‘Dune 2’ Ending Explained & Movie Summary: Why Did Muad’dib Initiate The Holy War?

Just a couple of days ago, director Dennis Villeneuve’s opinion about spectacle and sound being superior aspects of moviemaking drew the ire of many film enthusiasts. While the statement, without proper context, might have triggered film-related debates all over social media, we need to keep a couple of facts in mind before bringing out pitchfork. The first one being that the root of visual art has always been embedded in the spectacles that breathe life into imagination, and second, the director’s own body of work has been a strong testament to how images can create identities, tell stories on their own, and captivate the minds of the audience with ease. To really drive this notion home, the auteur has gone a notch above to redefine immersion through his cinematic adaptation of Frank Herbert’s magnum opus, Dune. While the first Dune movie served as an introduction to the complex world, the recently released Dune: Part Two feels much more ambitious with its bigger scope and higher stakes.

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To do justice to the grand scale of cosmic world-building as depicted by the visionary author of the novel series, Villeneuve took the assistance of DOP Greig Fraser and production designer Patrice Vermette, whose combined effort seemed to have brought illustrations of legendary sci-fi artists like Chris Moore and Jim Burns to life. Duly complemented by the sweeping score of Maestro Hans Zimmer, which produce a palpable, organic connection with viewers, Dune: Part Two is a grand achievement in moviemaking that will find a high pedestal in the annals of film history. 

Spoilers Ahead

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What Does Irulan Know About The Emperor’s Conspiracy?

Dune,  the first installment of the series, depicted the intrigue revolving around the extremely precious spice melagne, which is harvested from the desert planet of Arrakis, control over the trade of which becomes a matter of dispute among several great houses. After acquiring the stewardship of spice harvesting in Arrakis, House Atreides gets betrayed by the Galactic Emperor Shaddam IV, who secretly assigns their rival House and former stewards of Arrakis, House Harkonnen, to annihilate them. Paul Atreides, son of Duke Leto Atreides, managed to escape the genocide along with his pregnant mother, Lady Jessica, thanks to the support of some loyalists. Lady Jessica is part of a galactic sisterhood known as the Bene Gesserit, a congregation of mystically gifted women who influence major political intrigues, curate bloodlines by systematic reproduction, to ensure the betterment of the universe. As the duo take refuge among the native Arrakis warrior Fremen, led by Stilgar, and Paul proves their worth by killing one of their members, Jamis, a millennia-old prophecy sown by Bene Gesserit about the arrival of an outsider prophet, Lisan al Gaib, starts taking shape. 

At the beginning of Dune 2, viewers are taken to Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV’s home planet Kaitain, where his daughter, Princess Irulan, ponders the fall of House Atreides and her father’s role in it. She wonders why the Emperor, who otherwise had paternal feelings for Leto Atreides, would assist the Harkonnens to bring about his downfall and later feel remorse regarding the fact. Eventually, Irulan learns that the Bene Gesserit Supreme Reverend Mother and Imperial Truthsayer, Gaius Helen Mohiam, had influenced the Emperor’s decision to do so. As Irulan shares her suspicion about Paul Atreides still being alive, Mohiam promptly shuts her down, stating the news of the Emperor’s treachery must not become public, as it would be detrimental for both the Emperor and Irulan. 

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How Did Paul Earn Fremen’s Trust?

Viewers follow Paul and Jessica as they assist the Fremen in exterminating Harkonnen troops in the deep desert, and Stilgar, a firm believer in the prophecy of Paul becoming the savior prophet, brings them to Sietch Tabr, one of the holiest places for the Northern Fremen Tribe. Some of the Fremen are not convinced about Paul and Jessica’s intentions, as they consider them to be spies, and some others, like Chani, don’t believe in the religious prophecies surrounding him. Paul, however, is unbothered by the religious aspect of things, as he wants to band with the Fremen to bring down the Harkonnens, but to do that, he needs to become one of the Fremen. 

Stilgar introduces Jessica to the Fremen spirituality and shows how their funeral rites ordain the preservation of the water of deceased members in a divine well in Sietch Tabr, which they believe will be used by Lisan al Gaib to turn the deserts of Arrakis into a green paradise. Stilgar wants the Fremen to hope, to believe in the legend of Lisan al Gaib and asks Jessica to take up the mantle of the dying Fremen Reverend Mother. Jessica has no other choice but to oblige, as refusal will mean death, and she drinks a mystical ‘Water of Life’ (which we later learn to be the essence of younger Shai-Hulud, aka giant sandworms), a viciously potent poison that imbues her with memories of the past Fremen Reverend Mothers. Due to her Bene Gesserit roots, Jessica is able to survive, which gets interpreted by some as a miracle. However, Jessica’s pregnancy at that point in time results in her yet-to-born daughter gaining precognition and psychic abilities, as she starts influencing her mother’s perspective by talking with her telepathically. Paul, however, isn’t too keen on the mystical prophet business and wants to earn the trust of the Femen warriors by becoming a Fedaykin (death commando) himself. Eventually, he is put through several trials, like crossing over and surviving parts of the desert and learning to ride a Shai-Hulud—the gigantic sandworms with a divine connection to the Fremen belief system—and his sincerity wins over Chani. Paul partakes in and later leads the Fremen in several successful raids against Harkonnen troops, effectively bringing down their spice excavation operations by a significant margin. The Fremen honor Paul with the title ‘Usul’—the strength of foundation—and Paul christens himself  ‘Muad’Dib’—after the ingenious desert mouse species, also a name that denotes a guiding constellation to the Fremen. 

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Who Is Feyd-Rautha?

As the legend of Muad’Dib grows strong, the situation gradually becomes terse for Glossu Rabban, the nephew of Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, who was given the responsibility of ruling Arrakis with an iron fist and overseeing the spice extraction. Not knowing that the new Fremen savior Muad’Dib is Paul Atreides himself, Rabban once tries to corner him but is forced to flee with his life after Fremen warriors easily overpower Harkonnen troops. 

On the other hand, Lady Jessica, now completely influenced by her stillborn daughter Alia’s Bene Gesserit propaganda, believes Paul to be the Kwisatz Haderach—the wielder of ultimate power, a result of the clan’s extensive selective breeding program—who can usher the galaxy into a new age of unified prosperity. For the Kwisatz Haderach to rise to power, Jessica starts spreading Lisan Al Gaib’s gospels among the Fremen mass, much to Paul’s chagrin, who remains fearful after seeing visions of his prophetic ways leading to the deaths of billions. Jessica moves to the southern part of Arrakis, populated by Fundamentalists, a more religious sect of the Fremen who have been long manipulated by the dictates of Bene Gesserit. 

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Meanwhile, Rabban’s repeated failure results in the Baron deciding to hand Arrakis’ Spice operation to his younger nephew, the psychotic, sadistic menace known as Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen. The wickedly cruel Na-Baron of House Harkonnen takes great pleasure in inflicting pain, and his fearsome reputation is justified by his act of matricide. In a grotesque display of power, during the celebration of his birthday, Feyd-Rautha dispatches three of the remaining Atreides warriors in brutal combat, proving his worth to his uncle in the process. Baron Harkonnen proposes to Rautha that, in exchange for helping him gain superior control over Arrakis, Baron will make him the next Galactic Emperor, as he seeks to betray Shaddam IV by making his treachery known to other great houses. A Bene Gesserit member, Margot Fenring, secures Rautha’s bloodline by seducing him and carrying his progeny, under the command of Imperial Truthsayer Gaius Mohiam. 


Why Did Muad’dib Initiate The Holy War?

While apprehending a band of Spice smugglers, Paul reunites with Gurney Halleck, former loyalist and military commander of House Atreides, who shows Paul the hidden legacy of the Atreides family—a substantial collection of atomic warheads. Gurney wants Paul to take revenge for the Atreides genocide and use the power he has amassed among the Fremen to do so. Paul and Chani are skeptical about either using the weaponry or tapping into the simmering religious fervor of the vast Southern Fremen populace, but to make matters even more complicated for them, a vicious ambush by Rautha destroys Sietch Tabr, bringing the Northern Fremen almost to their knees. A conflicted Paul asks Jamis’ soul—the Fremen warrior he had slain to prove his worth—for counsel, who asks him to truly open his mind by taking the Water of Life—just what Jessica had wished for and predicted Paul would do. 

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After arriving in the southern part of Arrakis and consuming the Water of Life against Chani’s wishes, Paul undergoes a life-altering experience as he sees visions of his stillborn sister Alia, who warns him about tribulations awaiting him in the future. Past, present, and future merge together in Paul’s subconscious as he gains clairvoyance and learns that Lady Jessica is the daughter of Baron Harkonnen. Historically, the so-called men of God have performed miracles to sway the minds of the masses, and similarly, just as Paul comes back to life despite drinking the Water of Life, which was supposed to be fatal for men—he is reborn as Lisan al Gaib, as Kwisatz Haderach—at least he and his followers start believing so. This infuriates Chani extremely, as she perceives this as just another form of subjugation the Fremen have subjected themselves to. Meeting the congregation of Fremen, Paul exercises absolute control over the mass by using his clairvoyance abilities, emphatically positing himself as their messiah, their Mahdi, and charging their spirits up by calling for war. A distressed Chani tries for the last time to appeal to Stilgar’s senses, as she fears misguided people guided by faith can set the world on fire—but to no avail, as the entire Fremen lot has become way too absorbed by the religious fervor. With millions of Fremen chanting his name in the hopes of salvation, there is no conflict or moral scruple clouding Paul’s mind anymore, and for the first time, he is absolutely certain about what needs to be done.

Paul reveals his identity as the feared Fremen warrior Muad’Dib to the Emperor as he sends him a message challenging his throne. As the Emperor arrives on Arrakis along with Princess Irulan, Reverend Mohiam, and his Sardaukar legions, Baron Harkonnen fears possible danger and sends a message to other great houses detailing the Emperor’s treachery. Muad’Dib launches atomic warheads to decimate the majority of Harkonnen and Sardaukar forces in one fell swoop and leads Shai-Hulud riding Fremen militia to corner whatever little resistance remains. Muad’Dib slays Baron Harkonnen and commits Harkonnen genocide, which mirrors how House Atreides met its end. Rabban meets his end at the hands of Gurney, who finally gets his revenge. 

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With the great houses gathering at the horizon of Arrakis, the Fremen face the threat of invasion, and Muad’Dib sends them a message threatening to obliterate the entire spice accumulation of the planet if they don’t back off. Mohiam warns Muad’Dib of the consequences but is immediately silenced by his newfound ability to ‘Speak’, signifying that the Bene Gesserit have found their Kwisatz Haderach at long last, but at a terrible cost. Muad’Dib expresses his interest in taking the hand of Princess Irulan to reign over the galaxy together and decides to kill the Emperor to get justice for his father, Leto Atreides. Feyd-Rautha volunteers to fight Muad’Dib to death in the Emperor’s place, but gets vanquished eventually. With no one left to turn to, Irulan accepts her fate by agreeing to marry Paul, and the Emperor’s life is spared as he accepts Muad’Dib’s sovereignty. 

During Dune 2‘s ending, the great houses refuse to honor Muad’Dib’s rise to power and prepare to launch a full-scale invasion. Muad’Dib, now completely in his element, asks his fanatic followers to show them paradise, and the crowd rises in unison, chanting the name of their prophet in mindless frenzy. Chani, completely distraught and enraged, leaves Arrakeen, summons a Shai-Hulud to disappear into the desert, and an elated Jessica announces the commencement of the Holy War, or Jihad – as denoted in the novel series. Unchecked power corrupts, and admixed with the dark side of faith, it’s bound to become a poisonous concoction, which will take full effect as Muad’Dib‘s followers rage through the galaxy. 

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Siddhartha Das
Siddhartha Das
An avid fan and voracious reader of comic book literature, Siddhartha thinks the ideals accentuated in the superhero genre should be taken as lessons in real life also. A sucker for everything horror and different art styles, Siddhartha likes to spend his time reading subjects. He's always eager to learn more about world fauna, history, geography, crime fiction, sports, and cultures. He also wishes to abolish human egocentrism, which can make the world a better place.

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