We come back to a well-rendered shot of a Thopter swooping over a patch of reed grass growing in the open desert. Now see? That's like the story of this entire miniseries. A clever, nice-looking CGI shot that I can appreciate and admire, which is immediately followed by a cut to Chani with a feather in her hair that makes her look like the Yankee Doodle Fremen. Unevenness, thy name is Sci-Fi. Chani is returning to Sietch Tabr for consultations with the Sayyadina, and just like in the first mini-series, Tabr is fronted by a giant stone façade that reaches ten stories into the air. Good lord! Have these people even read the books? Sietchs are supposed to be secret and private, and this one looks like it was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Inside, the Sayyadina informs her that someone has been administering a secret and highly complex contraceptive poison which has prevented her from conceiving another child. Given what we've seen so far, however, I'd think a more likely explanation would be that Paul's sperm are simply too busy primping in the mirror and bemoaning the dark fate which awaits them at the end of her fallopian tubes to actually get the job done. But that's just me. Chani gladly accepts news of a potential cure, even though it could have serious side effects, and then takes just the briefest of moments to consider the potential source of this attack.
Cut, of course, to Irulan in the Imperial chambers. A council meeting is in progress, with Alia, Stilgar, and Korba debating the wisdom of adopting a constitution for the Imperium. Irulan suggests creating a purely ceremonial document, because, after all, "deceit is a legitimate tool of statecraft." Alia, however, who is clad in the absolute worst-fitting costume I've seen since my junior high production of Pippin, insists that "Atreides power must never be marginalized by the chaos of democracy." Did you know that Atreides was the family name of Agamemnon? There's no word on whether or not Frank Herbert first considered and rejected "House of Busmalis" as an option, but still, the story parallels are impressive. We've got kings at war, palace intrigue, and even a vengeful female relative. And here I am as Cassandra, condemned to forever warn against the perils of adaptation, with Sci-Fi ignoring me in perpetuity. Which technically isn't really true, but we'll talk more about that later. In the meantime, Paul manages to tear himself away from his visions just long to declare that there will be no constitution. Ooh. Bad emperor! Bad emperor! You're so getting regime-changed now! With this decided, everyone leaves except for Stilgar, who stays after class to protest Paul's decision to accept a permanent ambassador from the Spacing Guild there on Arrakis. "We remember well how the Guild brought those who oppressed us," he says, conveniently forgetting that the Guild also brought Paul, his family, and the planet's entire economy as well. Paul insists that the ambassador's presence is necessary, and urges Stilgar to convince the others.
Once the meeting is over, Irulan returns to her duties as narrator. This time we see her actually writing the words as she speaks them, so if you've ever wondered where those chapter headers in the books come from, this is probably it. Suddenly Chani appears out of nowhere, with the blade of a crysknife pressed against Irulan's throat. If nothing else, the crysknives are a thousand times better in this version than the last. They even actually look like teeth now. "I should spill your water upon the sand for what you've done," spits Chani, who's obviously figured out where the contraceptive came from. "It is my right to bear the royal heir," whispers Irulan in response, as they toss a bone to the newbies and review the relationships involved here. I'm feeling oddly generous, so I'll do the same. Irulan is Paul's official wife, the daughter of the former emperor, whom he married for political reasons. Chani is the Royal Concubine, and, as she puts it, "the only woman [Paul] truly loves." Even in the original, I always thought Julie Cox was way too frail and tiny to play Irulan, but she does have pretty good chemistry with Barbora here, so I'm willing to just go with it. It's obvious that both women are in love with Paul, and that Irulan really does feel the pain of being a fifth wheel. "I could cuckold him," she threatens, regaining some of her haughtiness as Chani withdraws the knife. "Cuckold him all you like," she replies. "He won't deny you." Heh. "Cuckold" is a fun word. Except when it happens to you, of course. Barbora's got some sort of brown pleather and faux-fur strappy corset on, and while it's certainly not doing her cleavage any favors, she's definitely working the kick-ass desert-bitch vibe to the hilt as she storms out of the chamber.