Those terrifying The Mandalorian creatures have an Empire Strikes Back origin
The second episode of Disney+'s The Mandalorian season 2 presented nightmarish new creatures with a long history with the saga.
In the episode "The Passenger" – spoilers ahead – Mando, The Child, and their passenger, "Frog Lady," are stranded on a frozen planet.
There they are attacked by hundreds of spiders – one might describe them as ice spiders – of various sizes.
The spider design matches a decades-old concept drawing by famed Star Wars artist Ralph McQuarrie for "knobby white spiders" that could have been on Yoda's planet Dagobah in 1980's The Empire Strikes Back:
McQuarrie's design later evolved into a spider called the Krykna, a form of large predatory spider that has appeared in several episodes of the animated series Star Wars Rebels:
Other associations fans are making with the creatures are from different fantasy universes entirely – namely, HBO's Game of Thrones, The Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter franchise.
LoTR, of course, had the great spider Shelob, while the Harry Potter stories had giant spiders led by Aragog in the Forbidden Forest.
But the GoT association might be the most relevant. In the first season of Thrones, Old Nan told Bran Stark the story of the fabled Long Night: "In that darkness the White Walkers came for the first time. They swept through cities and kingdoms, riding their dead horses, hunting with their packs of pale spiders big as hounds."
For The Battle of Winterfell in season 8, Thrones producers briefly considered adding ice spiders, but decided to pass given there was so much else going on in that ambitious episode and the practicalities of making the ice spiders realistic along with dragons, White Walkers, giants and everything else.
"Didn't we talk about that for 30 seconds?" showrunner Dan Weiss mused in my Game of Thrones behind-the-scenes book Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon. "'Ice spiders' sounds good. It would look good on a metal album cover. But once they start moving, what does an ice spider look like? Probably doesn't look great."
Needless to say, by making ice spiders the sole creepy focus of an extended sequence in a frozen cave on a mysterious planet, The Mandalorian pulled off having realistic and scary winter arachnids.
As it so happens, The Mandalorian showrunner Jon Favreau was also a fan of the HBO fantasy series, and previously told EW regarding season 2, "As we introduce other characters, there are opportunities to follow different storylines. The world was really captivated by Game of Thrones and how that evolved as the characters followed different storylines — that’s very appealing to me as an audience member.”
The live-action Star Wars series follows a lone Mandalorian gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy.