Dune: Part Two (2024) Ending Explained – Is Paul Evil?

Dune: Part Two has been lauded by fans and critics alike. Most would agree that the first film was also monumentally epic and well done. However, many casual fans have agreed that Part Two felt more action-packed, and full of plot progression.

The world of Dune, created by author Frank Herbert, is full of extremely dense lore. He also plays with the hero’s journey in a subtle but profound way. Let’s take a dive into the vast desert sands of this modern sci-fi epic, and look to better explain the end (for now).

Dune Overview

Dune takes place at least 20,000 years into our future.  Humanity has spread across the galaxy, and a few key families control a vast, galactic empire. Among these ruling families is House Atreides. The son of this house is Paul (Timothee Chalamet), our protagonist. His mother belongs to an ancient order of witches called the Bene Gesserit. They manipulate the galaxy’s destiny from the shadows, with plans that take centuries to enact, including selective breeding.

Paul’s mother, Jessica, has acted of her own accord in order to raise Paul to become ‘Kwisatz Haderach.’ This is a ‘chosen one’ type of role, in which Paul would become the only male Bene Gesserit, able to use the power of his mind to bridge space and time, essentially controlling and manifesting the future. Paul is on his way to achieving this status early in the first film, learning to use “the voice” to control people.

The galactic Emperor gives control of Arrakis, or Dune, to house Atreides, fairly certain that no good will come of the decision. Indeed, the Harkonnens respond by decimating House Atreides, killing Paul’s father, and leaving Paul and Jessica for dead.

Alongside plans like these, the Bene Gesserit have seeded ancient religions in populations across the galaxy, including on Dune. This is a special measure put in place to be able to control populations, bending entire planets to their will by seeming to fulfill ancient prophecies. Are you still with me?

Dune: Part Two recap

The sequel picks up where the first one left off: Paul and Jessica are traveling with the Fremen. Chani is especially skeptical of the Fremen religion and prophecy.

Stilgar, a new Fremen friend of Paul, is convinced Paul is ‘Lisan al Gaib’ (prophet from an outer world). Other believers hail Paul as a messianic figure. This is all part of Jessica and the Bene Gesserit’s plan. Jessica becomes the Fremen high priestess. Paul simply wants to join the Fremen as a warrior in order to defeat the Harkonnens and avenge the death of his father.

Chani helps Paul learn all the ways of the Fremen. The more he learns of the Fremen ways, the more he’s praised as a messiah. Paul and Chani’s bond grows from mutual respect into a fairytale romance, despite the ‘messiah’ stuff causing conflict between them. Paul’s fighting skills and growing power help the Fremen with many successful attacks against the Harkonnen.

It’s confirmed that the Emperor (Christopher Walken) intended to provoke the Harkonnens into destroying House Atreides. His daughter, Irulan (Florence Pugh), trained by the Bene Gesserit, rules from a distance. As Paul gains attention by helping the Fremen disrupt spice harvesting, Irulan and the Bene Gesserit seek out someone to rival the Fremen’s new leadership.

As the conflict escalates, we meet the deranged Harkonnen nephew, Feyd-Rautha. He assumes control over Dune and cracks down on the Fremen attacks. The Fremen retreat south to where the religious fundamentalists live. When Paul arrives, he finally embraces his role as their messiah, much to Chani’s dismay.

Paul reunites with his mentor Gurney, who was assumed dead. Gurney reveals House Atreides’ atomic arsenal. The stage is now set for an all-out war between the Fremen and the Harkonnen.

Does Dune: Part Two end happily?

As the conflict escalates, Paul sends word to the Emperor that he’s still alive, and has been acting as the Fremen war leader under the name Muadib.

The Emperor comes to Dune just in time for the climactic battle. Bombs explode, Fremen attack on the backs of giant worms, and Paul infiltrates the Emperor’s ship. Paul kills Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgard), and Gurney kills Rabban (Dave Bautista).

Paul demands the Emperor step down and offers to marry Irulan as a peace agreement. Chani feels devastated as Paul had told her multiple times “I’ll love you as long as I breathe.”

The Emperor is reluctant and has Feyd-Rautha fight Paul one-on-one to decide the fate of the Empire. In a tense battle, Paul defeats Feyd-Rautha, and the Emperor concedes to Paul’s rule. However, the other ruling houses arrive, waiting in outer space. They do not accept Paul as the new Emperor. Therefore, Paul and the Fremen prepare to meet them in battle.

A war has now begun to decide who rules the galaxy, and who gets control over planet Dune. Chani, heartbroken and furious, heads off on her own.

Is Paul Evil?

All-in-all, this may seem like a happy(ish) ending. Justice (or revenge) is had by Paul and his friends, Paul leads the Fremen, and is basically the new Emperor. Seeing Chani’s point of view, though, is what lends an entirely fresh perspective to all of these events.

The Bene Gesserit leader says to Jessica after what seems like victory, “there are no sides.” Remember, the Bene Gesserit essentially created the Fremen religion that spells out the prophecy of the ‘Lisan al Gaib.’ Irulan pulling the strings on one side is no different than Jessica pulling strings on the other side. What may seem on the surface as a typical story about Paul as the chosen one is more of a critique not only of the ‘chosen one’ concept, but a modern commentary on religion, colonization, and occupation as instruments of control.

The Bene Gesserit are much like Palpatine in Star Wars in the sense that they are pulling the strings on both sides of a massive conflict. Paul is less of a hero and more of a pawn, despite his best efforts to avoid this truth. In the same way that the Roman Empire embraced Christianity in part to pacify populations, Paul assumes his role of messiah as a means to an end. Rather than think of Paul as “evil,” Dune takes a more subtle approach to all of this.

The epic scale of this story takes a more neutral perspective, giving just enough information and nuance for viewers to decide for themselves how to feel about the events of the plot. It’s a fresh take on a tried and tested story format.

“Beyond cruelty”

Paul’s line that Arrakis is “beyond cruelty” as a planet echoes the idea that Dune is beyond good and evil. It may be easy to conclude that the Bene Gesserit are the greater evil. Like Anakin Skywalker, though, Paul Atreides is a good person manipulated into evil. This film, however, ends essentially where the first book in the Dune series ends. What comes next is revealed in Dune: Messiah.

Writer/Director Denis Villeneuve is already working on the third film. Whether Paul will step out from the Bene Gesserit shadow, for those unacquainted with the books, remains to be seen. This is also true of what is to come of Chani and her relationship with Paul.

Suffice it to say that things are going to get crazier, and the comparisons to Star Wars are likely to keep coming.

What did you think of the ending of Dune: Part Two? Let us know in the comments below!


Read More: Dune: Part Two Movie Review

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