The Sandman (Review): Sweet Dreams Are Made of This

I like Neil Gaiman. I like adaptations. And The Sandman was one of my most anticipated shows of 2022. But did it live up to the hype? Read on to see.

Lord Morpheus of the Dreaming (the realm all living beings go to in their sleeping hours) is captured by an Earth wizard and held captive for a century. Chaos reigns in his absence, as his realm falls apart, dreams and nightmares escape onto the corporeal plane, and humans are trapped in states of sleep. Morpheus must set right what was broken whilst contending with power-hungry beings (ranging from mentally ill men to Lucifer Morningstar).

The Sandman is considered one of the all-time most brilliant graphic novels. Though I’ve somehow never read it. So I had no expectations for this adaptation. But The Sandman show sold me so wholeheartedly on this world that I MUST now experience the story in its original form.

However, you must be capable of patience and critical thought to enjoy this series. Because it’s got a slow (though compelling) first few episodes. They had my interest right from the start, and steadily grew my investment till The Sandman won my heart with Episode 5. From there the series produced a stunning string of brilliant episodes which kept me glued to my TV.

I respect The Sandman‘s choice to break up its season into multiple story-arcs. Each of them lasted precisely as long as they needed to last. Yet, to keep things fresh, there are multiple stand-alone episodes which break up the story with fascinating one-off adventures and expand the world’s scope.

SIDE NOTE: Watching The Sandman FELT like reading a comic series. So, for that reason (and the fact it’s actually good), I’m prepared to call this one of the all-time best comic book adaptations.

The Sandman’s vast variety of storylines, characters, and settings coalesce into a beautiful world of intrigue. From episode one we’re introduced to its intricate magical realms, mythical creatures, gods, and mortals. My favourite part of this lore was how matter-of-factly the writers established everything. The world existed before we arrived to witness its events, and it’ll be there after we leave. So it’s OUR job to catch up. Therefore, the show wastes no more time than it has to waste on exposition.

The Sandman expects its audience to be patient, ask questions, and be OK when we don’t receive concrete answers (this year). Most of our concerns are eventually addressed, though some must wait for future years. This slow-burn style of storytelling won’t have mass appeal. But I for one love when shows treat me like an adult.

Morpheus (but really Tom Sturridge) has an enticing voice, to which I always listen intently. Maybe that’s because Dream speaks volumes uttering nary a word. Morpheus makes his every breath count. He commands the show, and believably captures that air of pompous importance known to most Lords (whilst actually feeling important).

Corinthian (Boyd Holbrook) is one of the most memorable villain characters I’ve watched in some time. His southern drawl, calm demeanor, fake friendliness, genuine charm, and emotionless atrocities; his shades and teeth-eyes; his scarily relatable desire for freedom. He’s got the makings of an iconic bad-guy, and I enjoyed every moment he graced my screen.

The other stand-out this year was Vivienne Acheampong as Lucienne. Her quiet exasperation made for great comedy. But I greatly enjoyed her character arc as well: from subserviant librarian to great (but overlooked) leader.

Multiple shocking twists kept me in anticipation throughout the season. EP 1 makes clear that anything can happen– dark and disturbing though some of it might be. The Sandman occasionally teeters on the verge of predictability, but proves an ultimately unexpected and satisfying journey.

The Sandman‘s characters exist firmly in moral gray areas. Few of the characters–even the protagonist– are objectively good or bad. They all make questionable decisions, which make perfect sense to their individual world views, but which would cause harm to others.

For humans: bad deeds are more caused by selfishness and fear than outright malice. And the deity’s flaws more stem from their pettiness, egos, and sense of greater purpose. Deities sense of perspective helps the humans’ worldviews, whilst the beauty in humans’ day-to-day lives remind deities why their jobs matter in the universe’s grand scheme.

This show will leave you debating its characters’ moral choices long after the credits roll. Were any of them correct in their assertions? Were there compromises they didn’t see? Or is one side of a moral debate always destined to lose?

Netflix’s production values are some of the best out there right now! The show’s of theirs I’ve watched this year set a consistently high bar of quality. I must give special praise to The Sandman’s gorgeous CGI visual effects art, and the cinematography. I love when graphic novel adaptations are as pretty as their source material.

The Sandman is light on action, though features a bevy of intense sequences. The Dollhouse arc in particular has a slew of moments which I involuntarily cringed through (in a good way). Much of the true horror, however, is crafted within your imagination from the context clues– AKA the way proper suspense is made.

My final verdict: The Sandman is a great show! To answer my question up top: it does live up to my hype, and then-some. The characters compelled me, the plots were tight, the visuals were spectacular, and it left me deep philosophies to ponder. I couldn’t ask for much more.

The Sandman is Must See TV (Streaming?)!


Do you have any recommendations for Neil Gaiman stories? What did you think of The Sandman? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know.

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Till next time,

Joe Morin

By Joseph Morin

Joe's passion for film and entertainment began at 7 years old when his younger brother demanded to watch Duel of the Fates every day for weeks (on DVD). Joe admired the sequence so much, he decided to dedicate his life to film-making and storytelling. He has a degree in Cinema and Media Studies from York University. Joe loves DC superheroes (especially Superman), the first six Star Wars movies, and arguing about media with anyone who will listen.

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