Dune ending explained: What’s next for Paul and Jessica?

The sci-fi epic has an open ending that will leave viewers desperate for more details.

Dune (2020) movie

Denis Villeneuve’s epic reimagining of Dune has finally arrived in UK cinemas, introducing movie-goers to the ill-fated Atreides family as they move from the safety of their homeworld to a desolate desert planet called Arrakis.

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Their positioning there has been a manipulation of the elusive Emperor and their arch-enemy Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård), designed to destroy a well-regarded family they see as a threat to their rule.

This latest Dune adaptation depicts only the first two-thirds of Frank Herbert’s lengthy novel, which is why the story is left relatively unresolved for an exiled Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) and his mother, Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson).

Villeneuve is keen to return to the director’s chair for a direct sequel that would complete his live-action retelling of the original Dune novel, although whether the mammoth project goes ahead will largely depend on box office returns (fingers crossed).

If you simply can’t wait to find out what Dune: Part Two has in store, then read on for a breakdown of the ending and a taste of what’s next for Paul and Jessica as they continue their epic journey. However, beware of spoilers!

Dune ending explained

The final act of Dune was devastating for House Atreides, as their enemies ganged up to eliminate their leader Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac) and leave their new home on Arrakis in ruins.

Paul’s cherished mentor figure Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa) was among the allies lost, while the fates of Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin) and Thufir Hawat (Stephen McKinley Henderson) were left unrevealed.

Paul and Jessica were able to escape with help from Dr Liet-Kynes (Sharon Duncan-Brewster), taking a thopter into the desert and weathering an epic storm that leads the Harkonnens to believe them dead.

Zendaya and Timothee Chalamet in Dune (2021)
Zendaya and Timothee Chalamet in Dune (2021)
Warner Bros

In actual fact, they are taken in by the Fremen people – who have learned to devised methods to survive the hostile conditions of Arrakis over generations – after Paul bests one of their own in combat.

Among the Fremen community, he first encounters Chani (Zendaya) in the flesh, a mysterious young woman he has been experiencing visions about for some time.

She informs him: “This is only the beginning,” which doubles as a statement of intent from director Denis Villeneuve to his audience, as the filmmaker intends to continue this story in a sequel.

What will happen in Dune: Part Two?

Warning: potential spoilers for Dune: Part Two follow. 

Frank Herbert’s Dune novel is separated into three parts – titled Dune, Mua’dib, and The Prophet respectively – with Villenueve’s adaptation encompassing an abridged version of the first two.

Part three will presumably form the basis of his proposed film sequel, which sees Paul and Jessica settle into their roles in the Fremen community of Sietch Tabr.

Jessica takes on the role of Reverend Mother (the position also held by Charlotte Rampling’s Gaius Helen Mohiam), undergoing a ritual that involves ingesting a toxic substance misleadingly named the Water of Life.

The liquid, which is produced by a dying sandworm, has an effect on Jessica’s unborn child while still in the womb, but she is ultimately born a girl and given the name, Alia.

Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica in Dune
Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica in Dune
Warner Bros

Two years pass and in that time Paul has a child of his own with Chani, while his abilities to see the future only grow stronger, leading the Fremen people to consider him a messiah.

Their belief is being deliberately manipulated by Paul, who is exploiting the false prophecies once spread by the Bene Gesserit’s Missionaria Protectiva, but they do become a more effective fighting force under his leadership.

This gets the attention of the villainous Baron Harkonnen, who took control of Arrakis after the fall of House Atreides, but now finds himself struggling to fight back against raids from the organised Fremen.

This sets the stage for an epic battle against Paul’s forces and those of the Harkonnens, as well as a confrontation involving the Emperor that orchestrated the fall of House Atreides, but is entirely absent from Villenueve’s adaptation.

We won’t say exactly what the outcome is so as to save some surprises for the sequel, which has a good chance of going ahead if Dune’s hype translates to ticket sales.

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Dune is playing now in UK cinemas. Check out more of our Sci-Fi coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what’s on tonight.