Whilst I’ve been attempting to watch old films and read relatively old comic books, I almost strayed from that pattern when it comes to the TV shows. After keeping up with ‘House Of The Dragon’, a part of me felt that I should stick to something relatively new. I had heard from lots of different people that the show I should review next was ‘The Sandman’ on Netflix. Whilst a part of the DC universe in some form, the show doesn’t strictly stick to the confines of that comic book world, rather, focusing on the source material created by Neil Gaiman!
Season 1 of ‘The Sandman’ introduces us to Morpheus, the Lord of Dreams. Morpheus is one of ‘The Endless’ a group of immortal siblings, each of whom has a realm and a role to play for mankind. Whilst out looking for some of the dreams and nightmares he’s created, Morpheus is captured by a man named Roderick Burgess, who seeks to use Morpheus’s power to bring back his dead wife. Burgess hasn’t captured the right Endless for this, and so keeps Morpheus in a cage, taking from him his three tools, a pouch of sand, a mysterious ruby and a helm. Morpheus does eventually escape his prison, but 106 years have passed in that time and his realm of dreams has fallen apart. Morpheus sets out to reclaim his tools so that he may have a chance of repairing the damage. His sand is in the hands of infamous exorcist, Joanna Constantine. He’s able to bargain with her to get it back quite easily. The helm proves more difficult as it seems that it’s been claimed by a demon in Hell. Morpheus travels there but has to battle Lucifer, the fallen angel, in order to get it back. Although successful, he creates a new hatred in Lucifer for him. The final tool is in the possession of a man named John Dee who is the son of Burgess. Dee seeks to use the Ruby’s power to reveal people’s darkest desires, claiming that this is who they really are, but Morpheus is able to show him otherwise. Despite reclaiming his tools, Morpheus still has no idea who really set him up to be captured in the first place. As he goes after his final missing nightmare, The Corinthian, Morpheus discovers that the Corinthian is planning to use Rose Walker, who is a dream vortex, to prevent him from being captured. Dream Vortexes have the power to destroy the dream world and the real world. Can Morpheus find a way to restore his power, deal with the Dream Vortex and return his realm to all its previous glory?
I can’t tell you guys how many people told me to watch this show. The vast majority of them were friends who didn’t particularly like the same genres as me but said that they still enjoyed this show. In all honesty, this was one of the oddest shows I’d seen in my life. The first few episodes I found to be extremely slow and not all that interesting. Essentially I’d have summed it up as ‘man gets mugged in London, tries to get his stuff back’! Aha! But I rarely leave TV shows without preserving and it became very clear the more episodes that went on that there was clearly a lot of lore behind the show. Whereas I do believe that the overall plot of this season was extremely convoluted, I can’t deny that it does play out like a comic book. How often is it that we get multiple small plots and each episode is like an issue of a comic? Not very often, and I think it worked in this show’s favour. Another aspect that I really enjoyed was the concept of ‘The Endless’ and how they weren’t angels or demons but other beings who commanded high levels of power but were still devoted to their role for mankind. Some of the characters were extremely interesting but we’ll touch on that in this next paragraph!
Playing the titular character, Morpheus aka The Sandman, was Tom Sturridge. Looking at him, immediately I was like, he looks a little bit like Robert Pattinson, before discovering that the two are apparently best friends. That being said, and no disrespect to Pattinson, although both can play brooding characters, Sturridge has one of the best deep voices I’ve heard in a character ever. It’s almost impossible to ignore the richness of that voice when you’re watching his scenes. He does also do broody very well. All the other characters, essentially are then supporting cast. Boyd Holbrook as ‘The Corinthian’ was excellent casting. Holbrook was extremely menacing and arguably more sinister when he was calm and smiling. Vivienne Acheampong plays Lucienne, the Librarian in the Dreaming, which is Morpheus’ realm. She too was outstanding. Guest stars included David Thewlis as John Dee. Thewlis is a man that I’ve seen play a morally good character quite well (Remus Lupin in the HP series), however, his ability to play morally ambiguous characters is unmatched. Jenna Coleman played Joanna Constantine. The decision to gender-bend Constantine’s character was controversial, but I thought it worked. The real treat however was Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer. The entire time, her character is unnervingly polite, and it really gets under viewers' skins in my opinion. Overall, excellent casting and some really standout performances!
There is now a whole menagerie of streaming services, and I can imagine that when Neil Gaiman was looking for places that would take this project on, there wasn’t a lack of volunteers. Netflix clearly came out on top and I think they did a fantastic job. The cinematography is impressive, especially many of the scenes based in ‘The Dreaming’ and also Hell. The special effects and creatures were so well done that despite transitioning between the real world and the dream world so effortlessly, you never question what’s happening. I think the only thing lacking from the show was the music. To be fair, Netflix rarely gives their shows a proper opening or theme music, so this isn’t completely surprising!
Overall, the first season of The Sandman starts slow but ages gracefully to bring back the excitement by the end of the season. I think I also have to give a special mention to that last episode which had nothing to do with the show but was made very well. Whatever they’re doing with Season 2, they need to continue focusing on creating an overarching plot, otherwise, the show can become a little dull!
Story Arc: 12.5/20
Integral vs filler episode: 8/20