Every Question You Have About Dune's Ending, Answered

Denis Villeneuve's ambitious undertaking of Frank Herbert's 1965 novel, Dune: Part 1, tackles only the first half of the much-praised sci-fi book. With the second part greenlit by Legendary Pictures, the story will likely pick up where the first installment left off. While Dune: Part 1's ending may seem anticlimactic on the surface, it hides profound foreshadowing and serves as a bedrock for the next part of the duology. Let's break it down!

Why Does the Emperor Betray House Atreides?

The tyrannical House of Harkonnen has overthrown House Atreides and recaptured control of the planet Arrakis and its highly lucrative spice mining operations. We later learn the emperor of the Known Universe, Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV, colluded with the Horkonnens in a scheme to thwart House Atreides's potential political threat.

Most members of the Atreides clan are assassinated, including Duke Leto (played by Oscar Isaac). Paul (Timotheé Chalamet) and Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) are on the run with seemingly no alliance to turn to whatsoever. While their initial plan is to survive long enough in the harsh desert to return to their home planet, Caladan, and fight back against the emperor with the cooperation of other powerful families, this all changes by the time Paul understands his calling.

DUNE, Jason Momoa, 2020.  Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection
Everett Collection

Paul and Lady Jessica's Search For the Fremen, Explained

Paul and Jessica's only hope of getting off this world is getting assistance from the Fremen, the native inhabitants of Arrakis. Unfortunately, as they cross the desert in search of the Fremen, they inadvertently attract the attention of a sandworm, the native creatures residing underneath the surface of the desert that can engulf a wide radius of area in the blink of an eye. Moments after they narrowly escape it, they realize they're surrounded by Fremen poised to kill them.

Why Do the Fremen Try to Kill Paul and Lady Jessica?

Surviving in the harsh climatic conditions of Arrakis is a near-impossible feat for an ordinary human being because the most scarce and precious commodity is water. So the Fremen have designed stillsuits (a bodysuit that helps preserve body temperature and retain your body fluid by absorbing body moisture) to get by in the desert. So when someone dies, they reclaim their body water to recycle. This is why they try to kill Paul and Jessica.

But once Paul recognizes Stilgar, the leader of the Sietch (a community settlement of Fremen on the planet), from when Stilgar met with his father when they first arrived on Arrakis, he asks them to back off. Stilgar tells them they won't hurt Paul. Not only do many of the Fremen believe he is their prophesied savior, Lisan al Gaib, but he also believes Paul is young and can be resourceful. But he doesn't deem Jessica worthy of their forbearance and thus calls her to a fight. As a trained Bene Gesserit, a pseudo-religious matriarchal order who breed and train their members to inhabit exceptional physical and mental abilities, Jessica bests Stilgar easily. Stilgar agrees to escort Paul and Jessica safely to their settlement, at which point they will decide on what to do next.

Paul and Jamis's Duel, Explained

However, this doesn't sit right with one of the Fremen named Jamis. Invoking the Amtal rule, which dictates that one must be tested to determine their limits or shortcomings, he challenges Jessica to yet another duel, even after Stilgar's order. Paul comes forward to fight as his mother's champion, and they engage in hand-to-hand combat right there. After gaining the upper hand in the fight, Paul asks Jamis to yield. But there's no yielding in the Amtal rule, as it is mortal combat. So Paul has no choice but to kill Jamis or be killed himself. He chooses the former and impales Jamis with a crysknife lent to him by a Fremen named Chani (Zendaya).

DUNE, Timothee Chalamet, 2021.  Warner Bros. / courtesy Everett Collection
Everett Collection

How Paul's Visions Connect to His Destiny

Throughout the movie, we see Paul having visions and dreams, indicative of his clairvoyant powers. His recurrent dreams offer him guidance throughout his time on Arrakis. In one of those visions, he visualizes someone offering him a weapon (who turns out to be Chani) and a fight that leads to his death. His combat with Jamis is the ultimate sign that makes him realize his destiny.

Paul has always believed peace must prevail across the universe without bloodshed or turmoil. The irony is one can't possibly establish harmony without first fighting evil. The Paul he envisions the death of in his prescience is that naive version of him that he needed to leave behind for Kwisatz Haderach — The One — to rise. As soon as he defeats Jamis, it becomes apparent to him that he must stay with the Fremen to learn their ways. Paul sees in front of him the fearless Fremen who are powerful enough to take their world back from the villainous Harkonnens and can one day make Arrakis a paradise that it truly has the potential to be. While the Fremen have accepted Paul and Jessica as one of their own following his victory in the duel, he has a long way ahead of him before he's earned the mantle of Lisan al Gaib.

What's to Come in Dune: Part 2?

As Jessica and Paul make their way back to Stilgar's Sietch, they pleasantly witness the tribe members traveling on the back of a sandworm, a lethal creature to most humans. He instantly harkens back to his father's words: "Desert power," to which Chani says, "It's only the beginning," suggesting not only Paul's new journey but also that the Dune universe has only just begun. Jessica assuredly smiles at him, knowing in her heart that he has the conviction it takes to finish what his father started. Dune: Part 2 will likely pick up from when they start adapting to the Fremen culture.