‘Dune’ ending explained: Why does Paul join the Fremen?
(Credits: Warner Brothers)

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'Dune' ending explained: Why does Paul join the Fremen?

Dune was arguably the big-screen event of 2021, so its arrival on the smaller screen represents a major coup for Netflix. The movie created a desert storm in Hollywood three years ago, while satisfying fans with its fidelity to Frank Herbert’s original novel and spectacular visuals.

This first film and its sequel have been jointly celebrated as the best cinematic saga for 20 years. And they’ve left viewers wanting more, leading to the development of a further instalment based on Herbert’s follow-up novel Dune Messiah.

Alongside Villeneuve’s ambitious direction, lead actor Timothée Chalamet has driven the series forward with his stellar performance as Paul Atreides. Paul is heir to the Dukedom of Atreides on the planet Caladan, a distant world inhabited by humanity at some point far in the future.

This position also makes him the heir to the desert planet Arrakis and its unique supply of the psychoactive substance melange, commonly known as “spice”, which is the basis of all interstellar space travel. This planet is inhabited by the Fremen, an ancient people who settled there thousands of years before, 

But in the latter half of the first Dune movie, Paul suddenly has to reckon with a challenge to his family’s rule over Arrakis. Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, aided by a treacherous aid of Paul’s father Leto, invades the planet during its visit by the House of Atreides. Leto is killed while attempting to destroy the Baron, leaving Paul to avenge his father and defend Arrakis against the House of Harkonnen.

The film ends with him fighting a Fremen warrior to the death. He initially resists enacting his victory, with his mother Jessica remarking, “Paul has never killed a man.” In the end, he has a vision which compels him to do so.

Yet Paul isn’t an enemy of the Fremen. He was forced to duel the warrior in order to prove his worth to them. This plot point is made more explicitly in the initial part one of Herbert’s novel entitled Dune World, the narrative of which Villeneuve’s film faithfully adheres to. Having won the fight, he goes against his mother’s pleas for them to leave Arrakis and decides to join the Fremen, telling them, “My road leads into the desert. I can see it. If you’ll have us, we will come.”

So why does he stay?

Paul Atreides is responding to the call of visions he has experienced while on Arrakis, about him leading a war across the universe in the name of religion. He associated these visions directly with the Fremen after a girl he had envisioned, Chani, appeared in their midst. And after what he envisioned immediately before killing his Fremen opponent in the duel.

He feels he’s honouring his father’s aims by joining the Fremen, too. As he tells them, “The emperor sent us to this place.” Leto was initially sceptical about the Emperor’s request that he replace Baron Harkonnen as ruler of Arrakis, which turned out to be a trap, but he obeyed it all the same. “And my father came not for spice, not for the riches,” Paul adds, “but for the strength of you people.”

Leto was determined to ally himself with the Fremen. Even if he didn’t live to see the alliance come to pass, his son is even more determined to make it happen. And follow his own destiny.