The Sandman adaption from Neil Gaiman graphic novels is Netflix’s current big thing, so I thought I’d give it a shot.
I’ve always been fascinated by the story of good vs. evil, alternate realms and dimensions, and the idea that other worldly powers have a role in mankind’s destiny. Yeah I know it’s silly but it’s something that has intrigued me since I was a kid.
I’m aware that some fans got their ass hairs in a twist at some of the casting decisions. Lucifer was gender swapped, Death was race swapped and Lucienne was race and gender swapped. I knew nothing of the source material, so the only thing that bothered me was the casting of two insufferable twats in the form of Patton Oswalt and Mark Hamill. Mercifully their roles were minor and it was just voice work.
There’s quite a lot to unpack so I’m going to review each episode in bitesize chunks for you. Episode one review is the longest so don’t be deterred and trust me, the reviews get shorter as we go along and you’ll soon see why. Let’s do this!
WARNING – SPOILERS AHEAD!
Episode 1 – Sleep of the Just
After a brief synopsis of what the dream world is, called the Dreaming, and some fantastical landscapes and creatures that look like a mix from Harry Potter and Asgard, we are thrown into the Waking World. This is what we humans call the real world. It is 1916.
We meet Roderick Burgess, played by the ever sinister Charles Dance, and his magical society The Order Of Ancient Mysteries. Burgess is pissed that his favourite of two sons was killed and is attempting to capture Death and make her return his son in exchange for her freedom. Alex, the second son that is still alive, is a snivelling little retch and is treated like crap by Burgess at every opportunity.
While this is going on, Sandman aka Morpheus has entered the Waking World armed with his three tools of the trade – bag of Dream Sand that he uses to create dreams, a Helmet Of Dreams which I think just boosts his power, and the Dreamstone which seems to be the source of his power.
His mission is to capture a rogue nightmare called Corinthian (Boyd Holbrook) who has gone AWOL from the Dreaming. Just as Sandman is about to send Corinthian back to the Dreaming, Burgess and his Order use a spell that instead of capturing Death, it captures Sandman. Leaving Corinthian safe and setting him up as the series’ big bad.
He is imprisoned over the next 100 years and as a result the Waking World suffers with people dying in their sleep or unable to sleep at all, all of which causes disastrous problems throughout both worlds.
We skip a decade or so. Burgess now has a lover called Ethel who he gets pregnant and tells her to abort it. She refuses, steals Sandman’s tools and buggers off in the middle of the night. In the ensuing chaos Burgess is accidentally killed by his son Alex.
We see Alex upset and afraid but thankfully to help him out of his stupor is the gardener, a black dude and yes, they both end up as lovers. Stunning and brave.
Skip forward to modern times and with the help of the gay gardener, Sandman escapes and returns to the Dreaming which is now in ruin. His new mission is to rebuild the Dreaming and to do so he sets about reclaiming his tools over the next few episodes.
Finally we catch up with Corinthian who is aware of Sandman’s escape and his immediate danger of being captured. It turns out he’s now a serial killer. Oh, he’s also gay too. This is going to be awesome.
Episode 2 – Imperfect Hosts
Due to his imprisonment, Sandman is struggling to rebuild the Dreaming without his tools and sets about finding out where they are with the help of The Three. Three witches who have the power to see the past, present and future.
However, Sandman needs three gifts for three questions that he must ask the The Three where his three tools are. That number is obviously a theme.
Due to his lack of power, he needs to reabsorb some of his creations that are in the Waking World. He first heads off to meet Cain and Able (yes the biblical brothers) who have a pet dragon called Gregory.
Greg is a dream creation and Sandman needs to reabsorb him for power. Thankfully Gregory looks like a CGI creation from the early 2000s so his presence on screen is limited. Cain is pissed off about the loss of Greg so he kills Able in a fit of rage.
Being immortal, we see Able digging himself out of a grave and by the number of mounds of earth and ready made graves, this is obviously a recurring situation in the brother’s day to day lives.
Skip to New York and we meet Ethel from episode 1 and now played by Joely Richardson. She’s well over 100 but because of Sandman’s tools, she looks in her mid 50s. She deals in mythical artefacts and art and has obviously built up some net worth over the last century.
Corinthian breaks into Ethel’s well protected house and tries to charm her into giving him Sandman’s tools which he will use to prevent Sandman sending him back to the Dreaming. Obviously bumming dudes and killing people is far too much fun.
She basically tells him she sold them and using some magic amulet of her own, sends Corinthian packing.
Sandman acquires the three gifts he needs for the three questions from The Three. They tell him where his tools are, blah, blah, blah and off we go to episode 3.
Episode 3 – Dream A Little Dream Of Me
Enter Johanna Constantine (Jenna Coleman) and she battles demons and stuff. She’s been summoned to help exorcise a demon who is possessing a Royal Princess who wants a quick marriage to a black guy. I mention his race because of the context in the show. With the exception of just one other couple, everyone in this show is in a mixed race relationship.
Sandman arrives because Constantine has his bag of sand. He also wants to question the demon because his helmet is in Hell but he doesn’t know who owns it. Before he can do anything, Constantine sends the demon to Hell and now Sandman needs her help.
Back to Ethel, and it seems her son John (David Thewlis) has the Dreamstone but it’s driven him a little insane and he’s also a murderer so he’s in some top security nuthouse.
There’s some back and forth about what a terrible mum she’s been and she was only trying to protect him. He refuses to tell her where the Dreamstone is so she gives him her magic amulet to keep him safe and as a result, she ages 50 odd years in a few seconds. Her son uses the amulet to escape prison by basically blowing up all the guards and just walking out the front door.
Back to Constantine who it turns out is a lesbian in a mixed race relationship and I’m losing interest in this show already.
Episode 4 – A Hope In Hell
This episode is actually a good one. Hell looks awesome (in a terrifying way) and Gwendoline Christie plays Lucifer. She’s great in this role and I love how she still looks like a cherub but with demonic wings and a subtle touch of evil insanity.
Sandman finds the demon who has his helmet but he must battle for it as the demon acquired it legally. The demon chooses Lucifer to represent him in battle and so a really cool battle takes place. It’s none of your fistycuffs nonsense, it’s a battle of cunning and intellect, like a chess match. It’s worth checking out just for this alone.
Back to John who nearly gets run over by some woman on her way home. She offers to give him a lift to where he’s going because it’s winter, snowing and he’s in his pyjamas and slippers standing not far from a nut house but she’s OK with that.
As she’s driving him home, David Thewlis is as charming as ever and tells her he’s going to change the world where people will only tell the truth. He also tells her he is a lunatic and a murderer.
She tries to escape by pretending to stop for gas and asking for help from the shop clerk. John is wise to her deception and so he blows up the shop clerk and makes her drive him home. Once there he gets the Dreamstone, gives her the blowy up amulet thing as a thank you and we’re on to episode 5.
Episode 5 – 24/7
Another good episode to be fair up until the halfway point. It’s not dissimilar to a random X-Files episode where weird strange shit happens in a contained environment.
John is at a diner with the Dreamstone and he’s turning on his English charm to the local waitress. He’s there to test his theory and make everyone tell the truth. The waitress has the southern charm and seems happy to help even though you can see the hidden sadness in her eyes.
She clearly fancies the cook but he seems reluctant to engage with her. We meet some moody 20 year old who is upset and annoyed because she’s just had a fight with… her lesbian lover. FFS.
Some young nerd walks in and orders coffee because he’s off to an interview but he’s killing time because he’s early. Enter a black dude and his Asian wife. It’s their anniversary and they are dining at where they first met. The wife is obviously a control freak and he’s a beta.
This episode has all the characters interacting in this small setting, all the while John is observing and manipulating the various scenarios using the Dreamstone.
Let’s cut to the chase. The waitress confesses her feelings to the cook but as they are all telling the truth, he tells her that he’s been secretly buggering her 21 year old son behind her back.
The waitress is then upset and starts talking to the moody lesbian and they then get it on. The black dude walks in to compliment the cook on his food and they end up bumming each other. The young lad going for the interview ends up shafting the Asian woman who it turns out is the boss of the place he’s about to get an interview.
Then everything turns to violent shit, Morpheus turns up, tells John the error of his ways and puts him to sleep back in the metal hospital. And we are on to episode 6.
Episode 6 – Sound Of Her Wings
This is a good episode where Morpheus meets his sister, Death (Kirby Howell-Baptiste). The two chat and walk as she moves around the area helping those pass over to the next live whether it’s Heaven or Hell. Each passing is delicately handled and carefully done and thankfully we are spared any woke nonsense.
We go back to 1389 where Morpheus and Death are conducting an experiment. They have granted a man called Hobs immortality. This was done because Morpheus wanted to see what was so attractive about being a human and living life.
Hobs and Morpheus meet every 100 years and they both discuss what’s been going on with Hobs’ life. How he’s loved and lost, been knighted, lost it all, gained it all back and so on and so forth. This is the last of the good episodes. Everything after this is terrible.
Episodes 7 – 10
There really is nothing good to say about these remaining four episodes. The whole thing seems more fitting if it was a BBC production. Let’s just skip to the basics.
We meet a young girl called Rose with rainbow hair. She is an anomaly and what they call a Vortex. She can enter other people’s dreams, and yeah, she has the potential to be the bestest evvaaaar (of course). Her parents are divorced and she went with her mum and the boy stayed with the dad.
The mum died and the girl thrived but the boy went into foster care where he was beaten, starved and made to sleep in the cold basement by the white foster father.
We meet Desire who is a man/woman thing who looks like a modern day Boy George. It is pulling the strings behind Sandman back in an attempt to kill him or something by using Rose’s power. I no longer care.
Rose is searching for her brother and for some reason is off to England with her friend Lyta to meet a woman who is interested in her life story. Lyta is a widow who recently lost her husband. They are also a mixed race relationship. Whatever.
It turns out the person in England who is interested in Rose’s story is actually her Grandmother. She fell asleep way back in episode one and has been in a fucking coma for 100 years or something. Now she’s awake and making up for lost time. She got pregnant in a dream and it manifested into a real life which was Rose’s mum. I kid you not.
Now she’s in England, Rose’s grandmother now wants her to piss off all the way back to America again and find her brother. She said she can pay for it because her family is rich or who gives a shit.
Corinthian is being lured out of hiding by some serial killers who are having an annual serial killer convention and they want him to be the guest of honour. Yep.
Rose and Lyta arrive in America and are staying at some apartments. The owner is gay and a drag queen. Two white people called Ken and Barbie. Two lesbians who are into spiders. And Stephen Fry playing Stephen Fry.
Lyta falls pregnant from a dream with her dead husband and no one bats an eye at the fact a woman goes full term in the space of a week. Corinthian shows up and ‘saves’ Rose’s brother and takes him to the convention. He’s using him as bait because he wants Rose’s power to defeat Sandman.
More gays, some murders at the conventions and we are introduced to a paedophile who is comedy relief.
All is well, Sandman shows up and has to kill Rose or the world will be destroyed. Rose’s Nan arrives in the dream, turns out she was the Vortex all along so she gives her life for Rose’s.
Sandman kills Corinthian with relative ease, threatens Desire not to play games again and everyone lives happily ever after. All in all, this show started relatively well but quickly descended into a piece of poorly written, woke nonsense that we have come to expect from Netflix.