‘Dune 2’ Ending Explained: Welcome to the Holy War

It might not have a true conclusion, but it points in the direction the series is headed

Dune Part Two
Legendary/Warner Bros.

Dune: Part Two,” in theaters now, brings Frank Herbert’s original science fiction epic to life in the biggest way possible. Originally published in 1965 and clocking in at a whopping 896 pages, director Denis Villeneuve built the original 2021 film on a dicey gambit: it would only be the first part of the novel. He would get to the second part in a sequel that hadn’t even been given the go-ahead yet. The first film had an ending that felt like more of a hanging chad than a true conclusion. “Dune: Part Two” is here to finish the job.

But how does the sequel end? And what does it tell us about where the proposed trilogy is headed next?

We’re breaking down the final moments of “Dune: Part Two” — but, obviously, be warned: major spoilers ahead.

Lady Jessica’s parentage

Before we get into what happens at the very end of the movie, we must pause to give proper weight to one of the story’s biggest reveals: after drinking the Water of Life (made from a baby sandworm), Paul (Timothée Chalamet) sees visions – of the future of desert planet Arrakis, now with bountiful seas; of his baby sister, now fully grown (and played by Anya Taylor-Joy); and of his ancestry. This leads to the revelation that his mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), a member of the witchy Bene Gesserit and Paul’s father’s concubine, is actually the daughter of the vile Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård). This means that Paul is both an Atreides and a Harkonnen. (Can you tell how much of this was “borrowed” for “Star Wars”?)

Instead of Paul getting lost in his feelings, these psychedelic visions embolden him to retake the planet in the name of his dead father and with the knowledge of what’s to come. With much of the desert-dwelling Fremen believing he is a messianic figure called the Lisan al Gaib, Paul sets out to retake what he believes is his – the entire planet of Arrakis. And maybe much more.

An all-out assault

With Paul, now a blue-eyed soul, resolute in his mission, he teams up with Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin), the former military leader of House Atreides and the Obi-Wan to Paul’s Luke. Halleck knows a key piece of information nobody else does – where House Atreides left its nuclear stockpile before most of its members were slaughtered by the Baron’s Harkonnen warriors. Paul repeatedly refuses to challenge Stilgar (Javier Bardem), a Fremen leader, which would mean that one of them would die. Instead, they work together.

Together with the nuclear weapons and sandworms, Paul, Gurney and the rest of the Fremen attack the Harkonnens to take back their planet. They overwhelm the Harkonnen warriors as well as the warriors brought to the planet by Shaddam (Christopher Walken), the Emperor of the Universe. Paul kills the Baron and Gurney kills Rabban (Dave Bautista), the nephew of the Baron and one of the chief architects of the Atreides’ downfall.

Final showdown

Paul challenges the Emperor for the throne and suggests that he could marry Princess Irulan (Florence Pugh), which is an affront to Chani (Zendaya), the young Fremen girl who has fallen in love with Paul. (More on that in a minute.)

Paul threatens the destruction of the planet’s spice mines, which provide starships with the power to cross great distances. (The spice allows them to bend time and space, with the help of the Guild Navigators, who so far have been absent in this telling of the story.) After all, he has the nuclear weapons and he’s shown he knows how to use them.

Instead of fighting Paul himself, the Emperor allows Feyd-Rautha (Austin Butler) to fight in his place. Feyd-Rautha is a genuine psychopath, the nephew of the Baron and the heir to House Harkonnen, who is introduced by one of the movie’s most stunningly beautiful sequences – a monochrome gladiatorial match shot using infrared cameras. As Shaddam’s champion, Feyd-Rautha nearly kills Paul, but Paul ultimately prevails, stabbing Feyd-Rautha to death. That was close!

Irulan agrees to marry Paul. The Emperor kisses Paul’s ring. Power has been transferred, via blood and conquest.

A broken heart

Let’s momentarily back up to talk about Paul asking for Irulan’s hand. In Frank Herbert’s novel, Chani is in on this deal. She understands that Paul is asking for her hand as a political maneuver, something that will establish his power. But that he really loves her and that she will have his children. Paul has been shown this before – his mom, Lady Jessica, wasn’t Paul’s father’s wife; she was a concubine. Why shouldn’t she just accept it, too?

The decision to have this be a surprise, and to have Chani be absolutely shocked, horrified and heartbroken in the moment, is one of the biggest strokes of genius from “Dune: Part Two.” The final images of the movie actually belong to Chani, not Paul, as she rides a sandworm away from the gathering storm clouds. She refuses to bow to Paul, to go along with his arrogant, insensitive plan. She instead heads out to parts unknown.

Not only does this decision add a lot of conflict to the already heightened final act, but it gives Chani agency and a new trajectory. It’ll be interesting to see where she winds up in the third movie. And whether or not she’s gone along with Paul’s plans.

Impending doom

As power is handed over to Paul, there are bigger issues to deal with, as the ships from the other houses arrive for battle on Arrakis. (We see them briefly as they are coming through the atmosphere but don’t see who is inside.) Stilgar leads the troops to capture the ships that the Emperor’s warriors have arrived in, and Lady Jessica muses that this is the beginning of a Holy War between Paul and his faithful and the rest of the galaxy.

Could the stakes get any higher?

Actually no. And if the movies follow the trajectory of the books, we will see a very different Paul in the third part – one who has laid waste to a majority of the universe and who openly compares himself to Hitler. (Yes, seriously).

It’s unclear how closely the next movie, named “Dune Messiah” after the book, will adhere to Herbert’s vision. Will Villeneuve wait a few years to let the actors age up before filming again? Or will he get right back into it? These are questions that only Warner Bros. and Legendary can answer. But we hope he’ll book us on the next available trip to Arrakis.


One response to “‘Dune 2’ Ending Explained: Welcome to the Holy War”

  1. Michael Avatar

    Dune was written in 1965, Star Wars: A new hope came out in 1977, how exactly did dune borrow from “Star Wars”?

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