Adapting The Sandman for television was always going to be a risk. Sure, the comic is well known and loved, but its premise, structure, and protagonist are so idiosyncratic that it’s a lot harder to sell than, say, another DC or Marvel superhero show. Likewise, it lacks the nostalgia value of Stranger Things or the instantly intriguing elevator pitch of Squid Game.
And yet, here we are looking back at a ten-episode season that successfully brought the first two major arcs of Neil Gaiman’s seminal graphic novel to new audiences. and reached number one on the Netflix charts. It’s impressive.
If there’s one thing the show’s massive success suggests, it’s that audiences are hungry for new ideas. The series is based on a comic book first published over 30 years ago, but its genre tone, distinctive half-anthology/half-series nature, and aloof, unnerving protagonist feel quite fresh and different from everything that’s happening on TV right now.
It also proves that the minority of online jerks who have sparked an angry story about certain characters’ “woke” gender-swapping are dead wrong. It turns out that if you give the audience good stories, the vast majority will be happy enough to agree to Lucifer Morningstar being played by Gwendoline Christie instead of David Bowie (who, let’s not forget, no longer hangs around in this dimension anyway).
That doesn’t mean I liked everything. There’s a lot of material to explore in the Dollhouse arc over the last third of the season, but it felt compressed, with things like the collector’s “cereal” convention suffering in the process. . The Sound of Her Wings seems to have been a hit with fans, but the weird split structure didn’t work for me at all. And as I continued at length in my episodic reviews, I found Boyd Holbrook’s take on the Corinthian – a living nightmare, let’s not forget – largely unthreatening, although I enjoyed the character as the series progressed and I consciously leaned into making it a more sympathetic figure.
But when The Sandman was good, boy, was it fun. Sleep Of The Just and 24/7 were both excellent adaptations and excellent examples of episodic television. The latter, in particular, felt like a standalone play, successfully evoking a sense of growing dread while allowing us to get to know and care for a cast of all-new characters before mercilessly killing them all at the end. . Great stuff.
Likewise, the cast was superb, with special props in particular for Vivienne Acheampong as Lucienne (playing a much larger role here than her comic book equivalent) and David Thewlis as the harrowing and terrifying role of John Dee.
Then there’s Tom Sturridge in the title role. At first it’s a little hard to come to terms with her childish good looks and My Chemical Romance fan haircut – it’s often forgotten, but one of the striking things about how Sam Kieth and Mike Dringenberg initially drawn Morpheus was how strange and ancient the character often looked. – but as soon as Sturridge speaks, you don’t know why he was chosen. It’s the voice of the sandman, as dark as those inky black bubbles, but with small glimmers of humanity showing through.
Although nothing has been announced yet, it is almost certain that we will have a second season. It’s great – there’s definitely a lot to look forward to. The season finale hinted at Lucifer’s plot to exact revenge on Morpheus and if the series largely sticks to the flow of the comics, we’ll likely also see adaptations of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (The Sandman #19) in which the Morpheus bargain with Shakespeare is explored and the A Game Of You arc, which picks up the Barbie story. We might even get A Dream Of A Thousand Cats (The Sandman #18), a cat-centric tale that, if done right, will break social media and be GIF’d endlessly.
Exciting stuff, but hopefully some changes as well. I was slightly taken aback by how the visual effects went from beautiful to nearly unfinished and hope Season 2 has enough time and money to do the next arcs justice. Although very different in tone and form, The Sandman will soon be competing with House Of The Dragon and Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power, two great fantasy shows which – from what we’ve already seen – look dazzling – to die for.
The Sandman also deserves an extended episode order. The comics are full of ideas, and it’s clear now that the showrunners are committed to including as much original material as possible. Characters like Hal and Rose’s other roommates were left relatively unexplored, largely because there were so many stories to go through in a limited space of time. Two or three more episodes would make a big difference in that regard.
So mixed feelings but overall positive about this one personally. It’s very pleasing, however, to see how happy this show has made fans of the comics and other Neil Gaiman works purely happy. Sometimes the adaptations can feel a little cynical, but it’s very clear that it was made with a deep love for the material and the worlds Morpheus inhabits. I will be happy to see him again and I am very glad to hear more about Desire’s perverted plans…
The Sandman is now streaming on Netflix. For more on the streamer, here are the best Netflix shows and the best Netflix movies you should watch.