Skip to content Skip to footer

The Sandman Review

Following the success of the star-studded Audible series, Netflix has managed to do the unthinkable and bring to life the once considered “unfilmable” The Sandman – and it’s better than we all dreamed it could be. Showrunner Allan Heinberg and executive producers David S. Goyer have worked closely with author Neil Gaiman to adapt the first two volumes of the critically acclaimed graphic novel – Preludes & Nocturnes and The Doll’s House – in an expansive, dark fantasy epic consisting of a ten episode season.

The Sandman delves into the story of the Morpheus, the Master of Dreams (Tom Sturridge), aka the Lord of the Dreaming realm, who’s one of seven powerful creatures and siblings known as the Endless. But when Dream is mistakenly entangled in a human plot meant to trap his sister Death (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), his century-long imprisonment has irrevocable effects on both the waking and dreaming Worlds. To restore order, Dream must traverse different realms and worlds, visiting friends and foes along the way, to mend the mistakes in his absence.

Showrunner Heinberg throws viewers straight into the darkly fantastical and richly developed realms of the Sandman mythos, but surprisingly this approach appears to have worked for both fans and newcomers alike. The episodic nature of the series helps build the stage, set the scene and gradually introduce you to the major players on the board. Narrative wise, its’ potentially one of the more out there shows that Netflix has committed to (The OA and Dark aside). The series opens with a relatively straightforward quest as Morpheus attempts to regather his three sigils of power (the Pouch of Dream Sand, Dream’s Helm, and the Dreamstone ruby) to regain control of the waking and dreaming world. But along the way, Heinberg stays true to the source material and delves into the occasional anthology format exploring various settings, time periods, characters and realms.

Two of these standalone episodes – episode 5 “24/7” and episode 6 “The Sound of Her Wings” – even prove to be the standouts of the series, contrasting the darker side of the material with the more contemplative and heartfelt themes, shocking you one minute and leaving you moved and with a wholly different perspective on death the next. Personally, I was concerned that Netflix were going to shy away from the darker tone and events of the graphic novel – for example the serial killer convention or the diner arc – but Heinberg faithfully adapts the comic pretty much issue-by-issue in each episode. Yes, there are a few changes here and there to certain characters to reflect the modern world, along with the removal of some DC nods.

The beautiful thing about The Sandman is that, despite the many magical realms, fantastical God-like characters, the end of the world high stakes of the dream vortex and occasional dark horror elements, at its core the series is a heartfelt tale full of emotional depth and – surprisingly – an incredible amount of humanity. Morpheus (and consequently the Corinthian) – like all of us – grapples with his purpose and whether we can really change and evolve beyond the often confining expectations and roles set out for him. Gaimain has this unique gift of blending fantasy, folklore and myth with these wonderfully realised and darkly comedic tales on what it is to be us silly little humans, often with a surprising amount of compassion and human connection. And The Sandman is no different, with Gaiman’s presence felt throughout the character ensemble who wonderfully encapsulate these themes.

First and foremost, The Sandman is a success down to the wonderful portrayals and powerful performances of the rich character ensemble who truly bring each of the beloved characters to the screen. Tom Sturridge breathes life into the stoic and often distant Morpheus, pouring soul and development into the sad gothy dream King as he traverses realms and worlds, trying to connect with humanity once again following their harsh confinement of him. While he’s (understandably) a difficult protagonist/guide to warm to initially, he proves a fantastic entry into the world for newcomers, while his arc and character growth throughout is fascinating.

While each actor brings their own brilliant stamp on their respective characters – whether that’s Gwendoline Christie’s chillingly charming Lucifer, Jenna Coleman’s badass Johanna Constantine and Vivienne Acheampong’s voice of reason for Dream – there are certain performances which undoubtedly steal the show. David Thewlis is outstanding as ever as the terrifyingly creepy (but surprisingly almost sympathetic) John Dee, who’s the architect behind the terrifying events of “24/7”. While Boyd Holbrook impresses as the gruesome nightmare-ish Corinthian, who is elevated to major villain and proves a fantastic foil for his creator throughout. However, it’s Kirby Howell-Baptiste’s big-hearted and incredibly moving embodiment of Death in “The Sound of Her Wings” which truly shines above the rest.

The production itself is sumptuous with an impressive amount of the sets actually constructed for the show to add a real depth and believability, especially to the Dreaming. Personally, Lucienne’s library is my favourite setting, closely followed by Morpheus’ extensive throne room. There is a distinct grungy colour palette used throughout, primarily consisting of earthy greens, blues and dark tones, which also translates throughout the gothy wardrobe. While some of the wider DC ties have been severed, for example John Dee isn’t kept in Arkham Asylum and Etrigan the Demon is missing from the hell sequences, the narrative isn’t impacted by this and actually it’s good to see a more standalone universe for The Sandman. Not everything needs a million easter eggs or post-credit scenes…


With an incredible array of performances, expansive world-building and a real reverence for the source material, Netflix has somehow achieved the unthinkable and adapted the spellbinding The Sandman and I’m so glad to say it’s one of the best TV shows this year. Season 2 announcement soon please though Netflix?