The Sandman (S1 Review) | Shockingly Accurate and Captivating

I have heard of this intellectual property (IP) for years, I knew The Sandman name before I even knew that Neil Gaiman wrote it, ironically the same thing happened with Stardust, which is one of my favorite movies. Anyways Gaiman has developed and executive produced the show, Allan Heinberg (Wonder Woman) and David S. Goyer are showrunners. Like the audible version they’ve assembled an amazing cast for the show, Tom Sturridge is Dream, the aforementioned Sandman, Boyd Holbrook, Jenna Coleman, Gwendoline Christie, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, David Thewlis, and Patton Oswalt to name a few.

Premise: When The Sandman, also known as Lord Morpheus—the immortal king of dreams, stories, and the imagination—is pulled from his realm and imprisoned on Earth by a nefarious cult, he languishes for decades before finally escaping. Once free, he must retrieve the three “tools” that will restore his power and help him to rebuild his dominion, which has deteriorated in his absence. As the multi-threaded story unspools, The Sandman descends into Hell to confront Lucifer, chases rogue nightmares who have escaped his realm, and crosses paths with an array of characters.

Review: What I like the most about adaptations, is when the showrunners and/or writers are skilled enough to keep the spirit of the source material, but also have enough restraint not to put too much of their own stamp or spin on that source material. Goyer can be a mixed bag when it comes to that while Heinberg was sorely missed on Wonder Women 1984, since it seems that he was part of the secret sauce that made Wonder Woman work, but I think Gaiman balanced it all out so we got this beauty of a show.

Having the episodes literally titled “chapters….” doesn’t necessarily mean that they would feel like chapters, like little vignettes of Morpheus’ adventures, but they do. Each episode has a begining, middle, and end, and similar to network TV there are smaller arcs within the 10 episodes run.
I experienced most of the stories unfolding in this season through the first volume of audible version so I have no idea if the visuals from the comics match the ones in the show but storywise it’s pretty much beat for beat, it’s very comics accurate.

Episode one through five are amazing because it really pulls you in and culminates with what essentially was a great mid-season finale. Then there’s a nice shift into the second arc that is less world building but it dives deeper into these characters and that’s where the cast hit theirs stride. They were so good in the first arc but they shine in the second and third arcs. Some of this actors had one or two scenes this season but they pop. Storywise the begining of the third arc is not as exciting but it’s still captivating.

There’s this moment in one of the episode that I really liked. One where Dream is reminded that not all humans are awful. It is played so well by Sturridge that he both gave me a glimpse of what Morpheus/Dream was like before his emprisonnement while still showing his quiet rage from what he’d been through. Most of the cast have moments like this when they blew me away.

So it was amazing to finally see the world that I heard about in the audiobook, and it was stunning. The product design is fantastic, it’s not always movie level, but it is captivating and beautifully acted. It’s a wonderful and enchanting series.

I’m excited for what comes next, I hope we’ll get to see it, and I’ll definitely be rewatching the season this weekend.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.
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