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‘I Will Face My Fear’ — The Mind-Killing Little Deaths of ‘Dune’ (Part Ten): Muad’Dib Earns His Place and More

By Josmar16 @ReviewsByJosmar

‘I Will Face My Fear’ — The Mind-Killing Little Deaths of ‘Dune’ (Part Ten): Muad’Dib Earns His Place and More

The Water of Life sequence with Paul (center), Chani (left) and Mother Jessica (right) The Challenge to Leadership

In a brief scene, Feyd appears with his uncle, the treacherous Baron Harkonnen, whose fat floating form hovers near his brash nephew. In the same instant, a seemingly haughty Princess Irulan gives Feyd the cold shoulder (or interplanetary "brush off"). That's quite a different reception from the one he got at their first meeting four years earlier. Time waits for no man! It's still the Baron's intention, however, to groom his pretty boy nephew for the emperor's throne.

Transition to the moment where Paul becomes the unifier of the disparate Fremen forces in their respective sietches, to include their current leader Stilgar who's been a bit in the background of late. The entire purpose and thrust of the action are for Otheym and the other tribesmen to finally acknowledge that their old way of doing things - in this instance, of trial by combat between Stilgar and Paul to determine who will reign as "head dude" - is over and done with.

In the process, a "miracle" is performed by Paul whereby the Water of Life literally pours out of his body (an optical illusion, really) which turns the tide, so to speak, in the Atreides' favor. It is the form by which leadership can be attained that is being challenged here, not the combatants themselves. For this purpose, a fight to the finish, or trial by combat to the death of one of the participants, turns out not to be a very practical or effective method of achieving the aims indicated.

It's one that needs to be developed by both Paul and Stilgar, if they are to come out of this situation alive and ready to do battle: not with themselves, of course, but with their real enemies, the hated Harkonnens. More crucially, the aim is to assume the rightful leadership roles of their respective forces. This culminates in the most time-consuming shot of the series, one that needed to be pieced together bit by tiny bit, according to director Harrison and his crew, i.e., the many disparate elements that point the Fremen in the right direction as far as their future existence is concerned.

From their chants of "Maud'Dib, Muad'Dib," to "Mahdi, Mahdi" (a blanket reference to the actual Mahdi of history who confronted British General "Chinese" Gordon in the battle for Khartoum), Paul is now the de facto head of all his tribespeople. Whether this was a planned maneuver or not, whether the Bene Gesserit had any inkling of his powers, or what was going on in the background, remains to be seen.

In the subsequent section, Otheym is summoned to fulfill Paul's plan to gather up the available spice, including the giant sandworms themselves, in one strategic place. His scheme is to threaten to flood the underwater caves - and with them, drown the sandworms, thus destroying the spice trade once and for all. This will be his sword of Damocles, the means by which Paul Atreides, now the Mahdi, will be able to win the battle for Arrakis's freedom from oppression - ironically, by employing the same harsh methods the Baron, his nefarious nephews, and Emperor Shaddam IV himself, have been using on the Fremen and other home worlds.

Now comes the crucial scene (one that director Harrison had serious thoughts of cutting), whereby a bruised and battle-tested Paul reveals to his mother Jessica the truth of who he really is: to wit, the grandson of the dreaded Baron Harkonnen! And that Lady Jessica herself is also, in fact, the Baron's daughter! (Remember those hand gestures massaging his right temple?)

‘I Will Face My Fear’ — The Mind-Killing Little Deaths of ‘Dune’ (Part Ten): Muad’Dib Earns His Place and More

Mother Superior Jessica shares Paul's (now Muad'Dib) vision for the future

The problem, regrettably, is that Paul's time has come too soon. Initially, the Bene Gesserit's long term strategy of inbreeding called for him to appear later - several generations later, to be exact. Be that as it may, Paul's imbibing of the Water of Life altered the situation, as well as transformed Jessica's son into a veritable messiah. But in his case, Paul becomes a vindictive monster instead, hell bent on wreaking vengeance at all costs for the many lives that have been and will continue to be lost.

In a momentary change in focus, little Alia, Paul's younger sister, senses the warring Sardaukar factions, to include those aerial ornithopters, which puts their plans into motion, the beginning if not the end not only for the emperor's forces but for the Harkonnen fighters as well.

We, the viewing audience, are the uncomfortable witnesses to the brutality inherent in the scene of two massive Sardaukar guards confronting tiny baby Leto, left alone and stranded after the slaying of his nursemaid. One guard bears a noticeable resemblance to Rabban the Beast, the Baron's brutal killer of a nephew.

In the very next instant, Chani awakens abruptly to see Paul sitting up on the edge of their bed. He informs her that their little son... is dead.

The Battle Begins

Paul, Gurney Halleck, and Otheym are gathered high up on a plateau, overlooking the Arrakeen palace. They are ready to make their move. "Time to let them know I am here," Paul remarks. His plan is to send a captured Sardaukar officer back to his masters. It is revealed that the frightened, reluctant Sardaukar officer will be charged with delivering the terms of surrender to Emperor Shaddam IV.

"You're mad!" shouts the terrified officer, knowing full well that anyone delivering such an ultimatum will be met with execution (Author's note: For a comparison, see John Woo's epic Red Cliff: Part One, where a messenger from the opposing forces hands Minister Cao-Cao a blank scroll, the meaning of which is clear: no surrender. Cao-Cao immediately has the poor messenger beheaded). But Paul is not deterred. He understands his role and knows what must be done. His time has come and he has no choice but to act on it.

Back at the palace, the Emperor is furious at this challenge to his authority - interesting that Shaddam IV should be put in the same position as Paul was placed with Otheym, vis-à-vis his challenge to Stilgar's authority as titular head of the Fremen sietches. While the wily Baron tries to turn the situation to his advantage (and away from himself), the Emperor has little Alia brought before them as a hostage.

For her part, Alia turns brazenly toward the bloated Baron and insults him to his face.

"What is this? Some kind of midget?" the Baron asks sarcastically. The Emperor strolls over to Alia and introduces her as Muad'Dib's sister.

‘I Will Face My Fear’ — The Mind-Killing Little Deaths of ‘Dune’ (Part Ten): Muad’Dib Earns His Place and More

Alia steps up to the plate, while Feyd and the Baron (at left) look on contemptuously

Without warning, the palace shields are raised in anticipation of an attack. Thumpers are heard, while Paul urges Gurney Halleck to set their plan into motion. The final battle is about to begin.

Meantime, the sweaty-faced Baron, sensing he's about to be cornered for his past misdeeds, feigns ignorance of Alia's relationship to Muad'Dib. "He's lying, of course," Alia blurts out. She is obviously relishing the moment. But the Emperor wants to move on. He orders Alia to convince her brother to surrender. Alia remains adamant, her "impudence" and disregard for the Emperor's authority obvious to one and all (especially, to the assembled Bene Gesserit).

"I'm beyond your power," Alia gloats openly, as she points to the Reverend Mother. "Kill her! Kill her now, the Abomination!" the Reverend Mother shouts in desperation. She realizes, full well, who this child is: an usurper with powers outside even their tight control.

Stepping up to assume her place in the conversation, Princess Irulan knows instinctively that Alia is Atreides born, the sister of Paul, the Duke's son. "HE is Muad'Dib!" Irulan reveals.

The Baron is incredulous.

Back to Paul, who orders Gurney to throw the switch. KABOOM!

We are back again at the Arrakeen palace where Reverend Mother cowers before the little child as a gigantic explosion signals Paul's approach. The coming storm will bring the revolt to its height. A huge dust cloud develops and engulfs the palace, thus bringing down its defenses. In a flash, dozens of ornithopters fly over and into formation - evidently, the Fremen have done their job well in sealing off any hope for the Emperor's escape.

At that moment, the Emperor orders that Alia's body be given to the storm, but Alia stands firm. Swooping down and grabbing hold of the child, the Baron, overconfident as was his wont, tries to whisk her away. But Alia is too fast for the fat man's own good. She stabs and scrapes the Baron's pudgy hand with a poisoned dart from her ring. Clever girl! This one would make a formidable enough foe for any would-be assassin.

Her parting words to him are telling, to say the least: "Goodbye, grandfather!" she intones to the hefty Harkonnen's face. The Baron instantly chokes to death from the fast-acting poison, his massive frame floating slowly away.

And just as well, too, for the full force of the Fremen's power has finally been unleashed. Giant sandworms, "thopters" galore, artillery, and aerial bombardments overpower what is left of the scrambling Sardaukar and Imperial forces. The Emperor is helpless, unable to act in view of the mighty onslaught he is forced to witness. That hasn't stopped the Bene Gesserit or anyone else from beating a hasty retreat.

Finally, we see Paul, Gurney and Stilgar riding a gigantic sandworm to lead the final assault. It's kill or be killed as the slaughter reaches its height. Ironically, the Sardaukar guard who took poor little Leto's life walks straight into Stilgar's rifle. He's shot through the belly, a fitting end for an unworthy opponent.

Transition to Paul staring at an aerial dogfight of thopters versus Imperial fighter jets - a veritable World War I midair collision. Back and forth they fly, while on the ground Gurney leads a house by house assault on the combatants. It's every man, woman and child for themselves. Finally, the native forces break through to the palace as the hand-to-hand combat reaches its climax.

As Paul envisioned, the dead and dying are all around. Smoke and flames billow skyward, as if the souls of the dearly departed have been sent upward to the heavens. The main square is filled with lifeless bodies. In the next sequence, a frightened Rabban the Beast, cowering and overly cautious (now, where has HE been hiding throughout all this time?), scurries along the side walls like a cornered rodent, hoping to make his escape. All is quiet.

Rabban looks around, a dagger still in his right hand. For a split second, we get the feeling that this vicious brute might make it out after all. He even allows himself a half-smile, a little smirk at his supposed "good fortune."

‘I Will Face My Fear’ — The Mind-Killing Little Deaths of ‘Dune’ (Part Ten): Muad’Dib Earns His Place and More

Rabban the Beast meets his inglorious end in the Sci-Fi Channel's 'Dune'

But his hopes are short-lived. The entire populace steps out from the shadows, their eyes gleaming with the eerie blue glow of the spice; their looks thirsting for vengeance. Rabban breaks out in a cold sweat. He turns his head upward, only to see Stilgar pointing a huge weapon in his direction. For a split second, Rabban is relieved, thinking to himself, "I'd rather be shot to death than tortured." Not likely, for Stilgar withdraws the weapon and saunters off, leaving the bested Rabban to his fate.

Realizing all is lost, the brutish killer drops his weapon and lets out a final yell. Which, as expected, signals to the crowd that now's the time for retribution. Onward they charge, stabbing and pulverizing the Harkonnen nephew to death. At the end, a young boy breaks away from the slaughter. He's holding onto something. What could it be? Clutching the object closely, the boy runs up the steps to the top of the parapet.

From there, the boy lifts Rabban's severed head for the people to see, a gruesome reminder that (paraphrasing what Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth allegedly cried out at Ford's Theater), "Thus death comes to tyrants!" The crowd cheers wildly at the horrid sight, lifting their bloody arms in victory.

"The saga of Dune is far from over..."

(To be continued...)

Copyright © 2023 by Josmar F. Lopes

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