They Said Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman Wasn’t Adaptable, But Netflix Has Created A Masterpiece

When The Sandman First published in the late 1980s, Neil Gaiman’s epic blend of fantasy, folklore, and mythology brought new life and new audiences to the world of comics. With an uncompromising literary style and scope, it is widely considered one of the best graphic novels ever created. It has also been called maladaptive, too complex to be brought to the screen.

That is until now. Coming to Netflix is ​​a 10-episode adaptation of The Sandman. And just like the comics it’s derived from, it feels just as inventive, vital and disruptive. It’s quite unlike anything else on TV right now.

For those unfamiliar with the Gaiman comic, The Sandman is an epic mix of fantasy and mythology centering heavily on Dream (played by a perfectly cast icy emo Tom Sturridge), one of the seven dysfunctional siblings known as the Endless, all of whom are the anthropomorphic embodiments of supreme natural forces.

Dream, as his name suggests, is the lord of dreams and rules over the Dreaming, a metaphysical and ever-changing realm where people go to dream that is filled with his creations, also known as dreams and nightmares. The comics and show begin when Dream, who also goes by the name Morpheus or the titular Sandman, is imprisoned for a century, an incident that sparks a world-altering cascade of events. Obtaining his freedom, Dream sets out to restore order to the universe.

That, of course, is a huge plot simplification, but revealing too much about The Sandman is to ruin its magic. And it’s pretty magical.

Aside from looking absolutely gorgeous (and expensive), its main trick is its storytelling. Fusing a broader novelistic narrative with an almost anthological approach, The Sandman he feels totally unique in his delivery. Broadly speaking, there are three main arcs, though such a distillation hurts the ambitious scope of the show.

While Morpheus is the driving force for the show’s first two acts, he becomes secondary, though still integral, during the final third, which instead focuses on Rose Walker (played by newcomer Vanesu Samunyai), a young woman who he searches for his missing brother, who also has the potential to destroy the Dreaming entirely.

Tom Sturridge as Dream (Photo: Netflix)

There’s also Johanna Constantine played by Jenna Coleman, an occult detective descended from a long line of demon hunters; David Thewlis as Dr. John Dee, an insane psychopath obsessed with the concept of “truth” in possession of a powerful magical gemstone; despotic wizard Roderick Burgess (Charles Dance) and his son Alex weed; The Corinthian (Boyd Holbrook), a murderous nightmare who escaped the Dreaming into the waking world; Lucifer, the ruler of Hell, masterfully played by Gwendoline Christie; a group of killers who organize a serial killer convention; and Dream’s brothers, only three of whom we meet in the first season.

These are just some of the large number of characters that appear in The Sandman, many of which appear only in individual episodes. However, they are never undercooked.

Take episode five. Set almost entirely in a 24-hour diner, it only gives Morpheus and that episode’s antagonist, John Dee, brief screen time. Instead, the episode focuses on the lives of those who work and eat at the restaurant as they are manipulated by Dee’s quest for humanity to live truthfully.

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It’s a horrific, violent hour of television, one that sees the basic, animalistic qualities of humanity forced out into the open. As a character study it’s brilliant, it reveals a lot about what it takes to keep society from falling into chaos. As a means to push the overall plot forward, it does very little.

Still, this diversion feels integral to the overall package. Knowing when to let off the throttle is The SandmanThe greatest quality of Each episode is given a breather, even if in the moment you’re left wondering exactly how it all fits together. In a way, it’s the antithesis of the binge-streaming business model, which relies on you wanting “just one more episode”: it deserves to be savored.

That doesn’t mean that The Sandman it’s not compulsive viewing, it certainly is. In fact, it’s so good, so thought-provoking, and so wildly entertaining that I’ve already started watching it again.

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