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What Is a Dream Vortex in ‘The Sandman’?

Kyo Ra as Rose Walker in The Sandman

Netflix’s The Sandman released on August 5th, 2022, and provided the long-awaited live-action adaption of Neil Gaiman’s comic book series of the same name. The series follows Morpheus (Tom Surridge) who has been held captive for the past century. He is one of the seven Endless—a family of beings who each embody a different metaphysical force. When Morpheus returns to his realm of the Dreaming upon his release from captivity, he must work to restore his power over it.

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However, Morpheus faces quite a lot of obstacles in restoring his realm and power. His realm is virtually in shambles after his absence, his equipment has been split up and divided between multiple figures, and he must contend with the likes of Lucifer Morningstar (Gwendoline Christie), escaped nightmares, and even his own sibling, Desire (Mason Alexander Park), who wish to see his undoing. But of all the threats and obstacles that Morpheus faces, none is quite as powerful as Rose Walker (Kyo Ra).

On the outside, Walker doesn’t look much like a threat. She is a young woman searching for her brother, Jed (Eddie Karanja). The pair of siblings was separated when their parents divorced and, later, when their parents passed away, Jed disappeared into the foster care system. Soon, Rose is attracting the attention of Morpheus, Desire, and the nightmare Corinthian (Boyd Holbrook). This is because, unbeknownst to her, she is the Dream Vortex.

What is the Dream Vortex in The Sandman?

The Dream Vortex is a mortal who is randomly born with immense power. There is no way to predict when or where the Dream Vortex will turn up. It is roughly every thousand years that some unsuspecting mortal becomes the new host of the Dream Vortex. These powers include the ability to travel through and manipulate the dreams of other people. However, this power can quickly turn destructive, because the Dream Vortex breaks down a much-needed barrier between the Dreaming and the waking world.

For example, Rose manipulates her friend Lyta Hall (Razane Jammal) and her late husband, Hector Hall (Lloyd Everitt), through dreams. Essentially, she uses her powers to allow Hall to cheat death, by allowing his soul to occupy the Dreaming. Meanwhile, in her dreams, Lyta is reunited with Hector and they have a child together. Rose’s power allows this pregnancy to carry over into the waking world, where Lyta awakes from her dream now visibly pregnant. All of these things create a breach between the waking world and the Dreaming, which can destabilize and collapse the entire Dreaming realm.

Meanwhile, if the realm of the Dreaming is destroyed, then those in the waking world have nowhere to go upon sleep. Hence, the waking realm will also subsequently be destroyed, as well. As the ruler of the Dreaming, it is Morpheus’ duty to destroy the Dream Vortex as soon as he recognizes it is active. In the series, Rose does not appear to be intentionally destroying the Dreaming realm. It is merely that the Dream Vortex’s powers can’t be controlled and the only way to prevent the Dreaming and waking world from being destroyed is to kill Rose.

What happens to the Dream Vortex?

Sandra James-Young as Unity in The Sandman

The one unique thing about Rose, though, is that her manifestation of the Dream Vortex wasn’t random. When Morpheus disappeared it triggered an epidemic of Sleeping Sickness, an incurable disease that leaves victims either sleeping, or sleep-walking, for the rest of their lives. Rose’s great-grandmother is Unity (Sandra James-Young), a woman who contracted Sleeping Sickness as a young school girl. She remained alive and grew into an elderly woman while still sleeping. Because she survived long enough to see Morpheus’ escape from imprisonment, she wakes up and becomes the only known survivor of Sleeping Sickness.

However, Unity was initially supposed to be the Dream Vortex. Her powers lay dormant and never manifested themselves, though, because of the Sleeping Sickness. This led to the scheming Desire impregnating Unity while she slept (which is sexual assault, to be clear). The Dream Vortex then passed down to her offspring and then to her offspring’s offspring, never manifesting itself until Morpheus escaped. When Morpheus escaped, the Dream Vortex had made it’s way across two generations and settled in Rose. Desire had plotted all of this to ensure that, upon Morpheus’ return, the Dream Vortex would be awakened and ready to threaten his realm.

While Rose prepares to sacrifice herself to save the Dreaming, Unity intervenes. Unity asks her to transfer the Dream Vortex powers back to her. After the transfer is complete, Unity passes away in her sleep, thus, ending the Dream Vortex, until whenever it decides to manifest itself within a new host.

(featured image: Netflix)

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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is an SEO writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, YA literature, celebrity news, and coming-of-age films. She has over two years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.

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