‘The Sandman’ season one review: Neil Gaiman’s iconic series gets riveting adaptation, along with a magnificent cast

A still from ‘The Sandman’

A still from ‘The Sandman’

It is finally here. After years in development hell, Neil Gaiman’s iconic comic book series, The Sandman (January 1989 to March 1996) comes to our screens. The eponymous show, developed by Gaiman, David S. Goyer and Allan Heinberg is well worth the 30-year-wait.

The audio version of The Sandman released in 2020 with a follow-up in 2021, is gorgeous. Narrated by Gaiman, the voice cast included James McAvoy (Dream), Kat Dennings (Death), Taron Egerton (John Constantine), Michael Sheen (Lucifer), Riz Ahmed (the Corinthian) and Andy Serkis (Matthew the Raven).

The Sandman
Season: 1 
Episodes: 10
Run time: 37 to 54 minutes
Cast: Tom Sturridge, Boyd Holbrook, Vivienne Acheampong, Patton Oswalt, David Thewlis, Jenna Coleman, Gwendoline Christie, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Ferdinand Kingsley, Sandra James-Young, Kyo Ra, Razane Jammal, Eddie Karanja
Storyline: When Dream is captured for over a century, the world turns topsy-turvy and it is up to the King to set his realm right

The show adapts the first two volumes of The Sandman comics, Preludes & Nocturnes and The Doll’s House. Even though The Sandman is a tale about stories, and the comics can be looked at as stand-alones, the show has been developed with Morpheus/Dream (Tom Sturridge) as the common thread.

In 1916, an occultist, Sir Roderick Burgess, (Charles Dance) imprisons Dream causing the fabric of the world to come apart, for “if dreams disappear, so will humanity.” As the dream world lies in ruins, people around the world are struck by a sleeping sickness while nightmares, including Gault (Ann Ogbomo) escape. Gault, incidentally wants to become a dream to protect children, as she poignantly tells Morpheus, “Even a nightmare can dream”. 

Once Dream escapes, he has to retrieve his tools — the helm, the ruby and the sand — and set right the dream world, so all will be well in the waking world. His quest takes him to hell where he spars with Lucifer Morningstar (Gwendoline Christie), and also to meet his some of his siblings, the other Endless, Death (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), Desire (Mason Alexander Park) and Despair (Donna Preston).

Unity Kinkaid (Sandra James-Young) fell asleep when Morpheus was captured and wakes up a century later when he escapes. During her slumber, she has a baby, and upon waking up she looks for her great-grandchildren Rose (Kyo Ra) and Jed (Eddie Karanja). Unfortunately, The Corinthian (Boyd Holbrook), a serial killer with a weakness for gouging out and eating the eyes of his victims, is also looking for Rose. Dream is looking for Rose as she is the Vortex with the power to create and destroy worlds.

While ‘24/7’ where John Dee (David Thewlis) uses the ruby to reveal the ultimate truth and ‘Collectors’, where The Corinthian is the big ticket at an odd convention, are truly the stuff of nightmares, ‘The Sound of her Wings’ is a heart-warming meditation on death.

There is no lack of gore or extreme violence in The Sandman, but there is also fun and wisdom. Dream meeting Hob Gadling (Ferdinand Kingsley) every 100 years at a pub is just one of those fun bits. There is also Will Shakespeare being a giddy fanboy to Kit Marlowe swearing he would sell his soul like Faustus to be able to write like him; all of which warms the hearts of literature nerds worldwide.

The spats between the Biblical siblings Cain (Sanjeev Bhaskar) and Abel (Asim Chaudhry), about the names of gargoyles (“they always start with ‘G’”) among other things are more than good for a giggle.

The cast is magnificent with Sturridge leading the way as Dream, who in the beginning is cold and remote, but as the series progresses, becomes softer and more human. Vivienne Acheampong as Lucienne, the librarian is an able second-in-command to the Lord of Dreams, while Patton Oswalt plays Matthew.

Jenna Coleman is occult detective Johanna Constantine; she also plays her 18 th century avatar, who tries to mug Dream and Gadlin on one of their century meetings. Stephen Fry plays Fiddler’s Green, a place not a person in the Dreaming, while Mark Hamill gives voice to Pumpkinhead.  

While the show has been updated and cast accordingly, quite a lot of Gaiman’s vivid prose is retained. From, “Tools are the subtlest of traps” to “What power have dreams in hell?” as well as episode names which echo the chapters from the books.

With season one based on the first two volumes of The Sandman, and another eight volumes that can be developed, one has a lot to look forward to and dream about. For after all, “Tales and dreams are the shadow-truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes, and forgot.”

The Sandman is currently streaming on Netflix

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Printable version | Aug 10, 2022 5:00:56 pm |