One of the great things about Star Wars is that it inspires endless debates and opinions on a wide array of topics. Best bounty hunter? Most powerful Jedi? Does Salacious B. Crumb have the best haircut in the saga? In that spirit, StarWars.com presents From a Certain Point of View: a series of point-counterpoints on some of the biggest — and most fun — Star Wars issues. In celebration of the Halloween season, two StarWars.com writers make a case for the most bone-chilling creature in the entire galaxy.
It’s the ice spiders, says Dan.
Star Wars has always had its share of scares and monsters. There’s the mynock saying hello to Leia in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, the people-chomping rancor in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, and even the amorphous Drengir plant-creatures from Star Wars: The High Republic books and comics. These sequences and creatures are creepy enough, sure. But then we met the ice spiders — a whole big bag of nope nope nope — in The Mandalorian.
In “Chapter 10: The Passenger,” Mando, Grogu, and Frog Lady crash land on an unknown ice planet. With the Razor Crest suffering severe damage and temperatures frigid, Frog Lady secretly ventures outside and finds a hot spring, which she uses to warm herself and her unfertilized eggs. While Mando and Grogu do track her down, the ever-hungry little one wanders off — into a large ring of what looks like oval-shaped white eggs. Grogu stops at one, considers it, and claws it open. He reaches in and pulls out what looks to be a spider, then quickly gobbles it down.
I’ve rewatched this sequence a few times and, at this point in the scene, I’m always struck by the music. Not because of how ominous or chilling it is, but rather, how it isn’t. Ludwig Göransson’s score during this moment sounds something like a twinkling harpsichord, presenting the events as almost playful. Isn’t Grogu’s curiosity charming? Even as he pulls out the spider, strings swell in a sense of wonder. Yet your brain isn’t so sure. And I love it, because signaling to the audience via dark-hued music that SOMETHING BAD IS GOING TO HAPPEN would have been the easy way out. Here, the filmmakers and Göransson put you in tension limbo: I know this looks like Grogu is doing something dangerous, but the music is telling me something different. It leaves you feeling conflicted and nervous. An expert setup. Then things shift.
As Grogu munches, the surrounding eggs begin to stir with life. That’s when the music turns south and, well, you get a bad feeling about all this. Spiders hatch from the eggs. Others emerge from deeper in the cave. They aggressively scuttle toward our heroes. They chitter and their legs go clack clack clack and it’s enough to make your skin crawl. But when a really big one shows up, all bets are off.
Mando (with Grogu in his arms) and Frog Lady run for their lives. A truly countless number of ice spiders give chase, firing webs as they pursue their prey. It doesn’t matter what Mando tries — flame thrower, blaster, catching the things in mid-air and squeezing — he can’t kill them all and he knows it. Even when the group reaches the cockpit of the Razor Crest and it looks like they’re going to make it out alive, Mama Ice Spider has other ideas, jumping onto the ship — its massive legs nearly impaling Mando as it strikes through the glass. Thankfully for Mando and friends, some unexpected help shows up just at that moment. Finally, we can all exhale.
For my money, this is the most frightening sequence in all of Star Wars. It doesn’t have that adventure-movie feel of the space slug scene in Empire or the King Kong vibes of the rancor pit, where you’re kind of dazzled. This is hide-your-face, squirm-in-your seat horror. The ice spider brings forth some primal fears of our galaxy’s own creepy crawlies. The legs, the crawling, the multiple eyes, the webs, the teeth. This is a Star Wars monster that doesn’t deviate that much from its Earthly inspirations. It just amplifies them, and to great effect.
I’ve always loved Star Wars monsters, but none have ever scared me like the ice spider. And for that, I’ll always be grateful.
Nope. It’s the Drengir, says Kristin.
The ice spiders are plenty creepy, I’ll give you that. But who can really blame a creature for going after an intruder who’s been eating its young straight from the egg? (Sorry, Grogu, but that’s just bad form.)
For me, on the galactic scale of scary nothing beats the Drengir. You wouldn’t think a hungry plant would be quite so bone-chilling, but with a murmuring chorus of one word — “meat” — they become something else entirely. Yet even their rustling hunger, the stuff of classic horror film scare tactics, doesn’t compete with the way they infest and infect, harvesting all those who cross their path be they civilian, Jedi, Hutt, or even fearsome rancor.
When first introduced to the Drengir in Claudia Gray’s Into the Dark from Star Wars: The High Republic, I mistakenly discounted their fear factor. But as they came to life and scared not just Padawans but experienced Jedi, I started to squirm in my seat. Then I turned to Marvel’s Star Wars: The High Republic comic, which takes us on the frontlines of the battle with the sentient flora in all its illustrated glory. I routinely give Cavan Scott a hard time for breaking my heart by writing characters I love so deeply that their pain and misfortune gives me a pronounced emotional response, but coupled with the art of Ario Anindito, their treatment of the Drengir inspired a very different visceral reaction. In mere words, I had imagined the Drengir as quietly hostile, creatures capable of extreme forms of camouflage made all the more terrifying because it allowed them to blend in with something I typically find soothing and serene: nature itself. But to see those greedy roots not just squeezing the life out of their victims but fully snaking their way up their noses and down their throats gives me that same sensation. Is something touching me? Is it a tentacle root? Am I about to get eaten by my houseplant?
I can’t think of anything worse than having the life slowly siphoned from one’s body, trapped, vulnerable, and forcibly silenced yet still totally conscious and aware until it’s too late. Their means of annihilation are scary enough, but seeing a towering rancor succumb to the Drengir is proof no amount of muscle and tough-hide can protect you. And watching not just Sskeer but several Jedi ensnared by those tentacles? If even a Jedi can’t ward them off, the rest of us are surely done for.
But perhaps the scariest thing about them is the nuance that Scott and Gray have seeded into their creation. The Drengir can’t be neatly filed away as something purely evil, despite the darkness permeating their existence and everything they touch. They are hungry, and we’re the sustenance. It’s impossible not to see a little bit of ourselves reflected back in their insatiable urge to survive.
What do you think? Do you agree with Kristin or Dan? Or is there another creepy creature that gets your vote? Let us know on social using #FromACertainPOV!
Dan Brooks is a writer and the editor of StarWars.com. He loves Star Wars, ELO, and the New York Rangers, Jets, Yankees, and Knicks. Follow him on Twitter @dan_brooks.
Associate Editor Kristin Baver is the author of the book Skywalker: A Family At War, host of This Week! In Star Wars, and an all-around sci-fi nerd who always has just one more question in an inexhaustible list of curiosities. Sometimes she blurts out “It’s a trap!” even when it’s not. Follow her on Twitter @KristinBaver.
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