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Neil Gaiman’s Twisted Dreams Are Alive in Netflix’s ‘The Sandman’

5/5 Dream's things

The Sandman Dream with helmet

When something has such a long history, like the world that Neil Gaiman built with The Sandman, it can feel daunting to jump in without knowing what is going on. Now that Netflix is bringing the comic book story to life, fans of Gaiman’s work might feel overwhelmed at the idea of jumping into the story if they don’t know of Dream and his quest for his stolen belongings and righting the world after being captured.

But the new Netflix series from showrunner Allan Heinberg doesn’t shy away from being an introduction into the story of Tom Sturridge’s Master of Dreams. It’s a story that is laid out before us, as the audience, that keeps us on the edge of our seats through Boyd Holbrook’s Cortinthian and his nightmare-fueled quest to destroy Dream.

It’s a show that forces us to question how we view our heroes and even makes its own characters question their motives, and yet, each episode brings us into a new adventure for Dream that is both entertaining to watch and makes us question the reality in which we find these characters. It is, in my opinion, the best adaptation thus far of Gaiman’s work, and while I am not a scholar of his work and haven’t read the comics attached to The Sandman, I’m speaking purely from an entertainment point of view. Good Omens was fun and exciting, I love Coraline, and there’s a plethora of Gaiman projects out there that I love very much, but there’s something about The Sandman that just draws you in and keeps you pressing play on each new episode, and once you finish the first season, you already want to start it again.

**Spoilers for the first season of The Sandman lie ahead.**

Tom Sturridge as Dream in the Sandman

Many aspects of this show are, when you look up the comics if you’ve not read them, exact storylines that exist in the original run, and the story throws us right into a world in which Dream—one of the ancient beings known as the Endless and the personification and master of dreams—is captured by Roderick Burgess (Charles Dance). Stuck in a world without his son (and completely ignoring his other son in the process), Roderick is a magician who believes he can trap Death, another of the Endless, to do his bidding, but instead captures Death’s brother and is continually questioning Dream and begging him to bring his son back, despite Dream’s inability to do so (not that Dream would help Roderick anyway).

What it results in is the Sleepy Sickness taking over the world, as many went to sleep the night Dream was taken and never woke up. In his capture, he sits and bides his time trapped in the basement for decades until he is finally able to escapem but when he does, it’s to the discovery that his things are gone, his kingdom has fallen, and one of his nightmares, Corinthian, is terrorizing the waking world.

Dream, trying to reclaim what is his, goes about coming back into his power by simply searching for his belongings and rebuilding what was already his without thinking about how he could change his rule for the better, and he’s thrust into a world of misunderstanding what he needs to do that results in pushback at nearly every step. He has to go to Hell to see Lucifer (Gwendoline Christie), he turns to Johanna Constantine (Jenna Coleman) to find his sand, and it just becomes a quest for what was his and how he can go about getting it back.

But something the show masters is the art of characters popping into the storyline and then carrying on exactly like a comic book. Throughout the 10-episode season, we get to meet a plethora of characters that are passing through Dream’s story in one way or another, and we often get a brief look into their life outside of what Dream needs them for. In those moments, we get to understand them as characters (for better or worse), and we get to explore who they are.

It doesn’t mean we’ll see them again this season. In fact, more often than not, we do not see them once Dream is finished with that aspect of his journey, but knowing that there’s a possibility we could see them in another season or future stories and knowing that they’re there (much like how characters work when they pop into each other’s issues of a comic) is enough to keep us going until they show up once more.

There are also aspects of this show that are so heartbreaking and good that it just makes the in-between moments that much more interesting.

Death becomes her

The moment that I knew this show was fully something I would want to just rewatch over and over again was when Kirby Howell-Baptiste showed up as Death. Dream often talks about his siblings and rarely highly of them, but when we see Dream and Death together, it’s different than the moments with Dream and Desire later in the series or, really, Dream with anyone else. Death’s introduction is a look into her work as Death and what it means to be there for the people she’s taking into their next plane of being.

One of my favorite parts is that she doesn’t hate what she has to do, but rather embraces it because she’s the friend people need when they die so that they’re not alone. It also highlights a time when Dream and Death were close together, and their dynamic is fun, where Desire and Dream’s relationship feels more tense. We don’t get a lot of Death in the series, but what we did was some of my favorite parts of the show, and I want to see more of her as the series progresses.

Cereal Convention

The other part of this show that I obviously screamed about (as someone who is a fan of murder documentaries) was the Cereal Convention. Not to spoil anything too much, but the convention has Corinthian as a main speaker, and while it is labeled as the “Cereal Convention,” it gives me a sense of giddiness to see all these weird murderers thinking they’re cool when the Corinthian is there.

The Sandman is a must-see

Overall, The Sandman is a fun look into Gaiman’s world and is an easy show to watch. It’s one you’ll want to keep hitting the next episode button on as quickly as possible, and it’s all because of the rich characters the show is working with. And who doesn’t want to see Tom Sturridge and Boyd Holbrook at odds with each other? It’s great!

The entire first season is on Netflix now!

(featured image: Netflix)

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Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. A writer her whole life but professionally starting back in 2016 who loves all things movies, TV, and classic rock. Resident Spider-Man expert, official Leslie Knope, actually Yelena Belova. Wanda Maximoff has never done anything wrong in her life. Star Wars makes her very happy. New York writer with a passion for all things nerdy. Yes, she has a Pedro Pascal podcast. And also a Harrison Ford one.