The Sandman is based on the DC Vertigo comic book series in the late ’80s and ’90s. It was written and created by Neil Gaiman and Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, and various other artists who drew the stories. It was an adult series of comics chronicling the comings and goings of Morpheus, the lord of dreams, and his family members. This is a highly regarded comic book series, so the fact that it finally became a television show streaming on Netflix is no surprise to anybody, let alone its fans. The series was developed by Neil Gaiman, David A. Goyer, and Allen Heinberg for Netflix. The time is finally here for fans to get to see this show.
Morpheus/Dream (Tom Sturridge) is kidnapped by Roderick Burgess (Charles Dance) and imprisoned in his basement for one hundred years. While there, his tools of the trade — his pouch sand, his helmet, and his red ruby — were stolen by a woman named Ethel Cripps (Niamh Walsh, Joely Richardson). When Dream finally escapes, he goes in search of his tools. He comes in contact with various members of his family, Death (Kirby Howell Baptiste), Lucifer (Gwendoline Christie), demon hunter Joanna Constantine (Jenna Coleman), and the son of Ethel Cripps, John Dee (David Thewlis).
This show has two distinct story arcs within the ten-episode first season. The first is a road trip where Dream engages with his trusty librarian friend Lucienne (Vivienne Achearnpong) and a Raven, Matthew (Patten Oswalt). They visit Cain and Abel (Sanjeev Bhaskar, Asim Chaudhry) and make their way through Hell and Earth. The second arc of this series is about a girl, Kya Ra (Rose Walker), known as a vortex, her friend Lyta Hall (Razane Jammal), and her brother Jeb. They are hunted down by Corinthian (Boyd Holbrook), who tries to use the girl to usurp Dream’s power and Realm.
The show has visuals early on that are gorgeous. The early episodes depict various realms, including the Dreaming, Hell, and other locations. Most of the show is of people walking and talking or talking and riding in cars. This is where the bulk of the dialogue and story take place. The supernatural abilities of the show’s characters are also pretty cool — mainly the sand and ruby effects. The music in the show by David Buckley is also very good and lends itself to this dark and somber series perfectly.
The writing of this show could get lost in all the fantasy effects, cool sets, and production value, but it doesn’t. Specifically, two episodes that really stood out to me are Episode 5, “24/7,” and episode 6, “The Sound of Her Wings.” These two episodes get to the heart of the series from the perspective of John Dee and Death, respectively. In episode 6, Dream learns about himself and his mission which changes his outlook on life and the world and how people’s dreams affect the world in negative and positive ways. These two episodes made me think about life and its value as I watched them. That’s pretty cool when a show can do that.
This show has a huge cast led by Sturridge in the leading role but has a lot of pretty good character actors doing some fantastic work. Some are hamming it up like Christie, Oswalt, Mark Hamill (Mervyn Pumpkinhead), and Mason Alexander Clark (Desire). Still, others like Holbrook, Thewlis, Howell Baptiste, Coleman, and Ra are doing solid work here. This show could make these actors give crazy wild performances, but most take this material seriously and do a very good job. Sturridge as the star is the real standout. I can see why he was cast as the leading character in the show. He demands the camera when he’s on screen. I was glued to every word he said.
Not having read any of the comics, I didn’t know what I was getting in for with this show. I only knew that various literary groups and fantasy awards highly regarded it. Neil Gaiman is considered one of the best writers in the world with this kind of material. The dark, macabre, and fantasy elements were right up my alley. The cinematography made the world these directors and writers created come to life beautifully. The road trip storyline worked pretty well for me, learning about this world that Gaiman created. The story in the second half of the series was fine as well. Episodes 5 and 6 were my favorites. The acting by all was pretty good, especially Sturridge as The Sandman. Fans of this comic book series will surely enjoy this series that came to life. Netflix had another hit on its hands.
4 1/2 stars
Dan Skip Allen
Sean Boelman Founder/EIC disappointment media