The Star Wars: The Mandalorian article contains spoilers.
What seemed like a clear reference to the classic sci-fi horror movie Alien at first turns out to be a major blast from the past easter egg. This week’s episode of The Mandalorian, “The Passenger,” takes us deep into a deadly spider nest where Baby Yoda clearly bites off more than he can chew, all while reintroducing a piece of Star Wars history that goes all the way back to Ralph McQuarrie’s original concept art for the Original Trilogy!
Midway through the episode, Mando and Baby Yoda wander into the nest while searching for the “Frog Lady,” the passenger they’ve promised to transport to the moon of Trask, the only habitable place where the Frog Lady’s unfertilized eggs can survive. But after the trio crash lands on the ice planet Maldo Kreis, Frog Lady worries that the harsh cold will destroy her offspring before they reach their destination, so she takes them to a hot spring inside of a cave that actually doubles as a spider nest.
When Mando and Baby Yoda finally find Frog Lady, the eggs surrounding the hot spring immediately catch the Child’s eye. After all, he really loves eating eggs that don’t belong to him, as the Frog Lady’s poor unhatched eggs learn the hard way. As Baby Yoda approaches one of the spider eggs, it’s hard not to think of John Hurt’s Kane in Alien. The membranous, fleshy spider egg even seems to split open just like the facehugger’s own shell in the Ridley Scott movie. But fortunately, nothing grabs hold of our beloved Force baby’s face, and instead it’s the Child who takes a big, juicy bite out of the goo-covered spider fetus.
Unsurprisingly, this immediately pisses off the rest of the spiders in the nest, who begin swarming the cave and hatching out of the other eggs. Leading the charge is a massive spider queen, who, like the Frog Lady, will do whatever it takes to protect her creepy-crawly children. As soon as this massive spider shows up, Mando, Baby Yoda, and Frog Lady decide to run for their lives — a nice change of pace to how things usually go on the show and an obvious juxtaposition to the start of the episode when Mando easily schooled those Baby Yoda-stealing bounty hunter bozos.
Despite putting up a pretty admirable fight against the swarm, Mando, Baby Yoda, and Frog Lady are eventually cornered inside the Razor Crest’s cockpit, doomed to be eaten by the carnivorous arachnids. Luckily, that’s when New Republic pilots Carson Teva (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) and Trapper Wolf (The Mandalorian exec producer Dave Filoni) show up with their trusty A280 Blaster Rifles to save the day, taking out the spider queen and what’s left of her brood.
As you’d expect, the presence of giant spiders in the episode has sent some arachnophobes reeling. But those fans who managed to make it through this Star Wars take on a creature feature likely noticed the big spider-themed references in the episode. For one thing, these spiders are very reminiscent of (but not directly related to) the krykna creatures from Star Wars Rebels, the animated series created and helmed by Filoni himself.
Native to Atollon, the location of a hidden Rebel base in the early days of the Galactic Civil War, the krykna are dangerous carnivorous predators who initially pose a big threat to the Rebels operating on the planet. Not only do the krykna have armor-like skin that’s resistant to laser bolts but they feed off of the negative energy exuded by their prey. When the krykna sense fear, it makes them more prone to attack. Eventually, though, Jedi hero Kanan Jarrus learns to bond with these creatures through the Force, allowing for both groups to share a somewhat peaceful coexistence on the planet (with the help of krykna-repelling beacons, of course).
Interestingly enough, both the krykna and the spiders in The Mandalorian are inspired by a piece of McQuarrie art for The Empire Strikes Back that depicts a giant spider laying eggs on Dagobah as a young Luke Skywalker looks on in awe. The creature in the piece, which never actually appeared in the movie, became known as the “knobby white spider.”
While the spider did eventually appear in Legends continuity in the novel Darksaber by Kevin J. Anderson, the knobby white spider is now better known for the offshoots it inspired in the Disney canon. It remains to be seen if Disney will eventually connect the dots between the knobby white spider and the creatures in “The Passenger.” If Filoni’s obvious love of deep-cut Star Wars lore is any indication, I bet they’ll make it official soon enough.