‘Dune 2’s Most Underrated Scene Has a Deeper Meaning

Estimated read time 8 min read

The Big Picture

  • Feyd-Rautha’s Gom Jabbar test differs significantly from Paul Atreides’, showcasing Bene Gesserit power.
  • The Bene Gesserit manipulate politics and breed the Kwisatz Haderach through eugenics with great influence.
  • Lady Margot Fenring secures Feyd-Rautha’s genetic line, underpinning Bene Gesserit machinations.

Few franchises have such a complex lore as Dune. In Dune: Part Two, Denis Villeneuve explores many elements of the original Frank Herbert novel while also elevating some of them with original ideas. One of those is the Bene Gesserit, the ancient sisterhood that has been pulling the strings of nearly every major galactic event for millennia. They are present everywhere, from laying the seeds of the Fremen prophecies in Arrakis to plotting the demise of House Atreides with the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV (Christopher Walken), but the scene that defines them is also one of the movie’s best, when Lady Margot Fenring (Léa Seydoux) applies the Gom Jabbar test to Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen (Austin Butler) on Giedi Prime. It’s the same test applied to Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) in the first Dune movie, but, this time, there are very different intentions behind it.

Dune Part Two Poster

Dune: Part Two

Paul Atreides unites with Chani and the Fremen while seeking revenge against the conspirators who destroyed his family.

Release Date March 1, 2024

Director Denis Villeneuve

Runtime 166 minutes

Main Genre Sci-Fi

Writers Frank Herbert , Jon Spaihts , Denis Villeneuve

Feyd-Rautha’s Gom Jabbar Test Is Very Different From When Paul Atreides’

Feyd-Rautha is the heir to Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård), and his introduction in Part Two happens in a gladiator arena during his birthday celebrations. The sequence is grand in every way. The black sun of Giedi Prime painting everything in chalky black and milky white, Feyd-Rautha’s psychopathy in the arena, how the people worship him… It’s all very impressive from a visual standpoint, but what comes next manages to be even more impactful because, despite Feyd-Rautha seeing himself as a predator, he’s actually the prey.

After his psychotic birthday bash, Feyd-Rautha walks through the corridors of the Harkonnen castle in Giedi Prime by himself, followed by Lady Margot. He puts a knife at her throat to ask her what she’s on about, but the tables quickly turn. After playing coy at first, she quickly gets him under her control and leads him to the guest wing of the castle, where he has never been before. Feyd-Rautha is clearly out of his element, and what he does now isn’t up to him anymore.

He follows Lady Margot into her chambers, where she commands him to kneel and put his hand on a box, a Gom Jabbar needle at his throat now. He evidently passes the test, as he’s still alive for the remainder of the movie and has his two hands, and, in the next scene, Lady Margot reports on the test and on securing his Harkonnen bloodline by conceiving a girl with him to Reverend Mother Mohiam (Charlotte Rampling) and Princess Irulan (Florence Pugh), who’s also a Bene Gesserit. Plans within plans.

Feyd-Rautha’s experience with the Gom Jabbar is very different from when Paul Atreides took the test in the first movie. Back then, it was mostly about Reverend Mother Mohiam chastising Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) for defying her orders and conceiving a boy, Paul, instead of a girl for Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac). Now, it’s all about finding someone who can potentially stand up to Paul after he’s already become a leader among the Fremen. Lady Fenring completely dominates Feyd-Rautha, to the point where she doesn’t even have to use the Voice to make him comply. She identifies all his weaknesses, gets what she came for, and leaves him. He is a psychopath who murdered his own mother, and seeing him reduced to this is even satisfying to a point, and it reveals a lot about what the Bene Gesserit want and how they act to get it.

Feyd-Rautha Is the Best Alternative for the Bene Gesserit To Retain Their Power

In Part Two, the Bene Gesserit play a larger role than in Villeneuve’s first Dune movie. Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam is present for a lot of the important events, and we meet other members of their sisterhood, like Lady Fenring and Princess Irulan themselves. Not just that, but Reverend Mother Mohiam also reveals that she convinced the Emperor that House Atreides needed to be annihilated, something that speaks of the influence they hold in the political sphere in the Dune universe.

When it’s discovered that Paul Atreides not only survived, but is also leading a crusade against the Empire’s dominion over Arrakis, this is an immediate danger to the Bene Gesserit. For millennia, the sisterhood has built a position in which they aren’t openly in power, but rather behind it. The political structure of the Empire is similar to Middle Age fiefs, with lords and vassals, and the Bene Gesserit articulate the movements of every political player, from the smallest to the biggest. Using their influence, they are present in every court and advise every lord, while also being present among ordinary people, both in big urban centers and on remote planets, like Arrakis. They have managed to gather this much influence by a heavier use of spice, which granted them prescience and abilities superior to those of an ordinary person – enough to make them feared and respected even among high-borns like Feyd-Rautha.

Reverend Mother Mohiam advising the Emperor to exterminate the Atreides is a major departure from the original Dune novel, but one that highlights just how insidious the Bene Gesserit can be to perpetuate their influence and status. House Atreides rose as a potential threat to the Emperor’s rule and, by proxy, their own condition as advisors of power. One of the signs that the Atreides posed a risk was the very fact that Lady Jessica defied her orders to bear a daughter to Duke Leto – Jessica is a Bene Gesserit herself, but disobeyed her direct orders for the love she had for him. The fact that the Atreides were capable of inspiring such sentiment was dangerous for the political order of the Empire, and ultimately led to their downfall under Bene Gesserit approval.

Paul Atreides is aware of the Bene Gesserit’s involvement in his father’s death and the destruction of his house. His ascension in Arrakis puts the sisterhood in a delicate position, because it’s something they hadn’t foreseen. The best possible outcome to the whole Arrakis affair is Paul’s crusade being defeated, which is why Feyd-Rautha became such an important puzzle piece for them. For that to happen, however, the Bene Gesserit had to find out if he could be controlled. This was Lady Fenring’s most important mission regarding him: finding out if he could be a tool to defeat Paul, allowing them to keep their status.

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Lady Fenring Uses Feyd-Rautha as Part of the Bene Gesserit’s Eugenics Program

Another purpose of Lady Fenring’s mission in Giedi Prime is related to another of the Bene Gesserit’s machinations. Apart from their political role, the sisterhood also has a crucial role as a religious organization in the Dune universe. While there is no official religion, they are looked upon as spiritual guides, and have their own internal beliefs and rituals in this sense. The Gom Jabbar test is one of them, meant to assess whether a man is a prospect to be the Kwisatz Haderach – a man who will take humankind to a new age of enlightenment.

The arrival of the Kwisatz Haderach, however, will only happen through one of the Bene Gesserit’s most insidious practices – eugenics. Over the millennia, they have set in motion a secret breeding program between the great houses, using their influence to cross members of these houses until a man is born who has the genes to be the Kwisatz Haderach. According to the Bene Gesserit’s eugenics plan, the Kwisatz Haderach is supposed to be born from a crossing between houses Atreides and Harkonnen – an Atreides female and a Harkonnen male. However, Lady Jessica’s decision to bear Duke Leto a son once again thwarts their plans, leaving House Harkonnen’s genetic line in danger.

This is another reason for Lady Fenring’s mission in Giedi Prime: securing Feyd-Rautha’s genetic line by bearing his daughter. To ensure the continuity of their eugenics program, many of the Bene Gesserit themselves act as concubines to the great houses. Lady Jessica herself never married Duke Leto, being only his concubine, but the fact that a Bene Gesserit’s past is supposed to be secret meant that she never knew she was the daughter of Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, so her having a son meant the crossing between Atreides and Harkonnen happened one generation earlier, making Paul the Kwisatz Haderach.

Dune: Part Two is in theaters now.

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