6 Things We Loved About Sandman and 3 Things We Didn't

6 Things We Loved About Sandman and 3 Things We Didn't

Netflix's adaption of Neil Gaiman's cult classic The Sandman is a faithful adaption that's easy on the eyes.

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An image from Netflix's The Sandman
Image: Netflix

Netflix’s adaption of Neil Gaiman’s long running comic series, The Sandman, released last weekend, and we’ve had some time to gather our thoughts. The first season covers the storyline of just about three years of serialized comic books, and does a pretty good job at figuring out what should stay and what should go. Let’s break down some of our favorite things and some things that we weren’t exactly crazy about.

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Loved: The Vibes

Loved: The Vibes

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Image: Netflix

I wanted to start out with this one because despite anything that I might write about later in the article, the vibes of this adaption were extremely good. It’s not an aesthetically perfect adaption, but it’s got its own kind of weight to it, and taken at face value, it’s a very good look. There’s also a lot of references and winks to the original comics that aren’t explained (and don’t need to be!) that add to the depth of the show. Overall, it’s a pretty serious adaption, much like the comics, and while there are some jokes here and there, it’s really a very emotionally fraught dive into the power of hope and how to heal after trauma.

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Loved: The Pacing

Loved: The Pacing

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Image: Netflix

This felt like a cohesive, immersive storyline, and while it is definitely an adaption of a serialized comic, there’s something about the way that it’s put together that is really, very satisfying. It’s got the feeling of being a much longer show than it is because many of the storylines start and stop and get resolved along the way. The still above is from one of my favorite episodes (Chapter 6: The Sound of Her Wings), and I’m so pleased that they decided to keep Hob Gadling and his weird little immortal quirk. Throughout the series though, the Endless are the only fixed points of this show, which is really how it should be. Speaking of...

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Loved: The Endless

Loved: The Endless

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Image: Netflix

Our lead character, Dream (Tom Sturridge), is one of seven manifestations of life. A few others make an appearance in this season, including Death, Desire, and Despair. Two more, Delerium and Destiny, are mentioned, and the seventh Endless, simply referred to as the Prodigal, is missing. We don’t even see their sigil in the galleries of Dream or Desire. But all of them are very cool and really get at the kind of fuckery that humans are so well known for. I loved watching Death (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) in action.

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Loved: Lucienne and Matthew

Loved: Lucienne and Matthew

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Image: Netflix

All right, so all the side characters were really fantastic, but Lucienne (Vivienne Acheampong) and Matthew (Patton Oswalt) truly did the most. The acting, writing, presentation, all of it was very, very good. It was fun! Oswalt nailed the fast-talking, irreverent, new-made Dream servant—Matthew was really a standout the whole time.

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Loved: The Corinthian

Loved: The Corinthian

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Image: Netflix

Boyd Holbrook killed this role, pardon the pun. Holbrook plays the murderous Nightmare, Corinthian, a notorious serial killer who is the de facto patron saint of a group of murderers called the Collectors. And let me tell you, Holbrook channels a panel-perfect Corinthian, absurd, desperate, and fanatical. He chews on every line delivery and spits out teeth, and god bless whatever Tumblr girl became an exec at Netflix because the casting for this entire series is a delight.

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Loved: The Considerate Changes

Loved: The Considerate Changes

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Image: Netflix

There was a lot edited from the comics, and most of it was done in the interest of creating a consistent narrative. A lot of extras were cut out, and a lot of casting was done to better reflect a more inclusive experience. (Above we see Jenna Coleman as Joanna Constantine, who does appear in the comic a few times, but here occupies both her original role and that of John Constantine.) Overall the edits were judicious, and the additions were made to make the storylines more sympathetic and emotional.

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Didn’t Love: Ultra Sulky Goth E-boy Boyfriend

Didn’t Love: Ultra Sulky Goth E-boy Boyfriend

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Image: Netflix

Look, Tom Sturridge does the best with what he’s given, he tries very hard, and I think he’s a decent actor. But I wasn’t super keen on changing Dream from an incredibly threatening, almost demonic presence into what can be best described as the internet’s new goth boyfriend. He’s fine but he’s just not really interesting, visually speaking, and he doesn’t bring that kind of unique, almost terrifying presence that the original art had.

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Didn’t Love: The Visual Design

Didn’t Love: The Visual Design

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Image: Netflix/Dave McKean

Okay, hear me out. The Sandman was an incredible comic. Part of that was the trippy panels, character designs, colors, and flow of the visual narratives of dreams and demons. It was a groundbreaking piece of media, and became a cult classic for a reason. This show, however, isn’t nearly at that level, and it doesn’t nearly capture the energy of the comic, making for kind of a standard-looking urban supernatural show that occasionally flits into the absurd. I get why they did it, but it’s still disappointing. I just wished they had pushed it further.

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Didn’t Love: The Sanded-Down Brutality

Didn’t Love: The Sanded-Down Brutality

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Image: Netflix

One of the things that made The Sandman so impactful was that the storylines, characters, and outcomes were edgy reminders that the world is a random, brutal, and mean place, and you have to do your best to survive despite all that shit. It emphasized hope and love in a way that felt deeply meaningful, despite the messiness of the world’s violence. This show, while it had its fair share of murder, is a far tamer version than what the comics presented.

There’s a part of this series that feels sanitized, where characters are more sympathetic all over, and given reasons behind their actions. Some of that is good, it makes the show easier to understand, but a lot of what made The Sandman absolutely fantastic was how horrific it was. This show is, more or less, a watered-down version of the comic. Part of that is good, but... there is something lost when the random, eccentric, horrible parts of humanity are poured into a show that is able to justify its every action.


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel and Star Wars releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about House of the Dragon and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

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