When it comes to the surreal and fantastical works of author Neil Gaiman, there’s a magic in his writing that is difficult to translate to the audio-visual medium. His prose are so dense with subtext and hidden layers of meaning. A whole page of vivid, masterful details has to be conveyed in the span of a scene. Whether it be the inner thoughts of complex characters or the intricate history behind the setting. Honestly, there are times the guy writes like he’s some mad prophet peering into another world! So, when we heard that he would be bringing his most iconic comic book series to life, “The Sandman”, with what is essentially a blank check from Netflix, we were terrified.
For the most part, the stories in “The Sandman” are often anthological, meaning it doesn’t always follow a linear structure. Sometimes the Lord of Dreams is wrestling with demons and holding council with the various gods of human culture. Sometimes, he’s swept up in ancient romances and visiting the artists of antiquity. Other times, he’s literally talking to dreaming cats!
There are a million and one ways “The Sandman” could be ruined, and yet if nailed correctly, it could be one of the greatest comic-book TV series ever made. So with Gaiman’s heavy involvement in producing the show, will the character Dream of the Endless and his tales be done justice? Or will be this be a nightmare for fans and newcomers? Let’s find out!
Season 1 Review
As fans of Gaiman’s original graphic novel series, we totally understand that certain creative liberties had to be taken to allow “The Sandman” to be told in a linear fashion. Certain plot threads had to be streamlined and characters like the Corinthian and Rose Walker given larger roles. As long as it honours the spirit of the classic text, we’re all good. So…does it? Well, we absolutely enjoyed the first half of the first season which covers the “Preludes and Nocturnes” arc. “The Dark Knight” writer, David S. Goyer along with Gaiman and Allen Heinberg demonstrate a profound understanding of what makes Dream and the people and things inhabiting his world such compelling characters.
We were looking forward to seeing Dream’s verbal and rhetorical clash with the forces of Hell in the episode “A Hope in Hell” and it is everything we hoped it would be! Gwendoline Christie’s performance as the elegant, but ever malevolent, Lucifer is an utter gem, one that we’re sure has big plans in future seasons to come. Then, there are episodes of the series that dip deep into the horror pool to bring nightmares into the waking world. Seriously, you are not prepared for “24/7”. David Thewlis’ John Dee will continue to haunt you long after the credits roll.
That being said, the episode we enjoyed the most has got to be “The Sound of Her Wings”. No hair-raising thrills or macarbe action here. Just a quiet, contemplative story that follows Dream and his sister, Death discussing about the meaning of life and mortality. A conversation that plays a key role in developing Dream as a being who begins to see life outside of the confines of his all-powerful control. Someone who has to learn to appreciate the little beauties of life.
While the second half of the series following “The Doll’s House” attempts to do justice to the story of Rose Walker and the Corinthian are valiant, we couldn’t help but feel that it waned in quality near the end. Particularly with how Dream’s character arc is given a more traditional and heroic aspect which doesn’t really fit with his cold, sombre nature. Sure in time he does begin to soften up and is humbled by the power of dreams in the hands of mortals but that’s a long way to go! It feels like this was done to make Dream more sympathetic but it comes at the expense of a longer, more profound journey of self-discovery. Besides that one gripe, we still found the second half of the series capable of offering up plenty of jaw-dropping moments and creepy fun.
Speaking of Dream, Tom Sturridge does a marvelous job of bringing Morpheus to life! He expertly nails Dream’s voice and personality. More that shows more than his seemingly detached, cold nature, but rather betrays an emotional immaturity and lack that Dream must learn to overcome. A flaw that begins to work be refined as he learns to care for those around him. It certainly helps that Sturridge’s performance is bolstered by highly talented actors such as “Game of Thrones” actor Charles Dance who plays Sir Roderick Burgess and Boyd Holbrook as the nefarious, sadistic Corinthian. Holbrook has come a long way from his “Narcos” days. We particularly enjoyed Jenna Coleman a gender-swapped version of the famed occultist John Constantine, as Johanna Constantine. She embodies all the swagger and nastiness we’ve come to know and love from the British sorcerer.
For the most part, Netflix’s “The Sandman” is a Dream come true for fans of Gaiman’s original graphic novel. It manages to balance out its weighty themes and concepts with gripping human drama, all neatly packaged into a solid 10-episode season. From here on out till the end of time, Tom Sturridge shall be known as the definitive live-action version of Dream of the Endless. Through stunning production quality and strong vision, “The Sandman” confirms its place as the best live-action DC series out there right now!
Season 2 Explained
Now, the first season of the series adapted two volumes of Gaiman’s graphic novel, “Prelude and Nocturnes” and “The Doll’s House”. So it stands to reason that Gaiman would probably adapt the stories of the next volumes “Dream Country” and “Season of the Mists”. “Dream Country”, unlike “Season of the Mists”, tells multiple stories of Dream meeting different historical figures and creatures. In one of the issues, he intervenes to free the Greek Goddess Calliope from captivity. In another, he meets up with Shakespeare to watch his performance “Midsommar Night’s Dream” before a crowd of faeries and magical creatures. There’s also one involving Death helping a deformed superheroine come to terms with her existence.
By far, the story we’re most interested in seeing the series adapt into a live-action episode is “Dream of a Thousand Cats”. One that reveals the secret history of cats in which they used to rule the Earth as gods over men. They would chase us, cruelly toy with us and finally devour us. That all changed when humans discovered the power of dreams and how they could shape reality. All of this is told by Dream in the form of a cat. How will Netflix handle the episode? Will they go the hyper-realistic route via Disney’s live-action “The Lion King” or will it be more animated and surreal in their representation? If the series decides not to do an episode on “Dream of a Thousand Cats”, we’ll riot in the streets!
Based on the ending of the first season, it looks like Gwendoline Christie’s Lucifer Morningstar will be playing a major a role in the second season, with Gaiman probably adapting the next two volumes of his graphic novel per season. In the fourth volume of the graphic novel series, “Season of the Mists”, the fallen angel decides to relinquish his control over Hell. This was also seen in FOX TV series “Lucifer” starring Tom Ellis as the titular character. In the TV series, it made it seem like the only reason Lucifer gave up Hell was because of his desire to find freedom from the Presence. In “The Sandman”, there’s more to the story though.
One of the reasons he made his decision was to punish Dream for challenging his authority. We see Dream do likewise to Gwendoline Christie’s female version in the episode “A Hope in Hell”. In the comics, Lucifer wished to trap the Sandman in a dilemma of who will be responsible for the souls of the damned within the DC Universe by handing the Key to Hell over to Dream. It eventually results in the Lord of Dreams having to contend with various gods, demons and other cosmic beings for the right over the domain. These beings include the Norse Odin, the Egyptian Bast, the Lords of Order, the demon Azazel and even the Angels of Heaven. We’re curious to see if the gods of the Greek pantheon, as seen in “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” and “Wonder Woman’ will make an appearance too.
Technically, “The Sandman” does exists within the wider DC Extended Universe (DCEU) so it could be possible. For those who can’t get enough of “The Sandman”, you can check out our breakdown of how Dream is connected to the DCEU and just how powerful he really is.
Be sure to check out “The Sandman” on Netflix today!
Netflix's "The Sandman" Season 1 Review
For the most part, Netflix's "The Sandman" is a Dream come true for fans of Gaiman's original graphic novel. It manages to balance out its weighty themes and concepts with gripping human drama, all neatly packaged into a solid 10-episode season. From here on out till the end of time, Tom Sturridge shall be known as the definitive live-action version of Dream of the Endless. Through stunning production quality and strong vision, "The Sandman" confirms its place as the best live-action DC series out there right now!
Netflix's "The Sandman" Season 1 Review