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Dune 2 Changed Its Biggest Death — Why This Matters for Dune 3

This never happened to the other fellow...

The Baron and Feyd in 'Dune: Part Two.'
Warner Bros/Legendary
Dune: Part Two
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Some characters in Dune are neither heroes nor villains. And some, in the case of Paul Atreides, contain elements of both. But other characters are straight-up nasty baddies, specifically Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. Like Emperor Palpatine in the Star Wars universe, Frank Herbert has zero sympathy for the Baron, and arguably, in Dune: Part One and Dune: Part Two, Stellan Skarsgård has given us the definitive version of this utterly irredeemable person. The Baron is gross, vindictive, and amoral. And as Dune: Part Two reveals, he’s also got something on Paul and Jessica that they never saw coming.

But, in the finale of Dune 2 the death of one major character happens much differently than it does in the book. Here’s how it goes down and what it means.

Spoilers for Dune: Part Two ahead.

The Fate of Baron Harkonnen

Stellan Skarsgård as the Baron in Dune: Part Two.

Warner Bros/Legendary

In the novel Dune, Baron Harkonnen is slain by Alia Atreides, when she uses the gom jabbar to kill him. However, in Dune: Part Two, it’s Paul who kills the Baron, rasping, “You die like an animal, Grandfather.” In the book, Alia gets the killing-taunt, saying, “I’m sorry Grandfather… you’ve met the Atreides gom jabbar.”

The idea that Alia — a super-powered toddler — kills the Baron, is a classic Dune moment. It happens in the 1984 film when Alia (Alicia Witt) uses telepathy to summon the Baron, slashes him with the gom jabbar, and then pulls the Baron’s heart plug out, which sends him, balloon-like, into the mouth of a sandworm. (The heart plug is a body-regulation device found only in the 1984 film.) In the 2000 Sci-Fi version, Alia kills the Baron in a way much closer to the book.

But, because Alia is still in the womb by the end of Dune: Part Two, it’s Paul who gets direct revenge for the Baron’s wicked deeds that resulted in the death of Duke Leto in Dune: Part One. For the tone of the two Denis Villeneuve movies, Paul’s revenge on the Baron makes perfect sense. But, it will change Dune 3, assuming that movie ever happens.

How Paul’s new action changes Dune canon

Denis Villeneuve directs Timothée Chalamet on the finer points of being Paul.

Warner Bros/Legendary

Throughout the Dune mythos, Alia is known by many mythical names, including “The Abomination,” “The Accursed One,” and “St. Alia of the Knife.” This last pseudonym is connected to her ability to take out enemies in battle, but also because, toward the end of Dune, she lets herself get captured, only to mock the Emperor, and slay the Baron. Alia, in essence, becomes a second heir to the power of House Atreides. And though she’s basically disowned by the Bene Gesserit for her whole life, Alia is, nonetheless, one of the most powerful Bene Gesserit and Fremen, ever.

Paul killing the Baron instead of Alia changes this a bit. In Dune: Part Two, Alia is more of an idea, a notion of the future, than an actual character. The fantastic cameo from Anya Taylor-Joy teases an adult Alia, a warrior fighting in the future. Certainly, any version of Dune 3 will have to include this grown-up Alia. But, because of the way Dune: Part Two ends, her reputation in any future sequel, will be somewhat different than the books.

Baron Vladimir Harkonnen had to die at the hands of an Atreides. And, in the end, Dune: Part Two makes sure that happens. But, by switching siblings in how the deed was done, this version of Dune will always have one very obvious way in which it’s different than its source material. Thematically and tonally, Dune: Part Two captures the essence and message of Frank Herbert’s text. Still, for some, Alia not killing the Baron would be like Frodo not destroying the ring, or Han Solo not saving Luke Skywalker at the last second. Alia’s power is preserved in Dune: Part Two, clearly. You could argue that everything in the movie happens because she guides Jessica. And yet, in the gospel of Dune, there are now two distinct legends of Alia. Which one is heretical is up for fans to debate, perhaps, forever.

Dune: Part Two is out in theaters now.

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