The Sound of Her Wings
Episode 6 of The Sandman starts with Dream feeding pigeons in the park. He reflects on his kingdom being destroyed and his mission of vengeance. Despite being more powerful than he has been in eons, he feels directionless and lost. He feels nothing.
Dream is approached by his sister, Death. They walk together, where the former comments how good she is with humans. Of course, she’s had a lot of practice and that’s shown to us when she visits an old man called Harry playing the violin. Dream watches all of this play out in silence. Interestingly, we get this juxtaposition of a “nice death” against a “tragic death”, coming in the form of a guy called Sam, who drowns while on his honeymoon. Death also makes a trip to visit a baby in its cot bed too.
Dream ponders the nature of life and death, and how humans fear the sunless lands. “At the end, each of us stand alone” Death narrates, pointing out how there’s strength in companionship. After finding herself at a crossroads and unsure whether to continue on, Dream found purpose in being there for humans and realizing that she needs them as much as they need her.
When Dream and Death head back to the park where they started, the two siblings part ways.
A lot of this episode has been about Death and how that ties into the true nature of humanity. Part of that comes from seeing flashes, beginning in 1389 where we see Death and Dream enter into a wager. With a man at the table boasting about never dying, Death decides to grant him his wish. Dream is convinced that within a century he’ll be begging to die but Death is not so sure.
Dream approaches Hob Gadling, the man whose wish is granted, and encourages him to meet in 100 years’ time in this exact same tavern. What follows are a number of meetings between the two every 100 years. From the highest of highs of 1589 to the lowest of lows in 1689; Hob’s life spirals out of control and he hits rock bottom. But even at his lowest, Robert Gadling (his new alias) refuses to die.
In 1789, Johanna Constantine shows with two of her men and demands Death and Gadling join her. Dream uses his sand and blows it in her face, letting her see old ghosts from her past. However, Gadling and Dream continue to meet through the centuries, with Gadling convinced that Dream is lonely and is seeking friendship.
Gadling is not deterred by Dream’s menacing words that follow, and he eventually decides to leave and not return. Still, Gadling continues showing every 100 years all the same, just in case they want to be friends… which leads us through to 1989.
It turns out the pub is on the verge of being torn down and changed into flats. This comes about around the same time as Dream being imprisoned, which shows just why he was unable to show up and meet Gadling. Dream now shows up and sees that there’s a new inn that’s been set up nearby to the flats. And lo and behold, Gadling is there waiting for him. Dream smiles and apologizes for being late.
Meanwhile, Desire has a plan to try and capture his brother.
The Episode Review
The tale of Gadling and his immortal life is one of my favourite tales from the Sandman comics and it’s brought to life in a fabulous way here. Through the ideas of Death, eternal life and the true nature of humanity, The Sandman delivers its best episode yet.
Having said that, there is the slight blemish involving Johanna Constantine, who shows up here just as she does in the comics. Seeing Johanna show up in the past and in that separate timeline with his sand is a little jarring and it’s a shame because when Johanna shows up in the comics, it’s a surprising inclusion to learn she’s John Constantine’s ancestor.
That minor issue aside, The Sandman delivers a fantastic episode; a thought provoking, introspective journey into the nature of death and our own attitude and feelings toward that. If the rest of the series keeps up, the second half of this could well make for a fantastic ride.