Sleep of the Just
Episode 1 of The Sandman starts with narration from Dream and a fantastical visual treat. As the King of Dreams talks about the living and dreaming world, we see his raven flapping through the air and arriving at his Castle.
Dream is in pursuit of a rogue Nightmare, something that Lucienne (the librarian from the comics for those keeping tabs on characters) reminds her master is a dangerous ordeal. Donning his mask, Dream heads off to find Corinthian, using his powers to get rid of his creation.
We begin our first tale in 1916 England. Dr John Hathaway arrives at a massive mansion looking for Roderick Burgess aka. Magus. He greets Hathaway warmly, and the pair find solace in one another’s grief. After some chitchat, Hatahway presents the Grimoire; a book full of spells that can bring back the dead. And, also, imprison the Angel of Darkness.
As the Order begin chanting and conducting their ritual, Dream fades from view before he can dispatch Corinthian. And as he appears at the mansion with Magus and the others, they imprison him, removing his mask and his clothes.
Powerless and trapped in the waking domain, Dream’s capture causes devastation across London. The “sleepy sickness” affects nearly one million men, women and children in every town across the world. And that is, of course, as a result of capturing Dream.
Corinthian shows up to see Magus and offers his help in keeping the Sandman locked up. He warns that Magus has captured Dream, but with his ruby and mask at hand, the Magus himself should be able to conjure up some of Dream’s powers. Not only that, but he also reveals the necessary tools to keep Dream locked up. This includes a glass cage and stimulants to make sure no guard falls asleep in his presence. Oh, and shooing away Jessamy, his raven, too.
Magus confronts the Lord of Dreams and offers him a proposition – bring back his son in exchange for freedom. Dream though is a patient man and bides his time before he’s freed.
10 years later, Dream is still imprisoned but by now, his ruby, sand and mask have all brought youth and prosperity to Roderick and the others. The rest of the world though is suffering. After a decade, that young boy, Alex, has grown to a young man and he heads down to see Dream. He’s genuinely concerned and apologizes for the Magus’ actions. He pleads with Dream to follow Roderick’s wishes… but it turns out he’s actually listening from the wings. Roderick is blinded by paranoia and tasks Alex with killing Jessamy, that continues to lurk around the estate.
Jessamy tracks down its master though in the basement and works to free Dream, pecking relentlessly at the glass… until Alex shoots the bird and blood spatters up the cage. So much for retribution and apologies; with tears stinging his eyes, Dream condemns the world ravaged by the savagery of man.
Roderick’s undoing is not man but actually woman. Ethel Cripps, to be precise. After learning that she’s pregnant and Roderick demanding she get an abortion, she takes off with Dream’s possessions, including his ruby, the Grimoire and 200,000 in cash. With little other choice, Roderick decides to try and bargain with Lord of Dreamers. Dream remains silent. However, a scuffle with Alex sees Roderick bash his head on the cage and bleed out. In his dying breath, he promises Dream that he’s never getting out.
9 months later and Ethel Cripps gives birth to a son called Johnny. While watching over her son, the dancing flames of the fire in the background, she promises that no one will stand in their way to greatness. All the while of course, Dream is still confined and caged.
Alex brings Paul, his lover, down to see Dream and offers to bargain. In exchange for freeing Dream, they want to make sure they’re both unharmed. After murdering his raven though, Dream is not in the forgiving mood.
Time passes and Alex grows to a frail old man. One last offering and one last bout of silence; Alex decides not to come down and see Dream anymore. Interestingly, as his wheelchair is wheeled away from the circle, the yellow lines are broken. And it’s just what Dream needs, as the security guard yawns and falls asleep. Awakening on a beach in Majorca, Dream shows up and manages to coerce him into shooting the cage, freeing the Lord from his chamber.
Dream has a score to settle and eventually gives Alex a gift. The gift of eternal sleep. With Dreams and Nightmares running wild after all this time, Dream’s awakening means he’s back in business. And part of that comes from tracking down Corinthian, who is still out there. Unfortunately, all that time in the cage has caused Dream to be weakened, so naturally Lucienne encourages him to head back into his castle. The trouble is, the realm is not how he left it.
A desolate wasteland awaits Dream in place of a once-thriving Kingdom. He promises to bring them all back and remake his world as he sees fit.
The Episode Review
The Sandman gets off to a great start here, staying true to the comics minus the obvious change for Lucien (who is now Lucienne). It’s a minor change though and to be honest, you can tell this project has been crafted with love for the source material. The story is largely true to that first volume, right down to the security guard dreaming about Majorca.
Some of the greenscreen work is a little distracting, especially that in Dream’s Kingdom right at the very start but they’re minor quibbles in what’s otherwise a pretty alluring watch. The music is also another understated quality here, sounding pretty similar to the orchestral score from 2002’s The Time Machine.
Either way, the first chapter gets off to a fabulous start and although it may not be to everyone’s taste, there’s lots to like here. Let’s hope the rest of the season keeps up!