The Sandman binge recap: Drift into the twisty land of the dreaming

·55-min read
The Sandman binge recap: Drift into the twisty land of the dreaming

Neil Gaiman's comic book series The Sandman stands as one of the most critically acclaimed, influential works of fantasy of all time, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest comic books ever written. Since its first publication in 1989, studios and networks have been trying to produce an adaptation, to no avail.

But the wait is finally over. It's time to wake up, fantasy lovers — The Sandman has arrived, in the form of a mind-bending, 10-episode Netflix series. Let's dive in.

The Sandman. Tom Sturridge as Dream in episode 101 of The Sandman. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022
The Sandman. Tom Sturridge as Dream in episode 101 of The Sandman. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

Netflix

Chapter 1: The Sleep Of The Just

The great philosopher Billie Eilish once mused: "When we all fall asleep, where do we go?" Leave it to Neil Gaiman to provide the answer… though maybe not one we'll like.

In the world of The Sandman, when human beings fall asleep, they're transported to a world of dreams and nightmares, founded and governed by a… let's call him a god, named Dream (Tom Sturridge), one of the "Endless Ones," his colleagues being Destiny, Death, Desire, Despair, Delirium, and Destruction.

In this world, humans have the chance to play out their greatest fantasies and darkest fears, all of which are created and managed by Dream. These entities Dream has constructed remain within the confines of his realm… normally.

But in the pilot episode, something goes wrong, and a nightmare called the Corinthian (Boyd Holbrook) manages to slip into the "real world." So Dream goes hunting for him.

The year is 1916. Smack in the middle of World War I.

We jump to Wych Cross, England, where we meet Roderick Burgess, a.k.a. The Magus (Charles Dance), an elderly man grieving the loss of his son Randall, who died in the disastrous Gallipoli campaign. The Magus, as his name would suggest, has become obsessed with dark magic, and hopes to imprison the Angel of Death and strike a bargain to bring his son back to life. With the help of another grieving father, Dr. John Hathaway, the Magus gets his hands on a book of sorcery, and performs a ritual.

It works… sorta. He succeeds in summoning a god and trapping them inside a sigil… but it's not the Angel of Death he's conjured up — it's Dream… who'd just popped over to Earth to bring Corinthian back to his realm, and now finds himself imprisoned.

Corinthian quickly picks up on what's happened, and desperate to remain in the real world, offers the Magus some clarity — telling him it's Dream, not Death he's captured — and advice, hoping to help him keep Dream contained. Per Corinthian's instructions, in addition to the sigil encircling Dream, the Magus crafts a glass sphere around the Endless One that should keep him locked up tight. With his master now powerless, Corinthian peaces out to continue his brutal murder spree.

Meanwhile, the Magus strips Dream of his belongings — a pouch of sand, an emerald necklace that prolongs the wearer's lifespan, and his creepy helm, reminiscent of a WWI-era gas mask. Once Dream wakes, the Magus attempts to strike a deal with him in exchange for his freedom. Wealth, immortality, the life of his departed son, if he can swing it… but Dream refuses to even speak.

So he sits in captivity for a decade, silent, waiting for an opportunity to break free. And with Dream unable to supervise his realm, chaos ensues. In the real world, millions of people are either unable to wake up, are trapped in an endless state of sleepwalking, or simply can't sleep at all… a reference to the mysterious epidemic of the 1920s and '30s.

So, yeah… Dream's pretty motivated to get the hell out of there and fix that.

Meanwhile, we're tracking the journey of the Magus's second-born and least favorite son Alex (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth as a young boy, and Laurie Kynaston as a teenager.) Alex isn't quite down with what the Magus is doing, but he's intimidated by his father, and dares not betray him by setting Dream free, much as he'd like to.

Along the way, Alex meets Ethel (Niamh Walsh), who becomes his father's mistress, and to the Magus's dismay, she eventually becomes pregnant. After the Magus tries to force her to have an abortion, she flees… taking with her $200,000 in cash, and even more valuable — all of Dream's possessions.

The Magus ain't too happy about this, so he tries yet again to strike a deal with Dream, hoping he'll hunt Ethel down for him, but again, Dream keeps his mouth shut, and the Magus keeps him locked away. But Alex, now a bit older and a bit more bold, attempts to make an arrangement of his own with the Endless One. He offers to set Dream free, but before Dream can respond… The Magus arrives, and scolds his son. The argument quickly turns violent, with Alex shoving the Magus and accidentally killing him.

Alex, now the man of the house, takes this opportunity to finish his conversation with Dream: he'll set the god free if he promises to do no harm to him or his (implied) lover Paul (Gus Gordon). But Dream has learned not to trust humans, so he remains silent.

From here, we jump forward 100 years, to present day, where Alex is now an old man (played by Benedick Blythe), confined to a wheelchair. One last time, Alex offers to set Dream free in exchange for his and his lover's protection, and one last time, Dream stonewalls him.

But as Paul (now played by Christopher Colquhoun) wheels Alex away, he accidentally breaks the seal keeping Dream in place. Paul notices that the seal has been broken, but chooses to leave it be.

With the seal broken, Dream zeroes in on a guard surveilling him and traps him in a — you guessed it… a dream! — and tricks him into shooting the glass sphere that's kept him in place for over a century. Dream escapes, and finds his way back to his realm…

Where… not all is well. Dream's aide Lucienne (Vivienne Acheampong) explains to him the situation: with Dream absent, the dreams and nightmares of his creation have fled to Earth, and his kingdom has fallen into ruin. As the episode ends, Dream promises to retrieve all of his supernatural creations from Earth, and rebuild his kingdom.

Stray Observations:

  • While Tom Sturridge had plenty of opportunities to show off his abs in this episode, he wasn't given many chances to show off his acting range. His brooding, sinister, Robert Pattinson-in-Twilight vibe made me feel more sleepy than intrigued.

  • I was truly sad when the Magus, played by the supremely talented Charles Dance, was killed. He's easily the show's best actor, and is always a pleasure to watch on-screen. Oh well, guess I'll just have to rewatch him in Game of Thrones for the 500th time.

  • On the bright side, I was impressed with how the show handled The Sandman's 100-year-long origin story, which I imagine was a challenging nut to crack. The visual effects are solid, the look of the show is slick and surreal, and the episode ends on a great cliffhanger, teasing the fun and unpredictable world of story to come.

The Sandman. (L to R) Vivienne Acheampong as Lucienne, Sanjeev Bhaskar as Cain, Tom Sturridge as Dream, Asim Chaudhry as Abel in episode 102 of The Sandman. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022
The Sandman. (L to R) Vivienne Acheampong as Lucienne, Sanjeev Bhaskar as Cain, Tom Sturridge as Dream, Asim Chaudhry as Abel in episode 102 of The Sandman. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

Netflix

Chapter 2: Imperfect Hosts

So Dream's back in Dreamland, but he's weak from his century of captivity, and his kingdom is in shambles. Worse, his tools are missing, and without them he's unable to repair a ceiling in his dilapidated library, let alone travel to Earth and hunt down the rogue dreams and nightmares that have escaped his realm.

So Dream's goal in this episode is to find his tools. To do that, he decides to summon The Fates to help track them down. But in order to summon the fates, he'll need enough power to conjure up a gift worthy of their service. And the only way to regain his power is by absorbing the magic from something he himself has created. Lucienne somberly informs Dream that pretty much everything in this world is gone… except one thing:

A gargoyle named Gregory, who has become the pet of brothers Cain (Sanjeev Bhaskar) and Abel (Asim Chaudhry), two of the only beings loyal enough to remain in Dream's kingdom. Gregory's a friendly gargoyle, with a personality closer to a puppy than a dragon. So you can imagine Can and Abel's response when Dream, a.k.a. Morpheus (as we learn here) tells them that he'll have to, basically, kill their pet to absorb its magic. Yeah, they're pissed. But Dream is their king, and Gregory seems more than willing to help, so there's not much they can do about it.

Meanwhile, on Earth, we catch up with Ethel, who, since fleeing the Mage with her unborn child and Dream's valuables, has become exceedingly rich. After a brief sequence establishing Ethel's current living situation (she's an international antiquities dealer), she's paid a visit by Corinthian, who's seen through her alter egos and has come with a warning: Dream is free, and he wants his s— back.

After basically an entire episode of Ethel denying that she knows the whereabouts of any of Dream's three tools (TBH, this episode is the definition of filler), she admits that she sold two of them to pay for her life in America, and the ruby she passed down to her son, John. When Corinthian threatens to kill Ethel if she doesn't lead him to the ruby, she produces a protection amulet (which, to Corinthian's surprise, she obtained in exchange for one of Dream's tools) and banishes Corinthian back to the dream realm.

Back in Dream's neighborhood, Cain and Abel suppress rage and tears, respectively, as Dream sucks the magic from Gregory, turning him into a handful of sand. With Gregory's essence and a boost of power, Dream ventures to a dark body of water and, while wading through a trippy sequence I didn't totally follow, manages to procure two gifts for the Fates — a snake and an egg.

So Dream summons the Fates — who take the form of three interconnected women (Nina Wadia, Souad Faress, and Dinita Gohil) and they grant him three questions. One by one, he asks about his three missing tools (why he didn't just ask one question: "Where are my tools?", I do not know. I guess he's the god of Dreams, not of intellect.)

The Fates tell Dream, albeit a bit vaguely, where to find them. The pouch of sand was last in the possession of a woman named Joanna Constantine. The helm was traded by Ethel to a demon, which means… it's in Hell. And finally, the ruby necklace was stolen from Ethel by her son by the Magus — John.

With a rough idea of where his tools are, Dream prepares to venture back to Earth to retrieve them, and despite Lucienne's pleas to the contrary, he leaves. No sooner does he disappear than does Corinthian emerge back home before Lucienne… but quickly informs her that he'd much rather be on Earth where he's free, so he leaves.

We check in with Cain and Abel, where we see Cain (shocker!) kill Abel out of rage. But don't worry, Abel emerges from his grave a short while later — it seems this is a daily occurrence for the two brothers. And when Abel rises from the dead, he sees before his grave: an egg. Dream paid for the Fates service with just the snake… the egg was for Cain and Abel, and when it hatches, they see — it's a baby gargoyle, who they name either Irvin or, at Cain's insistence that all gargoyle names must start with a "G", Girvin.

The episode ends with Ethel entering a high-security facility, one that's owned and was, apparently, created by her. The facility, we soon learn, was built for the purposes of hiding her son, John (David Thewlis), who she's holding as her prisoner.

Stray Observations:

  • Cain and Abel's murder-revival routine was a high point in an episode that otherwise I could have just skipped over entirely. Abel's insistence that "Cain hardly ever kills me before lunch!" was probably the first time I laughed so far.

  • Speaking of delight, I think I saw Dream crack a smile — albeit very, very subtly — for the first time during his scene with the Fates! Nice to see him letting loose… ish.

  • While I was quite disappointed to see the departure of Charles Dance in the first episode, I'm equally delighted to see the appearance of the always fantastic David Thewlis as Ethel's son John. Excited to see what he brings to this interesting role.

The Sandman. Clare Higgins as Mad Hettie in episode 103 of The Sandman. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2022
The Sandman. Clare Higgins as Mad Hettie in episode 103 of The Sandman. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2022

Liam Daniel/Netflix

Chapter 3: Dream A Little Dream Of Me

The episode opens with the introduction of Joanna Constantin (Jenna Coleman), professional exorcist, who's on her way to a job. In the cab ride over, Constantin is haunted by the same nightmare she has every night — in which a friend of hers summons a demon in a nightclub and all hell breaks loose… literally. Caught in the crossfire is her friend's young daughter, who's devoured by the demon, leaving Constantin with nothing but her severed arm and a boatload of trauma.

Waking from her dream, Constantin heads into a church, where she runs into an old friend who warns her that Morpheus (a.k.a Dream a.k.a the Sandman) is coming. Constantin laughs it off — everyone knows the Sandman is just a myth — but when she turns around, Dream himself is standing before her. Dream knows she has his precious pouch of sand, and he wants it back… but Constantin doesn't have time for gods at the moment. She's got demons to deal with.

After watching Constantin exorcize a demon from the fiancé of an English princess, she comes to an agreement with Dream: she'll help him retrieve his pouch of sand, if he rids her of the nightmare — a traumatic memory from her past — that keeps her up at night.  Together, they head off to track down the pouch… but they're not alone.

Lucienne, against Dream's orders, has sent a raven to watch over him, a raven named Matthew (Patton Oswalt) who, after a lifetime spent as a human, has been reincarnated into a bird, much to his confusion and dismay. Dream isn't too happy about having a babysitter following him around, but Matthew is persistent, so Dream lets it fly. And they set off…

Giving us the chance to check back in with Ethel and her son John. This story is, disappointingly, nearly identical to the last episode — a single, static conversation between Ethel and a man, in one room, discussing the location of Dream's ruby, stretched out over an hour of TV. Sigh.

Long ago, it seems, John stole the ruby from Ethel — killing a bunch of people in the process — which led to Ethel locking him away. Only John knows the location of the ruby, and Ethel wants it back so she can return it to Dream in the hopes that he'll spare their lives. But John won't give it up — he doesn't trust his mother, who's spent her entire life lying to him. So finally, for the first time, Ethel tells John the truth of his past, his father, and the ruby. But still… John won't budge.

Understanding that she can't change her son, Ethel realizes that all she can do is protect him — so she gives him her amulet of protection, which has kept her alive for more than a century. As she does so, Ethel shares one last hug with John, and rapidly transforms into an old, wrinkled woman, and dies in his arms.

Now John, using his mother's protection amulet, is able to escape his prison, tasting fresh air for the first time in years. As he walks the streets of Buffalo, he's met by — who else — Corinthian. Who merely offers his coat to the visibly frigid man, cryptically wishing him luck on his journey.

Back with Dream and Constantin, we find them visiting Constantin's ex-girlfriend Rachel (Eleanor Fanyinka). After a brief period of dating, Constantin ended up… sort of accidentally living with Rachel, at which point Constantin got scared and disappeared, leaving all her belongings — including the pouch of sand — behind.

So we follow Constantin up to Rachel's apartment, where their reunion is, surprisingly, far less antagonistic than Constantin had imagined. In fact, they pick back up right where they left off, things getting hot and heavy and quickly moving towards the bedroom… when things turn surreal. Rachel evaporates into a cloud of sand, and Dream appears behind her. It was a dream — he explains to Constantin — triggered by the magical pouch of sand.

They enter Rachel's bedroom and find her lying in bed, the pouch in her hand, withered near to the bone. The pouch, it seems, has trapped her in a perpetual state of dreaming. Unable to die, unable to wake, Rachel has been in this state for six months, and there's no saving her. Without a shred of emotion, Dream moves to take back his pouch, but explains that doing so will kill her. Constantin begs Dream to find it in his heart — or whatever's in there — to show Rachel some sympathy. She knows he hates human beings because of what the Magus did to him… but they're not all like him.

Herein is illuminated Dream's fatal flaw — he wants to save humanity, but he couldn't care less about individual human beings. So in a surprising act of kindness, Dream sprinkles some sand on Rachel's face and sends her off into a joyful dream before she inevitably passes. Constantin expresses her gratitude for Dream's sympathetic gesture, and Dream fulfills his end of the bargain — ridding her of her chronic nightmares.

With the pouch in hand, Dream sets his sights on the next item for retrieval — his helm, currently located, much to Matthew's terror, in Hell.

Stray Observations:

  • Jenna Coleman as Joanna Constantin is a welcome addition to the cast, offering a bevy of personality and color to contrast Dream's naturally sulky and dry nature. Their odd-couple energy is, for me, the first time the show's really felt alive. Here's hoping we get more of her.

  • I love me some Patton Oswalt, and lord knows this show needs a serious injection of humor… but I can't help feeling that Oswalt's bright, comedic personality (coming from the mouth of a raven, no less) is at odds with the grim tone of the show.

  • I very much enjoyed the choice to put John in pajamas, signifying to the audience that hiding beneath his dark exterior is a traumatized little boy. Perhaps it was unintentional… do British people just love pajamas?  Who knows. It worked for me.

The Sandman. (L to R) Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer Morningstar, Tom Sturridge as Dream in episode 104 of The Sandman. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022
The Sandman. (L to R) Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer Morningstar, Tom Sturridge as Dream in episode 104 of The Sandman. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

Netflix

Chapter Four: A Hope In Hell

We pick up with John Burgess stumbling through the streets of Buffalo, bewildered by the modern world — the lights, the cars whizzing by — doing his best impression of Morgan Freeman in Shawshank… by way of Joaquin Phoenix's Joker. After almost running him over with her car, John is helped to his feet by Rosemary (Sarah Niles, who played the enigmatic therapist in season 2 of Ted Lasso), who offers him a ride home. Bad move, girl. Don't you know better than to invite a strange white man into your car?

Meanwhile, Dream takes Matthew on a chill trip into the pits of Hell, hoping to take back his helm from the demon that bought it off the departed Ethel. Courtesy of Matthew's constant nagging for exposition, Dream explains that even though he's a god, he can't just waltz into another god's realm uninvited. Especially not Hell, which is run by Lucifer Morningstar (Gwendoline Christie), the most powerful of all the gods, save "The Creator" himself.

Nonetheless, Dream makes his way to Lucifer's throne room, where he demands the return of his helm. Using his pouch of sand, Dream summons his helm, and the demon-thief with it — Coranon (Munya Chawawa). But Coranon refuses to give Dream his helm. So Dream challenges him to what is essentially a trial by combat.

Dream chooses to forego a proxy for the fight, while Coranon chooses as his proxy — Lucifer (so that's why Christie's in this episode!). But don't get too excited, Game of Thrones fans, it's not a battle of weapons, but a battle of wits. And the stakes are high — if Dream loses, he'll spend eternity in hell as Coranon's slave. Yeesh. 

We cut from Hell back to Buffalo (my good friend's from Buffalo, so I won't make the joke I really want to make here), where Rosemary and John's conversation quickly turns dark as John admits that he just got out of a psychiatric hospital, where he was sent for murdering several people. So Rosemary does what any of us would do… she makes moves to get the hell out of dodge.

Though her tank is full, she tells John they need to stop for gas, then asks the attendant to call 9-1-1. But of course, John overhears this, and when the attendant points a gun in his face, John uses the amulet to kill him. John ushers a horrified Rosemary back in the car, assuring her that he won't hurt her as long as she gets him to where he's going.

Back in Hell, the battle commences — and I gotta give them credit, it's a battle like I've never seen before. I'm not gonna tell you I didn't roll my eyes a few times… but it's definitely unique. Basically the way this game works is… it's sort of like a high-stakes, supernatural version of rock-paper-scissors, except the players move one at a time.

For example: Lucifer, standing opposite Dream in her throne room, chooses a direwolf. And from here, we cut to… some sort of unspecified vision of a dark battle arena… where a direwolf appears. So Dream chooses a hunter, who materializes and spears the wolf. Now it's back to Lucifer, who chooses a snake, which injects the hunter with venom, so Dream chooses a bird of prey to kill the snake… on and on and on…

Until Dream chooses the universe, and Lucifer chooses anti-life. Now, it seems as if Dream has been bested: "What can defeat anti-life?" Lucifer gleefully taunts him. Thinking back to his time in captivity, I imagine, Dream chooses: hope. And a ray of sunlight pierces through the arena, defeating Lucifer and snatching victory from the devil herself.

It's a relatively cheesy sequence with an even cheesier ending, but again, I give them credit for leaning into the weird and not just throwing the two of them in a gladiatorial pit with some swords. With Lucifer defeated, Dream takes his helm, which (somehow?) gives him the power to locate his ruby. So he jets off —

— and enters a storage unit, where the ruby glows from within a crate. But when he touches the ruby, it blasts him backwards, and he's knocked out. As we learned in a prior episode, John altered the stone so that only he could use it. And with Dream unconscious, John walks into the unit and takes back his ruby.

With his ruby in hand, John's got no more need for his protection amulet… so he gives it to Rosemary (who, for inexplicable reasons, didn't speed off the second he left her car.) Is it weird that I care more about John, the villain, than I do about Dream, the hero? One of them killed (essentially) a puppy, while the other gave the gift of everlasting life to a kind-hearted single mother. I dunno… right now, I'm team John. But we'll see if the coming episodes change my mind.

Stray Observations:

  • I have to say, the production design (by Gary Steele) for this episode was truly on point. From the poor souls meshed into cave walls and trees (so creepy), to Lucifer's menacing, obsidian-laden throne room… the aesthetic of this episode was simply fantastic.

  • Good thing for Dream that the trial by combat was a battle of wits and not a battle of… you know… swords… 'cause we all know Brienne of Tarth (Christie) would wipe the floor with him.

  • Did John not notice Dream lying on the floor of his storage unit when he walked in and grabbed the ruby? Seems like maybe a scene got cut or something… quite odd.

  • Nothing makes me more nervous in TV/film than when there's a dog in the same room as a villain. John's murder of the gas station clerk was sad, but if he'd killed Rosemary's adorable Rottweiler Susie, I'd be outside Netflix HQ right now protesting.

The Sandman. (L to R) Tom Sturridge as Dream, David Thewlis as John Dee in episode 105 of The Sandman. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022
The Sandman. (L to R) Tom Sturridge as Dream, David Thewlis as John Dee in episode 105 of The Sandman. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

Netflix

Chapter Five: 24/7

Bottle episodes often end up being the most interesting in a series, and Chapter Five of The Sandman is no exception. The Sandman's "24/7" is perhaps the best episode of the series thus far, zeroing in on John and his attempt to "remake the world in his image" now that he's back in possession of Dream's ruby. His goal is to make a more honest world, having been traumatized by his mother's lies. Here, we see him use the ruby to make that happen.

The first 40 minutes of the episode take place inside a small-town diner, where John uses the ruby to compel the staff and customers to shed their polite social veneer and expose their innermost truths… to disastrous results.

John meets Bette, a friendly waiter with aspirations of becoming a writer and starting a relationship with the diner's hunky middle-aged cook, Marsh. There's married couple Gary and Kate, successful pharmaceutical execs who Bette introduced at the diner years ago. There's a young man named Marc, who's having a quick meal before heading off to an interview at the same pharmaceutical company where Kate works as its CEO. And there's Judy, who's stressed out that she's being ghosted by her girlfriend Donna.

After a brief sequence introducing the ensemble, John uses the ruby to manipulate each of these characters into speaking their truth, and that's where things start to escalate.

Bette confronts Marsh about his repeated rejection of her advances, which leads him to confess that not only is he gay — but he's been carrying on a sexual relationship with her 21-year-old son. As Bette begins to spiral out…

Married couple Gary and Kate get real with each other — Gary resisting the strict diet Kate's put him on, Kate coming clean about how pathetic she thinks he is — and as the tension between them finally boils over, it's revealed that Gary's been having an affair.

On Judy's end of things, she ends up confessing to Bette that during an argument with her girlfriend the night before, Judy struck her in the face. While Judy feels tremendous remorse about what she's doing, it also becomes clear that she's long wanted out of this relationship. And as Bette encourages Judy to find someone who loves her for who she is — smart, kind, beautiful… they kiss, and start taking off each other's clothes.

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, Gary's fled from his shell-shocked wife to have a heart-to-heart with Marsh, where he admits to his many, many infidelities. Gary is unsatisfied with his and Kate's sex life, and so he's begun to seek satisfaction from any source that's available. Literally any, he makes clear, giving Marsh a seductive look… which now leads to Gary and Marsh getting down to business.

Back in the restaurant, Marc and Kate start talking about Marc's upcoming interview at her company — after being introduced by Bette earlier in the episode — but the conversation quickly turns to… you guessed it… her sex life! And before they know it, they too are stripping naked and ravishing each other's bodies in the booth.

While this bacchanal goes down, John watches with intrigue and a twinge of sadness — resentful that this is what human beings become when they're being honest — while eating from a gigantic tub of ice cream. On a nearby TV, he notices a news report of two pandas at a zoo across the country who have, after years of avoiding each other, finally mated. It seems that John's ruby has not only affected this diner… but the whole world.

From here, things really go off the rails and sort of… stop making sense. Gary emerges from the kitchen to find Marc sleeping with his wife Kate, and he tries to strangle him… but Marc stabs Gary in the neck in self-defense, killing him. Overwhelmed with guilt, Marc begins self-mutilating and eventually dies. So, that all tracks… kinda. But then (for some reason) Marsh begins self-mutilating, and also dies… as do Kate, Judy, and Bette.

As John looms over the carnage he's wrought, he's confronted by Dream, who's finally woken up after being knocked unconscious by the altered ruby. John refuses to surrender the ruby, so he and Dream do battle with their various forms of magic.

The Sandman uses his pouch to send John into a dream, John uses the ruby to try absorbing Dream's powers… and just as it seems like Dream's been defeated, John winds up squeezing the ruby so tightly that he literally shatters it, releasing its power into the Dream Realm, where Dream is able to reacquire it.

The episode ends with John getting sent back to a psychiatric hospital, Dream taking in the chaos that John's plunged the world into, and a final shot of Corinthian being his typically creepy and ominous self… implying that with John out of the picture, Corinthian is now the primary antagonist of the series.

It's an episode that starts small, ends big, and for the most part, works. There's no clear indication of where the story goes from here, but wherever that is, I'm definitely interested to see what kinda crazy shit they're gonna pull next.

Stray Observations: 

  • There's something powerful in what's essentially a stage play about a group of people digging deep and being truthful for the first time in their lives — though to be honest myself, the ensemble is mainly composed of stereotypes and cliches. But conceptually, I respect what they're trying to do, and it mainly works… up until a certain point.

  • I was surprised that after several episodes of building up John as the major villain, his storyline basically ends with him manipulating a bunch of randos in a diner. The Sandman seems to have a knack for hiring supremely talented actors and tragically underusing them.

  • If nothing else positive came from John's endeavor, at least there will be one more baby panda in the world. And for that, I salute him.

  • If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741, dial 9-8-8, or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

The Sandman. (L to R) Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Death, Tom Sturridge as Dream, Leemore Marrett Jr as Sam, Liberty Buckland as Tabitha in episode 106 of The Sandman. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022
The Sandman. (L to R) Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Death, Tom Sturridge as Dream, Leemore Marrett Jr as Sam, Liberty Buckland as Tabitha in episode 106 of The Sandman. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

Netflix

Chapter Six: The Sound of Her Wings

We catch up with Dream moping about a park somewhere in England, feeding the pigeons, having a chat with a woman (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) he seems to know very well. It seems Dream's fallen into a sort of existential crisis since recovering his tools — he's feeling aimless, without a sense of purpose, unsure where to turn next.

Which, to be frank, doesn't make a whole lot of sense, since at the end of Chapter One, Dream made Lucienne a promise that he would hunt down and retrieve all the rogue dreams and nightmares that escaped to Earth — something that has literally never been followed up on, even though we've seen the rogue dream Corinthian galavanting about the planet, presumably leaving a trail of chaos in his wake. But… moving on from that

Dream's feeling aimless. So this lovely, upbeat woman alongside him — who we soon learn is his sister — asks him to keep her company while she performs her duties. We spend a beat wondering which god this woman is, until it's finally revealed: she's Death.

Dream follows Death through a series of interactions as she, with a kind word and a friendly smile, ushers people from this plane to the next. The scenes range from truly heartbreaking — an old Jewish man saying the Shema before departing, an infant taken by Death from its crib — to eye-r

olly — a young father begging Death to let him give his wife his iPhone password before he dies (Really? The last thing you'd say to your wife before dying is 7892?). As they move from person to person, Death teaches her brother a lesson she's learned in her many years among human beings:

They may be gods, but their purpose isn't to rule over humanity… it's to serve humanity. "I need them as much as they need me," Death tells Dream. It's a lesson she hoped to teach him with a little experiment they played over the last few centuries:

We cut back to the year 1389, where a long-haired Dream — totally and completely uninterested in human beings as individuals, viewing their plane of existence as worthless in comparison to his own — accompanies Death through a tavern as she attempts to show him what the people of Earth are really all about.

As they observe the folks in the pub, they overhear a man (Ferdinand Kingsley) tell his friends about a decision he's made — he's not interested in death, so he's resolved to live forever. As Dream scoffs at this arrogant fellow, insisting that he'd be begging for an escape from this putrid plane after a mere hundred years, Death decides to challenge Dream's perception of human beings by granting the man the gift of eternal life.

So Dream accepts the challenge, and asks the man to meet him in this very tavern in 100 years time. The man laughs him off, but as we cut forward 100 years to 1489, we see Dream sit down with the man — still very much alive, having not aged a day, but now known as Robert Gatling.  Gatling is mystified as to how he's still here, but Dream provides him no answers, instead coming only with questions of his own.

Mainly, Dream wants to know — is Gatling ready yet to leave this horrid place? Gatling's confused — leave? The world's just getting exciting! They've invented chimneys! And handkerchiefs! Who knows what they'll come up with next! Disappointed, Dream says goodbye to Gatling, and schedules a meeting for 100 years in the future.

We see them meet in 1589, where Gatling is now a rich man, having earned a knighthood. And still, he's got no interest in departing. They meet in 1689, where Gatling's now a homeless man, having lost all his money and all his family. But still, he insists — he's got so much to live for.

1789. Gatling's recovered his wealth by investing in the slave trade. He's not too happy about his choices, and Dream admonishes him for them, but his perspective hasn't changed. Life is a gift, and he's going to soak up every second of it.

1889. Gatling sits down with his old buddy Dream and offends him terribly by making an assumption — that the only reason Dream keeps showing up is he's lonely. Gatling doesn't know who Dream really is, as he's repeatedly refused to reveal his identity, but the one thing he does know is that eternity is lonely without a friend.

And that's what he considers Dream to be — his only true friend. But Dream's not yet come to the realization that human beings, despite their inferior makeup, are not his servants, but his companions. So in a rage, Dream storms out of the pub.

1989. Gatling steps out of his Porsche, wearing a typically '80s getup of a sport jacket, t-shirt, and slicked back hair, and strolls into the pub… but Dream doesn't show. Little does Gatling know that Dream was, at the time, trapped in the Magus's basement. But Gatling takes it hard nonetheless, assuming that he was wrong — Dream is not his friend, and he was nothing more than a plaything for some mysterious greater being.

But as we jump forward to present day, we see Dream searching out Gatling by visiting the pub — which has long since been abandoned. But as he follows a trail of spray paint to a bar called "The New Inn," he finds Gatling seated at a table, grading papers (one can only assume he's become a history teacher.) Dream apologizes for missing their last meeting, telling Gatling: "It's rude to keep a friend waiting."

It seems Dream's finally learned to respect human beings as more than just cogs in his machine, and it's really a nice moment of change for the character. And as he takes a seat with his old, old friend, we cut to another plane of existence, in a blood-red room…

Where a god called Desire (Mason Alexander Park), who's been surveilling Dream for several episodes, says something ominous about having a plan to eliminate Dream once and for all. And off this super-vague threat…

Stray Observations:

  • I probably say this every time, but this might've been the most interesting episode yet. It never ceases to amaze me — this show's willingness to throw traditional structure out the window and do something truly wild. I'm not sure it's got a whole lot of depth to it, and it's there that the series feels truly lacking, but I'm always excited to tune in to see what kind of stunt they'll pull next.

  • I know I've ragged a bit on Tom Sturridge's performance as Dream, but I was pleased to see him come out of his shell in this episode. We're finally seeing a slightly lighter, more colorful, dare I say more human side of Dream, and I'm interested to see where he takes the performance from here.

  • I enjoyed the appearance of Joanna Constantin's ancestor… Joanna Constantin (in 1789) who's also played by Jenna Coleman. It's a nice callback to Dream telling Joanna in Chapter 3 that he's known her family for years.

  • Not sure how I feel about the William Shakespeare cameo in 1589. Feels a bit like low hanging fruit, a bit too obvious for a show so left-of-center. Would've much preferred seeing someone a bit more unexpected — like famed explorer Francis Drake, fresh off a globe-trotting expedition, or an inquisitive little four-year-old Galileo. Though I'm not sure what an Italian toddler would have been doing in a British pub…

The Sandman. (L to R) Vivienne Acheampong as Lucienne, Nicholas Anscombe as Merv Pumpkinhead in episode 107 of The Sandman. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022
The Sandman. (L to R) Vivienne Acheampong as Lucienne, Nicholas Anscombe as Merv Pumpkinhead in episode 107 of The Sandman. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

Netflix

Chapter Seven: The Doll's House

The episode opens in Cape Kennedy, Florida, in the middle of a tense, heart-rending scene. We watch as a young girl named Rose (Kyo Ra) is forced to say goodbye to her younger brother Jed (Aryel Tsoto) — as their parents are separating and each taking one of the kids. Despite Rose's pleas to her mother (Andi Osho) to take Jed with them to New Jersey, there's no changing her father's mind.

From suburban Florida, we cut to the eerie red room we saw at the end of the previous episode, where Desire meets with their sister Despair (Donna Preston). It seems the two have been scheming for some time to cut Dream out of the picture — they even had a hand in that business with the Magus in Chapter One.

Time after time, their plans have failed… but they're not giving up hope, because a new player has entered the game: a dream vortex, a being with powers so great they could destroy Dream. While we wonder exactly what a dream vortex is, it's soon made clear who it is: Rose.

And from here, we catch up with Rose, seven years after we met her in Florida. She's living in Manhattan, grieving the recent death of her mother and feeling untethered. Without any family in her life, she's begun working to find her brother Jed, whom she hasn't seen since she left Florida. Rose tries to hire a private investigator to track him down, but she's got no money and no leads on a job.

But lucky for Rose — her friend/surrogate mom Lyta (Razane Jammal) has just been contacted by a foundation that wants to interview Rose about her family history in exchange for a decent chunk of change. Rose accepts the offer, and jets off to England to meet this mysterious employer.

Back in the Dreaming, Lord Morpheus a.k.a. The Sandman a.k.a. Dream a.k.a. Emo Neo meets with Lucienne to review the state of affairs in his kingdom. Lucienne's just completed a census of the Dreaming, concluding that all the dreams and nightmares, except three, have returned home (what a convenient resolution to a storyline that was set up in the final moments of the pilot as the major motivation for Dream this season!)

The three dreams/nightmares that remain unaccounted for are Gault, Corinthian, and Fiddler's Green. But more pressing than that is the rumor of the emergence of a dream vortex, a human with the power to create entire worlds of their own… or destroy them. Dream agrees with Lucienne that the dream vortex — who he knows to be Rose — needs to be carefully observed, so he sends Matthew to watch over her.

Meanwhile, Rose lands in England and meets her employer — Unity Kincaid (Sandra James-Young), who turns out not to be her employer…. but her great-grandmother. When Dream was first imprisoned by the Magus, Unity was one of the unfortunate people who fell into an endless sleep, and remained there for decades (you might remember her from the pilot as the first person we saw unable to wake from her dream.) But somehow, while she was asleep… she bore a child. And that child had a child, and that child had a child, and that child is Rose.

Rose's mind is blown, but she pushes past the plethora of questions racing through her brain, overjoyed to finally find a small piece of what she's been looking for — family. But Unity didn't summon Rose just to catch up… she wants him to find her brother, Jed. Turns out Unity's family was filthy rich, so she offers to finance Rose's trip back to her hometown in Florida to search for Jed. Obvs, Rose couldn't be more down.

From here, we move to Huntsville, Alabama, where a group of serial killers have brunch at a local diner, chatting about their plans for their annual serial killer convention. It seems their guest of honor dropped out at the last minute, and they need a replacement. The idea of the Corinthian comes up, and they decide to mimic his murders to get his attention by cutting out the eyes of their poor young waiter. Off that horribleness…

We're back in Florida (again, I won't make the easy joke here), where Rose and Lyta check into a bed and breakfast run by Hal (played by the legendary John Cameron Mitchell). They quickly meet the inn's oddball guests — including a couple named Barbie (Lily Travers) and Ken (Richard Fleeshman), the latter rocking the most atrocious man-bun I've ever seen, so aggressively hideous I was sure he'd be revealed as a demon  — before heading out to search for Jed.

Their first stop is the local child services office, where Rose begs the social worker, Ms. Rubio (Shelley Williams), for info on her brother. But, much to Rose's chagrin, Ms. Rubio can't reveal anything about Jed's other than to assure Rose he's safe, happy, and living with an old friend of her father's. Disappointed, Rose heads out…

And we pop back into the Dreaming to see what Dream is up to. Turns out, Rose's brother Jed has fallen off Dream's radar entirely, both in the real world and in Dream's world… which troubles the lord of dreams and haircuts, because that should be impossible.

As Dream ponders this mystery… Rose walks into his throne room, having accidentally tapped into her powers as a dream vortex to move between realms. Dream introduces himself and explains the situation to Rose (who seems utterly unfazed by the revelation of gods and dream dimensions), vowing to help her find Jed.

And somewhere in Florida, we find Jed (now played by Eddie Karanja) sprinting down a highway, before running into his foster mother Clarice (Lisa O'Hare) on the road. Jed explains that he ran away from home because his foster father Barnaby threatened to lock him in the cellar. Aunt Clarice agrees to help him escape, but before they can jet — Barnaby (Sam Hazeldine) shows up, throws Jed in the trunk, and drives off.

Stray Observations:

  • Two epic cameos in this episode I can't omit: Stephen Fry as the kindly b&b guest who saves Rose from a mugging, and Mark Hamill as Mervyn Pumpkinhead. First Charles Dance and David Thewlis, now John Cameron Mitchell, Stephen Fry and Mark Hamill in one episode… it's truly unbelievable how many icons this show was able to attract. Really speaks to the widespread popularity of the source material.

  • For me, the biggest laugh out loud moment in the entire series thus far is the fact that Despair wears Crocs. Shout out to whoever from the creative team made that spot-on decision… I can't think of a more miserable fashion choice.

  • In a single episode, Corinthian travels from Manhattan, to Alabama, to London (tracking Rose). I can't imagine the kind of sky-miles this guy is racking up… he's like a demonic version of George Clooney's Ryan Bingham from Up In The Air.

  • Did you really think I'd end this recap without calling out my boy Abel and his adorable baby gargoyle? I was relieved to learn that Abel renamed the gargoyle Goldie… no living being deserves to be named Girvin. Abel and Goldie's relationship is so cute — Netflix, please, if there was ever an opportunity for a spinoff…

The Sandman. (L to R) Tom Sturridge as Dream, Vanesu Samunyai as Rose Walker in episode 108 of The Sandman. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022
The Sandman. (L to R) Tom Sturridge as Dream, Vanesu Samunyai as Rose Walker in episode 108 of The Sandman. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

Netflix

Chapter Eight: Playing House

Picking up where we left off, we check in on Jed, now twelve years old and… a superhero? With the help of his mother (who's actually the rogue, shapeshifting nightmare Gault, played by Ann Ogbomo), who directs him from a control room in Jed's basement, Jed puts on a hokey superhero outfit and seeks out a villain called the Pied Piper. But before he can confront the Pied Piper, Jed wakes up from this dream, locked in the cellar of his actual Florida home, a rat chewing on his hand. From dream to nightmare real quick.

Elsewhere in Florida, Rose hasn't given up looking for her brother. With Hal at her side, she's handing out fliers, knocking on doors, doing anything and everything she can to find Jed. And she's not alone in her search — her friend Lyta goes back to the foster agency and begs Ms. Rubio to check in on Jed. Ms. Rubio initially refuses, but Lyta's earnestness seems to sway her, and as Lyta leaves, Ms. Rubio grabs her phone and dials.

Now, I was certain that Lyta was about to pull a brilliant move and follow Ms. Rubio to Jed, but that's not the case… 'cause Lyta's preoccupied with some personal matters.

In the previous episode, we learned that Lyta's husband Hector (Lloyd Everitt) died in an accident. And when Lyta dreams, she dreams only of him… so she's become more and more consumed with sleeping, now virtually living in her dreams so she can continue spending time with the love of her life. Hector begs Lyta to stay with him permanently, explaining that even though he knows he's a dream… something's strange. When she wakes, he doesn't disappear. He keeps on living. Waiting, working…

And what's he been up to while Lyta's living her real life? He built Lyta their dream home. Aww! He walks her through the home, showing her the fabulous living room, kitchen… and a nursery.

The couple always wanted a baby, and Hector sees no reason they can't have one here. As Lyta considers this… her belly suddenly swells up. She's pregnant. And as she wakes, stands up and looks in the mirror, she realizes: she's not just pregnant in her dreams… she's pregnant in the real world, too. Off this bizarre moment…

We jump over to Jed's home, where his abusive foster father Barnaby goes about his daily routine of terrorizing Jed and his foster mother Clarice… until Ms. Rubio calls and informs Clarice that she'll be stopping by to check on Jed. So Barnaby puts on his best button-down shirt, asks Jed to clean himself up and assures him that if he tells Ms. Rubio about anything that's been happening in his home, he'll regret it.

So Ms. Rubio stops by and has a chat with the family, which, as far as she can see, seems totally normal. Jed does as he's told and assures Ms. Rubio that all is well, but as he exits the room to let Ms. Rubio talk with Barnaby and Clarice… he covertly slips a note into her bag. 'Atta boy!

While all this has been going down, Dream has been coaching Rose in controlling her powers, and it all builds up to Dream and Rose visiting Jed in his dream. With Rose at his side, Dream confronts Gault and summons her back to his realm, where she belongs. And while Dream deals with his rogue nightmare, Rose squeezes any information she can out of Jed regarding his current whereabouts. Before the dream abruptly ends, she's able to get a few bits of information: the names Barnaby, Clarice, and Homeland.

When she wakes, Rose enters the information into the totally not fictional "Track-A-Being.com" and finds the address to Barnaby and Clarice's home in Homeland, FL (how typing "Homeland" into a search engine didn't link her directly to the show Homeland is beyond me, but I guess that's how the internet works on TV.)

Back at the foster agency, Ms. Rubio enters her office and opens her bag, but before she can find Jed's note, she's visited by Corinthian, who, as he is wont to do — murders her and removes her eyeballs… then eats them. With Jed's address in hand, he heads out…

Meanwhile, at Jed's house, it turns out Barnaby found Jed's note before Ms. Rubio could leave with it. And as Barnaby warned Jed, he's in for a world of hurt… but before Barnaby can deliver on his horrific promise, there's a knock at the door. Down in the cellar, Jed hears screaming from upstairs, and when it quiets down, he emerges from the basement to find the home utterly destroyed… and Corinthian waiting for him.

We find Rose racing towards Jed's home, but by the time she arrives, she finds a squadron of cop cars outside, the house cordoned off with crime scene tape. Barnaby and Clarice are dead (the one good thing Corinthian's done all season — killing Barnaby, that is… Clarice was as much a victim of Barnaby's abuse as Jed was), and Jed is nowhere to be found. He's in the hands of Corinthian… alive, but in more danger than ever.

Stray Observations:

  • Before slipping into her brother's dream, Rose hops between the dreams of her housemates, eventually landing in Barbie's dream, which takes place in a bewitching, mythical world where she strides through an expansive mountainside meadow, chatting with a beautifully bizarre VFX creature (a fan favorite from the comics named Martin Tenbones). I have to imagine this one-minute scene ate up a massive portion of the episode's budget, and I applaud them for burning their cash on something fun, totally out of left field, and entirely inconsequential to the main plot. Bravo.

  • While on her dream-hopping spree, Rose jumps into Hal's dream, where we get to see James Cameron Mitchell performing in drag — always a pleasure. He's fantastic in this episode, and I loved his speech to Rose about his failed career on Broadway… which is hilariously meta, coming from one of the most iconic Broadway stars of all time.

The Sandman. (L to R) Boyd Holbrook as The Corinthian, Lewis Reeves as The Bogeyman in episode 109 of The Sandman. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022
The Sandman. (L to R) Boyd Holbrook as The Corinthian, Lewis Reeves as The Bogeyman in episode 109 of The Sandman. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

Netflix

Chapter Nine: Collectors

This chapter of The Sandman takes place at a hotel in Georgia, at… get excited… the Cereal Convention! Alas, much to my disappointment, this convention is not really about cereal (I'm all about my Honey Nut Cheerios), but serial killers. Remember that trio of creeps from Chapter Seven? They're back! And after helping Corinthian locate Rose's brother Jed, he's accepted their invitation to be the guest of honor.

So as Corinthian, Jed in tow, heads into the convention hall, he calls Rose and informs her that he's found her missing brother. He gives her the address of the hotel and she grabs her bag, ready to head out. Rose tells Lyta what she's learned, and asks Lyta to come with her, but Lyta's got a problem of her own to deal with.

Lyta tells Rose about her dream-induced pregnancy. Rose is as shocked as Lyta to see her pregnant belly, but she thinks she knows why this is happening — explaining to Lyta the reality of the Dreaming, and the fact that she's a dream vortex. Rose promises to help Lyta get to the bottom of what's going on, as soon as she returns with Jed.

So Rose gets ready to head to Georgia alone, but as she leaves, the affable hotel guest Gilbert (Stephen Fry) offers to accompany her on her journey. Rose agrees, and they set off, unknowingly heading straight into the belly of the beast.

On the ride over, Gilbert's babbling puts Rose to sleep and she finds herself in Lyta's dream, which has taken a disturbing turn… as earthquakes have begun to erode the foundation of the ground upon which Hector built Lyta their dream home.

But this seismic activity isn't confined to Lyta's dream — Dream's throne room is crumbling, too. After learning of Lyta's pregnancy, Lucienne and Dream realize that Rose, via her dream vortex powers, must be eroding the walls between the Dreaming and the real world, hence Lyta's pregnancy in her dream spilling over into reality. Determined to stop Rose from destroying both worlds…

Dream enters Lyta's dream, and briefs Rose, Lyta and Hector of the situation. Hector, it seems, is not a dream after all, but a ghost who's latched itself onto the Dreaming and whose presence threatens to wreak havoc on the universe. So despite Rose and Lyta's pleas, Dream sends Hector back where he belongs — to live among the Dead.

Lyta cries, Rose screams, and Dream basically shrugs and ends the dream before either one of them can do anything about it. Back in the real world, Rose wakes up as she and Gilbert arrive at the convention to find Jed.

Rose and Gilbert split up, searching through the hotel for any sign of Jed, since Corinthian isn't answering Rose's calls. And after peeking into a few meeting rooms, Gilbert quickly comes to understand the true nature of this convention. As he races around the hotel trying to warn Rose, he spots Corinthian, who seems just as disturbed by his presence as Gilbert. Seems the two know each other…

And when Rose returns to the lobby, she learns from the receptionist that Gilbert has returned home. Which, as we cut back to the Dreaming, we come to understand — home for Gilbert isn't Hal's b&b… but the Dream realm. And that's 'cause Gilbert isn't just a friendly old British dude… he's a rogue dream called Fiddler's Green.

Fiddler's Green explains to Lucienne and Dream that Corinthian is close… so close to achieving his goal (name that movie) of capturing Rose. Fearing what damage Corinthian could do if he captures Rose, Dream races off to find her…

But he's too late. Back in Georgia, Rose ran into Jed as he was being led to the hotel room of the child rapist known as Fun Land (Danny Kirrane). She and Jed manage to run away, but Fun Land cornered them in a hallway, and as he prepares to enact his revenge…

He's killed by Corinthian. Who beams, having finally drawn Rose into his web of chaos.

Stay Observations:

  • Dream's character arc seems to be getting a tad bit lost here. It seemed in the past few episodes as though he'd come to appreciate and care for humanity, but then he shows absolutely no sympathy towards poor grieving Lyta — informing her that once she gives birth to her child, he will come to take it back to the Dreaming, as all that is born in his realm belongs to him. What a douche!

  • I absolutely love Mark Hamill's Mervyn Pumkinhead as the sort of… janitor of the dream world? Again, Netflix… spinoff! Mark Hamill the Pumpkin-Headed Dream Janitor? That s— sells itself!

  • If Dream doesn't show up to this serial killer convention in the finale and wipe all these sick freaks off the map with a gust of sand, I quit. Why gather the world's worst human beings in one place if you're not gonna give the audience what they want?!

The Sandman. (L to R) Tom Sturridge as Dream, Boyd Holbrook as The Corinthian in episode 110 of The Sandman. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022
The Sandman. (L to R) Tom Sturridge as Dream, Boyd Holbrook as The Corinthian in episode 110 of The Sandman. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

Netflix

Chapter Ten: Lost Hearts

At long last, the dream is coming to an end. We've reached the finale of The Sandman's first season, and all the plot lines are finally beginning to swirl into… dare I say a vortex of story. We open in the hotel in Georgia, where Corinthian has ensnared Rose and Jed.

Corinthian takes them back to his hotel room, where he explains to Rose the reality of her situation — as a vortex, she's a threat to the Dreaming, leaving Lord Morpheus a.k.a. Mopey Pete Wentz with no choice but to kill her (as confirmed by Dream and Lucienne's conversation from the end of the previous episode).

Luckily for Rose, Corinthian assures her that he's here to protect her — to help her destroy Morpheus so she can become the center of the Dreaming and he can be free. But before they enact their plot, he's just gotta pop downstairs to take care of something…

Corinthian steps into the convention hall and delivers his keynote address to the room full of serial killers… monsters who he's inspired over a century of carnage. But as Corinthian praises his acolytes for their work… Dream appears before him. After a brief tête-à-tête, Dream prepares to sand Corinthian out of existence… but Corinthian stabs him before he can do it. Which leaves Dream confused… 'cause that shouldn't be possible.

As Corinthian gleefully explains — Rose has begun eroding the barriers between the Dreaming and the waking world, leaving Dream vulnerable. And from here, we jump into Rose's dream (Really, Rose? You fell asleep right now?), where Corinthian and Dream engage in a verbal tug-of-war, each trying to pull Rose to their side.

In the end, Rose chooses neither. She wants to find her own path, and until then, she decides to put back up the walls separating the Dreaming and the real world… which gives Dream the opportunity to finally unmake Corinthian.

And when Corinthian is gone, Dream addresses the room full of psychopaths. While I was dreaming that Morpheus would simply wipe them out, Dream too chooses his own path, deciding not to murder them, but instead to rid them of the daydream that's kept them going — the idea that they are the victims, that their reign of terror is justified.

So the serial killers stumble out of the hotel — some cry, some choose to end their lives, some turn themselves in — all condemned to live out their existence burdened by the guilt of their crimes. Not totally sure I buy this, TBH… sociopaths don't have a conscience, so I'm not sure Dream's plan would actually work in reality. Anyway…

We've come to the final battle of the season — Dream vs Rose. They meet in the Dreaming, where a massive vortex has appeared and begun to absorb everything in its path. Dream is able to convince Rose that her existence will yield nothing but destruction, so Rose chooses to sacrifice herself for the sake of humanity.

But as Dream prepares to destroy her… Lucienne shows up with Rose's great-grandmother, Unity. Earlier, Unity wandered into Lucienne's library looking for a book — the story of her life as it could have been if she hadn't slept through it. Turns out, Rose was never meant to be the vortex… it was Unity. But while asleep, Unity met a man… a man with golden eyes… who impregnated her and passed her powers down to Rose.

Unity asks Rose to transfer her vortex powers over to her, so Unity can die in Rose's place. Rose agrees, and back in the real world, Unity drifts off into a sleep from which she will never wake… saving the universe in the process.

From here, we cut forward some time, where Rose is living happily in New York, having fulfilled her dream of becoming a writer by penning a book about her adventure in the Dreaming. Lyta had her baby (which Dream allowed her to keep), and Hal moved to New York to follow his own dream of becoming a Broadway star. All is well…

At least, it is on Earth. But back in the Dreaming, the Sandman still has some loose ends to tie up. The man with golden eyes who impregnated Unity? Dream knows that to be his sibling Desire. Dream confronts Desire and promises that if they meddle in his affairs again, Desire and Despair will find themselves facing off against the combined power of Dream and his closest allies — Death and Destiny. He reminds Desire of the lesson he's learned over the course of the season — the Endless exist to serve humanity, not the other way around.

With that threat issued, Dream returns to his realm to continue his work — creating a new set of dreams and nightmares. Lucienne arrives to report that all is well in the kingdom, and is pleasantly surprised to learn that Morpheus has remade the nightmare Gault into a dream.

While we didn't get into it in the Chapter Eight recap, Gault had expressed a desire to change her nature — she didn't want to frighten people anymore, she wanted to inspire them. But Dream insisted that she couldn't change her nature, and banished her. This started a bit of a feud between Dream and Lucienne, who's now elated to find that Dream has pushed through his angsty teen phase to a more enlightened one.

The Sandman. Mason Alexander Park as Desire in episode 110 of The Sandman. Cr. Courtesy Of Netflix © 2022
The Sandman. Mason Alexander Park as Desire in episode 110 of The Sandman. Cr. Courtesy Of Netflix © 2022

Netflix

As Dream presses on with his creations, optimistic about the future…

We zip over to Hell, where we find Lucifer plotting with Azazel, representative of the Lords of Hell. The Lords, it seems, are restless, and have decided to go to war against Dream, and eventually, the waking world. Lucifer's down with that plan, hoping to not only conquer Dream's realm and the real world… but the Silver City (guess we'll have to wait for a potential season 2 to find out what that is!)

And with that ominous threat issued, and the fate of the world hanging in the balance, season 1 of The Sandman comes to an end.

Stray Observations:

  • Excited to learn that should we get a season 2, we'll likely see more of Gwendolyn Christie as Lucifer. She was definitely one of the highlights for me. #istanbrienne

  • For all my jokes throughout this recap, I really think Tom Sturridge found his footing as Dream by the end of the season, and turned what started out as a snoozer of a performance into a character I actually enjoyed seeing on screen. Bravo, Tommy boy.

  • I have to tip my cap to the creative team for crafting what to me feels like one of the most wonderfully diverse casts of characters I've ever seen on screen.

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