and fittingly, carries a larger consciousness and attitude not seen before in any Star Wars movie droid. The chemistry is palpable between L3-37, voiced and played via motion capture by Fleabag creator/star Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and Lando Calrissian, now portrayed by Atlanta's Donald Glover. They have a will-they-won't-they sort of relationship, the classic Sam and Diane, except it's between a space gambler and a robot.
"Both Donald and I had felt instinctively that there was a love between them, and that they were connected in a way that was romantic with a big ‘R,'" Waller-Bridge told SYFY WIRE. "They were partners for life, but were kind of disgruntled about having to admit that to each other and never would admit that to each other.
"I think when you see a relationship played out with two people being fearless enough with each other to take the piss out of each other, be rude to each other, dress each other down, tell each other off," she continued, "then you already know there's a kind of love there, because there's a kind of trust there."
For much of the movie, that's all you get — an implication of love. Which is more than fans have seen before, but still just a suggestion. In many ways, Solo holds back on making any major statements — Glover said during press interviews that Lando was pansexual, even though it's never shown — but in this case, the droid-human emotional love affair is made very explicit.
It happens later on in the movie, in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon. L3 is hanging out and chatting with Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke), and the subject of her relationship with Lando came up.
"That scene was added later, and [screenwriter] Jon Kasdan phoned me and was like, 'I'm really excited, I've got this new scene and everyone's really excited about it and it's with Emilia,' and immediately I was like, I love that it's the two women having a chat, and there was just something instantly right about it. I loved that she had an inner life and that the subtext between the two characters is suddenly given such time, and that relationship is just so deep into that moment."
And as Waller-Bridge explains, that smaller conversation does more than create more opportunities for fan fiction.
"It brings a new tension to the characters," she said, "and it really helps in the moment when he's grieving her, you realize there's a lot more going on under the surface."
That there's so much tension during L3's death scene is also a credit both to Glover's acting and the visual effects team, because the way it was filmed did not exactly draw so many tears on set. L3 dies in Lando's arms, but the production looked a lot different.
"We tried with me in his arms, but it was just too funny," she recalled, laughing. "It was just too silly, so there was a puppet and there were two guys puppeteering the head and the arms and I was just standing behind Donald doing the line. It was so sad, it was this really ghostly moment, and I was like, standing behind him like, 'What's happening to me?!'"