I'd resist the urge to fill in too many of the blanks between chapters. With all the exposition flying around (and there's going to be a metric TON of it in the first few episodes) the jumps in time are a good way to keep the audience jogging to catch up. What you don't want is for it to all plod along, going from A to B to C to D. Remember the first few episodes of 'Caprica' after the pilot? They had exactly this problem of not very much happening, but people milling around talking about things the audience already knows.
A more pertinent example would be the Pinky & the Brain sequels to Chapterhouse. It read like a 6 year old's letter about what they did on their holidays: -
"...and then we went to the shops and then we had some ice cream and then we ran away from a tribe of face dancers and then....etc. etc."
There's plenty of material to draw from without needing to invent too much.
Good idea about *showing* the Atredies air and sea power, rather than just talking about it. The same should be applied to Freman desert power, mentat calculation, Bene Gesserit control and Sardaukar ferocity and effectiveness (makes it all the more impressive when the Freman kick their arses.)
I was thinking the other day about how to handle the first season finale and what I thought would work best is to do it as three episodes, each showing a different point of view of the Fall of Arakeen.
The first episode
should be very much character driven as it's from the Duke's perspective. Starting right off the bat with him already drugged and imprisoned. The whole thing could be a series of quasi-dreamlike flashbacks and distortions of his reality. You could show his life on Caladan, memories of his father, the impressions he left on him and even witnessing the death of the old Duke to the salusan bull. All through it would be fragments of reality intruding. The Baron's gloating taunts, Huey's confession to the Duke, his later confrontation with the Baron followed by his death and of course the poison tooth. The final scenes should naturally be Leto and Piter's deaths and the Baron's narrow escape.
The second of the three parter
could be the meat of the battle as shown from Thuffir & Gurney's perspective. The house shield is down, the Duke and his family are missing, Harkonnen troops are landing all over Arrakis in alarming numbers. Gurney attempts to rally the men but are driven into the cliffs and trapped by the unexpected use of archaic artillery fire. This is the last we see of Gurney (presumed dead by the audience) until much later in season three when Paul runs across him with the smugglers.
Thuffir is similarly trying to rally what forces he can, but in his own master of assassins way. He's more concerned with how suspiciously well trained the "Harkonnen troops" appear to be and is working on getting the survivors to link up with Duncan and the Freman and escaping into the deep desert. His story ends with his capture, to be picked up later in season two with Feyd's plotting thread.
should be entirely from Paul & Jessica's POV and start with them captured and tied in a thopter, on their way to being disposed of in the desert. This is the first the audience has seen of them for two episodes, with only mentions of their fate (both intended and presumed) in the last two episodes. As in the book, they overpower their guards, find the package and are found by Duncan who leads them to Kynes.
In there somewhere should be the bit where they're sweeping the desert with lasguns and hit the shield Duncan left for them in the sand. What happens when this occurs is a thing they can have mentioned or described before this, bit it's something that should be demonstrated at least once.
Paul has a prophetic visions thanks to the spice and sees many of the things to come, the jihad, the golden path, Jessica's parentage, the legions fanatically chanting "Muad'Dib! Muad'Dib! Muad'Dib!"
. This is still a mystery out of context, since at this point the audience have only been told that the Freman will call him "Usul", "Mahdi" and the "Lisan al Gaib". Muad'Dib should be painted as a dark figure of the uncertain future. A terrible thing or villain to be feared and avoided. You can even play with the vague implication that (in accordance with the Baron's plan) that this figure is Feyd after "liberating" Arrakis from his tyrant brother.
Inter-cut with all this should be some scenes showing the aftermath of the battle, mostly the Baron talking about what it cost them and what comes next. In there should be the scene with the Sardaukar officer demanding to see Leto's body and maybe even Shaddam's fury.
Back with Paul and Jessica, the hiding place is stormed and Duncan is killed buying them time to flee and the episode ends with them flying into the storm. Queue Irulan's closing monologue.
This should make the Red Wedding look like a polite squabble. More than half the cast are killed off in fairly brutal fashion, the status quo of the previous season is turned completely on it's head and it looks like for all intents and purposes that the Harkonnans have won and the Baron already has his sights set on getting Feyd on the throne.