What does conflict look like in a time of relative peace and stability in Star Wars? So much of what we know about the saga is rooted in moments of battle: Jedi vs. Sith, Empire vs. Rebellion, Republic vs. Separatist. What could threaten the High Republic, an age of exploration with the Jedi at their apex? The answer: tentacles, mostly.
While we know there is an inciting incident that sets the events of the upcoming Star Wars: The High Republic transmedia storyline in motion—a hyperspace disaster that has technological and ecological impacts upon the Republic’s presence as it expands into the Outer Rim of the galaxy—we don’t really know what our Jedi heroes will be doing as they seek to mitigate the impact of it. This is a moment of crisis in a galaxy of relative peace, but...it’s Star Wars. There must be A Thing to Fight. A Baddie for the Goodies. And these Jedi are some Goodie-ass Goodies.
Enter then, the two intriguing factions revealed by the official Star Wars website that will act as antagonists in the first wave of High Republic stories. Let’s start with the one that’s probably most in line with what you’d expect out of this setting: space pirates! The Nihil had been previously teased as roaming outriders, piratical forces of random chaos that brush up against the Republic’s attempts to further colonize the outreaches of the galaxy. Quite different from the ordered, structural tyranny we’re used to seeing in Star Wars’ big picture like the Empire and the First Order.
But the Nihil will still have a “face” so to speak: Marchion Ro, the Eye of the Nihil, a figurehead who acts as the unifying force above the Tempests, the different pirate cabals that make up the wider Nihil forces. Still chaotic, but a little more in line with what we expect out of Star Wars villainy. Marchion Ro even has a fetching taste in masks.
But the Nihil are perhaps small pickings compared to the other threat coming: tentacled, sentient plant creatures called the Drengir. A society of plant creatures hoping to “reap a terrible harvest across the galaxy,” they’re the kind of thing that...sure, you can probably slash at one with a lightsaber, but you’re fighting plant life. The Drengir are just there, part of the ecology of existence. You’re combatting this race of creatures that is monstrous in the ways we’d expect out of Star Wars creatures, but on a scope and scale we’ve never seen utilized in mainstream Star Wars media as a major threat. We have scenes like the Wampa and the Rancor, or larger events like Clone Wars’ Zillo Beast, but nothing presented as an ongoing antagonistic force like this.
They’re sentient, and that means they can plan or scheme, have personalities, and motivations for our heroes to bounce off of. But there’s something distant about the concept of this amorphous mass of angry plants that feels like you’re putting the Jedi up against something far headier than just an army of soldiers or something. They’re fighting a concept—one that, no doubt, is in tune to the Force itself in interesting ways, given it’s the lifeblood of all living things in the galaxy. What does that say about these Jedi’s relationship to the Force as we know it, to combat an ecological terror like that?
Honestly, it’s much more interesting that it turning out that there’s some secret Sith hiding away playing a 200-year long game. Even if they also kind of happen to look like Audrey II on steroids.
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