As someone who finished the 10-episode series in a day, there’s something to keep viewers intrigued
Warning: minor spoilers ahead
Unlike Neil Gaiman fans, I’m not familiar with the legendary DC Comics and The Sandman series. I dove right into Netflix’s adaptation without context and simply because I enjoy dark fantasy. And while it has its upsides (ignorance is bliss they say), viewers like myself can get a little lost as the story quickly shifts from the personal to the cosmic. Add to that the new characters and concepts introduced in nearly every episode that remembering names and connections can be futile for some.
But as someone who finished the 10-episode series in one day, there’s something that will keep viewers intrigued and will have them pressing “Next Episode.”
Netflix’s The Sandman follows the story of Dream of the Endless (Tom Sturridge) or Morpheus, the Oneiromancer as he is called in some episodes. Dream is imprisoned for decades, albeit accidentally, by greedy humans who steal his symbols of power: a helm, a leather pouch full of sand and a red ruby. The first half of the season focuses on his escape and his journey to hell and back to reclaim his trio of items that have helped wreak havoc on an earth without Dream.
With hour-long episodes, The Sandman allows you to escape into his world. You root for his freedom, the restoration of his realm and hope he recovers what is rightfully his so the nightmares in the waking world might end. I was prepared for a TV voyage across realms and mighty villains to defeat, but it all happened too fast, too soon. The mystery of Dream and the motivations behind those inky eyes could not fully be realized. Victories were predictably won even as Dream said it himself that he could not beat Lucifer. There were missed opportunities with villains whose gripping storylines were told, such as John Dee played brilliantly by David Thewlis, but abruptly ended. This gives us audiences little to no time to understand their impact on Dream and thereby, Dream’s character development and relationship with humanity.
Sturridge, in my opinion, fits the bill for the titular role of the Sandman–mysterious and regal, but also arrogant and brooding–and I can only say the same for the series’ truly diverse cast. From Boyd Holbrook as the Corinthian to Kirby Howell-Baptiste’s Death and Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer, the selection was close to flawless. Meanwhile, the cinematography and visuals were impeccable; episodes A Hope in Hell and 24/7 stood out the most for me. So perhaps the flaw was in the execution and pace of the storytelling that caused the series to fall flat.
Netflix’s The Sandman doesn’t take its time to tell the story of our hero/anti-hero. Most of his transformation happens behind-the-scenes or via flashbacks and an exchange of lines (see: The Sound of Her Wings) with another charming character, like Ferdinand Kingsley’s Hob Gadling. In the latter half of the series, the story takes a lot of screen time away from Dream and shifts to dream vortex Rose Walker, her brother and friends, like Lyta Hall. And while I did enjoy the story arc of love and loss, the connection between this subplot and the main character is lost on me.
There is a lot the series leaves out, and I’m not referencing the comics because I haven't read it. But what kept me tuned in was the desire to find answers, as well as closure. Is the waking world okay? What’s the purpose of nightmares anyway? Was justice truly served when the Collectors finally woke up to the truth of their actions? Why the divide among the Endless, particularly Dream, Desire and Despair? What was that defining moment that caused the Sandman’s metamorphosis?
While some questions don’t necessarily merit answers, I’m still here, waiting, searching and hoping for answers. Maybe season 2 will tell.
Art Alexandra Lara