Long Live the Fighters

How the Final Shot of Dune: Part Two Could Change the Whole Franchise

Here’s what it means, why it’s different from the book, and how it sets up a third movie.

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Paul versus Feyd at the end of 'Dune: Part Two.'
Warner Bros/Legendary
Dune: Part Two
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Back in 2020, when the film Dune: Part One was still just called Dune, nobody was entirely sure if director Denis Villeneuve would be able to complete a full adaptation of Frank Herbert’s groundbreaking science fiction novel. But now, it’s happened. Dune: Part Two takes us through the ending of the original novel, and even teases aspects of the second and third books, too. And, although Dune: Part Two makes a complex book fairly straightforward, it’s understandable you might still have some questions.

Here’s what happens at the end of Dune: Part Two, how the final shot alters the book canon, and why this ending sets up a surprising sequel.

Spoilers for Dune: Part Two ahead!

Dune 2 ending explained

As in the novel, the movie ends with Emperor Shaddam IV (Christopher Walken) coming to Arrakis to confront the Fremen rebellion and chastise the Harkonnens for not doing his dirty work. Paul (Timothée Chalamet) and the Fremen use the sandworms and the Atreides family atomics to invade Arrakeen, the capital city of Arrakis, and take back power. If you’re wondering what everyone is talking about when they reference taking the sandworms and atomics through the “shield wall” that’s not a force-field shield, but rather a natural wall of rocks that “shields” this specific part of Arrakis from the more brutal weather of the rest of the planet.

In a change from the book, Paul’s army is fortified by Fremen “Southern Fundamentalists,” a concept that amps up the religious dedication his followers have in the book. (The distinction of differing beliefs in the Northern Fremen and Southern Fremen is invented for the film.) Once they take the capital, Paul kills the Baron (Stellan Skarsgård), which effectively means he’s killed the person who is the current boss of Arrakis. (Note: in the book, Alia killed the Baron! But she’s not yet born in this version.)

Paul then asserts he is still the Duke of Arrakis because technically, the invasion of Arrakis that slaughtered his family was illegal. Paul also says he’s going to take the throne by marrying Princess Irulan. By proclaiming this, Paul is basically saying: I already have Arrakis because it was already mine, and also, as a treat, I’m going to take the entire Empire and you’re going to let me because I control the spice.

So, Feyd, the defacto heir of the Harkonnens is called to fight as the champion of the Emperor, meaning, by proxy, if Paul kills Feyd, he gets the throne. In the book, this feudal tradition is called “Kanly,” and it’s a way that huge disputes among the Great Houses are solved by knife duels. Paul beats Feyd, and he wins Arrakis and the throne.

Why does the holy war begin?

Javier Bardem as Stilgar in 'Dune: Part Two.'

Warner Bros/Legendary

But Paul’s victory in the Kanly doesn’t mean that the other Great Houses accept his ascendancy to the throne. During Paul’s duel with Feyd-Rautha, all the Great Houses of the Empire had been waiting in orbit around Arrakis, having been called by the Emperor. When Paul kills Feyd-Rautha, he orders Gurney to inform the Great Houses (Josh Brolin) that he’s their new ruler. But Gurney returns with the message that the Great Houses “refuse to honor your ascendency.” This prompts Paul to order his Fremen army, “Send them to paradise.”

Paul’s cold-blooded declaration of war against the Great Houses, who refuse to acknowledge Paul as Emperor, shows just how far he’s come. He’s sending the Fremen out to fight in a bloody holy war in his name, which his visions had shown him would only result in galaxy-wide devastation. But once he had drunk the Water of Life, Paul’s dedication to the “narrow way through” to victory made him newly dedicated to taking over the Empire. And he doesn’t care about how many Fremen die in his name.

It’s a slight change from the books — here, Paul is now fine with the Fremen fighting his bloody holy war. Technically, this holy war happens between the books Dune and Dune Messiah, which seems to be the case in the movie version, too. In this way, the ending of the movie is pretty much spot-on with the book, in which we understand that Paul has won, but that there’s a huge price.

Chani’s fate...and Dune 3?

Zendaya as Chani in 'Dune: Part Two.'

Warner Bros/Legendary

In a major departure from the book, the final moments of Dune: Part Two focus on Chani (Zendaya) striking out on her own in the desert of Arrakis. Chani readies her “maker hooks” which the Fremen use to ride sandworms, and we’re led to believe that she’s also rejecting Paul’s mad gambit for power. Earlier, Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) says to Paul that she’s “sorry about Chani,” meaning that she feels sorry for Paul that Chani is basically dumping him because he’s decided to embrace the path of a bloodthirsty religious zealot, and she’s very much not for that.

But, in that moment, Paul tells his mother, “She’ll come to understand… I’ve seen it.” This seems to foreshadow the events of Dune Messiah, the second novel, which takes place over a decade later and finds Chani giving birth to her and Paul’s twin children: Leto II and Ghanima. In that book, Chani dies in childbirth, loyal to Paul to the very end. But will Dune 3 happen? And will it play out the same way as the books?

In the broad strokes, the ending of Dune: Part Two faithfully recreates the events of the book, which — like blasting through the shield wall — seems to open up a clear path to Dune 3.

But will it happen? Recently, director Denis Villeneuve told Inverse:Time is passing, and I don’t know if I want to spend the rest of my days on Arrakis.” He’s also confirmed he’s writing the screenplay for the third film, even though he needs a “break” from this world.

Either way, if Dune 3 happens, all the book changes, both big and small in Dune: Part Two, could create a very different fate for House Atreides, the Fremen, and the saga of Arrakis.

Dune: Part Two is out in wide release on March 1, 2024.

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