Episode 1 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 2 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 3 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 4 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 5 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 6 -| Review Score – 5/5
Episode 7 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 8 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 9 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 10 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 11 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman is a fantastic graphic novel and it stands out as one of the more important comic books ever released. It’s a piece of art that manages to elevate the medium and bring excellent characterization, a diverse world and some thought provoking ideas about life, humanity and our purpose in this world. The comics are well regarded by critics and audiences alike, and honestly, alongside a couple of Batman issues, Watchmen and Maus, The Sandman is right up there as the opus of comic book storytelling.
When Netflix announced in June 2019 that it was adapting Gaiman’s work, opinion was split right down the middle – and you can understand why. Netflix adaptations tend to be split right down the middle between those that are excellent (The Queen’s Gambit) and those that barely scrape mediocrity (Jupiter’s Legacy). The Sandman then is an interesting project because while it does do a lot right, there are also a few wobbles along the way that prevent it from being the best adaptation it could have been. However, with Neil Gaiman himself serving as one of the executive producers, this is thankfully a very faithful adaptation, elevated further by an absolutely stunning episode 6 that is easily up there with some of the best hours of TV in 2022.
The first season of The Sandman adapts the first two volumes of the comics, Preludes and Nocturnes and The Doll’s House. The show takes the core storyline from both of those volumes, with the first 6 episodes tackling Preludes, and the final 4 centering on The Doll’s House. There is a definite shift for the final 4 chapters though, with the show losing some momentum compared to the earlier work. However, it’s a minor grumble in what’s otherwise a really solid watch from start to finish. The pacing on the whole is excellent, while the visuals are okay, although there are a couple of greenscreen wobbles from time to time.
For those unaware of what The Sandman is, the title refers to the King of Dreams himself, Dream. He goes by many names, including Morpheus, Lord of Dreaming etc. and appears as an anthropomorphic personification of dreams. The story begin with Dream captured and held prisoner by an occult for 70 years. Unfortunately in doing so, many people fall victim to a sleeping virus and can’t wake up.
When Dream does inevitably escape, he sets out to get his possessions back, avenging himself against his captors and rebuilding his Kingdom. But a lot has changed in 70 years – can Dream change right along with it? Or is he destined to fall prey to the passing of time and be left behind? Making this journey all the more difficult is The Corinthian, an escaped nightmare that has absolutely no intention of following Dream and is intent on carving his own place in this world.
What’s always been particularly interesting with The Sandman is seeing Dream’s progression to a tragic hero toward the end of the volumes. Of course, with only the first two comics adapted, that journey is a little faster as one may expect and by the end, the door is left wide open for more expansive characterization in future seasons – should this one be renewed of course. I won’t spoil exactly what happens at the end, but suffice to say the foundations are set for an exciting season to follow.
Whether you’re familiar with the source material or not, The Sandman certainly has a lot to offer and many people will jump into this and find something to enjoy. The casting in particular is actually pretty inspired, with a lot of great decisions (and not so great, but we’ll get to that) across the 10 episodes. Now, just to preface this here that when the show released, it dropped 10 episodes before Netflix suddenly sprung a surprise bonus chapter 2 weeks later, hence why it shows 11 rather than 10 episodes on the episode guide! Anyway, I digress.
Death and Lucifer are fantastic additions and really embody their comic counterparts. There’s some decent chemistry for both characters and that really translates on-screen and while I personally didn’t vibe with Lucienne, I can understand the more head-strong iteration will appeal to others.
On the other side of the coin though is Matthew the Raven. The latter is voiced by Patton Oswald and his comedy is completely out of place here. Like a Man United supporter in the City end (or a Red Sox supporter in the Yankee’s section for you Americans!), some will find his inclusion amusingly juxtaposed but most will likely find themselves annoyed. The jokes really don’t land and especially during episode 4, his humour is a big distraction.
With all that said, The Sandman is an enjoyable watch and despite a few wobbles along the way, manages to successfully adapt Gaiman’s comics into a format that actually works surprisingly well. It’s not perfect, and there will undoubtedly be people unhappy with some of the casting choices, but the story itself is engaging and well worth a watch. Whether this is your first venture into the world of The Sandman, or you love the comics, Netflix’s adaptation is a compelling and enjoyable series.
Verdict - 8.5/10