As HBO Max canceled certain projects, and the entire streaming service seemed to implode in on itself, the future of Dune: The Sisterhood — the TV series poised to tell the story of the mysterious, powerful Bene Gesserit — was in question.
But, on August 15, Deadline confirmed — with one line buried deep in another story — that the HBO Dune series is still happening and is “now casting.” And, although The Sisterhood is expected to be a prequel to the new Dune movies, there’s one huge way this series — and its casting — could impact Dune: Part 2 and the franchise beyond. Spoilers ahead for the Dune books.
The Dune backstory we’ve never seen
While the original Herbert novels make it clear that the Bene Gesserit are playing a very long game, we never actually go back in time to see exactly how one very specific myth was created. Early in the first Dune novel, we learn from the Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam that a group called the Missionaria Protectiva has been to Arrakis and “softened it up somewhat.”
Later, Lady Jessica learns exactly what this means: The Bene Gesserit have carefully seeded myths and legends on Arrakis, which creates a template for her and Paul to adopt.
When House Atreides first arrives on the planet Dune, people begin to call Paul “Lisan al Gaib,” which means “voice from another world.” For the people of Arrakis, he and his mother represent the fulfillment of a prophecy: a Bene Gesserit witch and her son would come to their planet and lead them to freedom.
What Dune makes clear is that this prophecy — while very real — was also manufactured by a larger Bene Gesserit project called “Panoplia Propheticus,” which created a whole host of superstitions and religious beliefs on specific planets. Lady Jessica reflects on the usefulness of this in the book when she thinks: “...the protective legends implanted in these people against the day of a Bene Gesserit’s need. Well, that day had come.”
Essentially, depending on how far back in time The Sisterhood takes us, we could actually witness the “long dead” Bene Gesserit of the Missionaria Protectiva, arriving on Arrakis for the first time.
How the Missionaria Protectiva impacts Dune: Part 2
Although Lady Jessica and Paul learn of various strands of the bespoke mythology in the first half of the novel, it’s not really until the second half that they both realize exactly what all of that will mean.
The regular, galaxy-spanning Bene Gesserit have a Reverend Mother calling all the shots, but when Paul and Jessica join Stilgar, Chani, and the Fremen in the desert, they learn that this tribe has a proxy version of the Reverend Mother. But the Fremen Reverend Mother is dying and so Jessica becomes the Reverend Mother for the Fremen, requiring her to drink “the Water of Life” (basically gross liquid from baby sandworm).
Because Jessica drinks this, her unborn daughter, Alia, is born with mental abilities beyond any living Bene Gesserit. In short, Alia is born with all the memories of all of her ancestors, making her a baby that can speak and think instantly. For the Bene Gesserit, this is called “abomination.” But, the transformation of Alia and her ascendency is not only pivotal to the rest of the first Dune book, but to the entire saga.
So, the Dune dominos fall like this: Thousands of years before House Atreides arrives on Arrakis, the Bene Gesserit embed a very specific myth among the people of the planet. When Paul and Jessica begin to become that myth, it all leads to Jessica becoming the Reverend Mother for the Fremen, which all leads to the definitive character trait of her daughter Alia.
Dune: Part 2 will show us how the machinations of the Missionaria Protectiva end. Dune: The Sisterhood could reveal the beginning.
Dune: Part 2 hits theaters on November 17, 2023.