Fans have been waiting decades for The Sandman to be on-screen, and the wait is finally over with the release of season 1 on Netflix. From start to finish, this series is an absolute knockout, each episode providing its own beautifully executed piece to a much larger, phenomenally constructed puzzle.
Neil Gaiman’s mind consistently delivers wonderful, immersive fantasies, and his involvement in this project is reflected in the sheer passion that seeps through every second of each of the 10 episodes. He has once again provided an adaptation of a story that I will want to lose myself in often. The series succeeds in delivering a story that is a faithful and delightful adaptation of the original style and heart that is at the center of the graphic novels originally published in 1988.
There have, of course, been some updates to some character traits and story aspects to fit telling this massive story in this format, but all of the changes ultimately lend to (in my opinion) upgrading the story and centering it in the perfect way for a live-action adaptation. Effortless representation flows through each episode and can really only be described in a spoiler-free review as a dream come true.
There has to be a specific regard to episode 6, “The Sound of Her Wings,” which is easily the singular most beautiful episode of a television series that I have ever seen. It’s not often that I watch an episode during a straight-through watch that ends up disrupting things, but this was an exception. I immediately re-watched this episode before continuing on to episode 7, because it is a true emotional journey and full of so much depth that a singular watch simply does not do it enough justice. Kirby Howell-Baptiste is a compassionate and comfortable Death, bringing the best aspects of the character forward and providing the perfect depth.
Tom Sturridge was absolutely the only choice for Dream of the Endless, and he proves it every single moment he is on-screen. The emotion behind his eyes in every single frame — the wonder, the heartbreak, the rage, the agony, the trepidation — is gripping. Within 10 episodes, we see Dream go through some serious personality changes as he learns from his mistakes and grows, and I know I’m not alone in hoping Netflix gives us additional seasons of this series to see the results of Dream’s growth and where he can go from here. Recently, Gaiman stated that Sturridge beat out over 1,000 other candidates for Morpheus, as to him “it was always Tom,” and having seen the full scope of his performance now, it is hard to see how anyone could disagree.
Mason Alexander Park was a superb casting choice for Desire of the Endless — there isn’t a single moment they are on-screen that you will be able to pull your eyes away from them. Every aspect of the design for Desire is flawless (those gold eyes and that makeup are spellbinding), and Park’s performance is fascinating, mesmerizing, enchanting, downright delicious, and so many more positive adjectives that make me wish I had endless space to give recognition to. Their interactions with other characters were highlights whenever they occurred, particularly with Sturridge as Morpheus — the tense chemistry between the pair of Endless will have you anxious to see what is to come between them.
Without argument the most wholesome character of the season is Rose Walker, and Vanesu Samunyai was a stand-out in the role — perfectly embodying the character’s inner strength and compassion for others in a truly beautiful performance. As for the season’s primary antagonist, The Corinthian, Boyd Holbrook delivers a chillingly sinister and memorable take on the character that one can’t help but be reminded of some real-life serial killers. He’s terrifyingly charming and so easy to falsely trust that it’s no surprise that multiple characters fall into the traps of his jaws.
It’s a vast cast, and it seems a disservice not to mention that every single one of them delivered exceptional performances, not just the few I’ve mentioned throughout this review so far. Gwendoline Christie was a wonderful, daunting, and ethereal choice for Lucifer. Vivienne Acheampong, much like Lucienne, is the glue that holds everything together and fights for the story to constantly move in the right direction. Patton Oswalt was the perfect voice for Matthew (though I don’t think there was any arguing that from the start!). The entirety of the cast has an endless round of applause from me, and I have nothing but praise for the casting decisions that were made.
This is visually one of my favorite things I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. Every episodes is filled with so many moments that are absolutely magical — I found myself pausing multiple times throughout each episode just to soak in every inch of the screen. The fantasy elements flow deeply and freely, there is a light and precisely correct sprinkling of horror throughout the series, and there are plenty of scenes that copy over from the graphic novels perfectly. Every visual was calculated and executed with a clear vision in mind.
I will rejoice if Netflix announces that there will be multiple additional seasons for this series, as there are so many more stories of the Endless to be told that I, along with many others, would love to see.
The Sandman is available to stream now on Netflix. You can watch the trailer below.