TV Review: The Sandman (Season One)

If dreams disappear, so will humanity.

The long-awaited adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman has finally dropped the ten eleven episodes of Season One. It covers Preludes and Nocturnes, The Doll’s House, and a bit of Dream Country.

Titles: “Sleep of the Just,” “Imperfect Hosts,” “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” “A Hope in Hell,” “24/7,” “The Sound of Her Wings,” “The Doll’s House,” “Playing House,” “Collectors,” “Lost Hearts,” “Dream of a Thousand Cats”/”Calliope”

Cast and Crew

Directors: Mike Barker, Jamie Childs, Mairzee Almas, Andrés Baiz, Coralie Fargeat, Louise Hooper, Hisko Hulsing.

Writers: Neil Gaiman, S. Goya, Allan Heinberg, Jim Campolongo, Austin Guzman, Ameni Rozsa, Lauren Bello, Heather Bellson, Alexander Newman-Wise, Vanessa James Benton, Jay Franklin, Catherine Smyth-McMullen.

Adapted from the graphic novel series by Neil Gaiman (and various artists)

Tom Sturridge as Dream/Morpheus
Boyd Holbrook as The Corinthian
Patton Oswalt as Matthew the Raven (voice)
Vivienne Acheampong as Lucienne
Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Death
Vanesu Samunyai as Rose Walker
Jenna Coleman as Johanna Constantine / Lady Johanna Constantine
Razane Jammal as Lyta Hall
Sandra James-Young as Unity Kincaid
David Thewlis as John Dee
Joely Richardson, Niamh Walsh as Ethel Cripps
Stephen Fry as Gilbert
John Cameron Mitchell as Hal Carter
Lloyd Everitt as Hector Hall
Sanjeev Bhaskar as Cain
Asim Chaudhry as Abel
Ferdinand Kingsley as Hob Gadling
Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer Morningstar
Mason Alexander Park as Desire
Donna Preston as Despair
Dinita Gohil as Fate Maiden
Nina Wadia as Fate Mother
Souad Faress as Fate Crone
Mark Hamill as Merv Pumpkinhead (voice)
Nicholas Anscombe as Merv Pumpkinhead (body)
Charles Dance as Roderick Burgess
Benedick Blythe as old Roderick Burgess
Laurie Kynaston as Alex Burgess
Benjamin Evan Ainsworth young Alex Burgess
Melissanthi Mahut as Calliope
Sandra Oh as Prophet (voice)
Rosie Day as Tabby Kitten (voice)
Eddie Karanja as Jed Walker
Aryel Tsoto as Young Jed Walker
David Tennant as Don
Lily Travers as Barbie
Richard Fleeshman as Ken
Daisy Badger as Chantal
Cara Horgan as Zelda
Isla Gie as young Zelda
Jill Winternitz as The Good Doctor
Kerry Shale as Nimrod
Dan Matteucci as Armed Officers Don
Sarah Niles as Rosemary
Cassie Clare as Mazikeen
Ansu Kabia as Ruthven Sykes
Ann Ogbomo as Gault
Joe Corrigall as Sam
Danny Kirrane as Fun Land
Andi Osho as Miranda Walker
Sam Hazeldine as Barnaby
Lisa O’Hare as Clarice
Ben Wiggins as Carl
Dickie Beau as The Shredder
Zora Bishop as Myth America
Peter De Jersey as Mr. Holdaway
Desiree Burch as Grass Widow
Shelley Williams as Eleanor Rubio
JP Conway as The Connoisseur
Jimmy Essex as Carrion
Joe Frost as The Choirboy
David Menkin as The Hammer of God
Daniel Quirke as Moon River
Kirris Riviere as Adonai
Matthew Sim as The Crooner
Daniel Tuite as Hello Little Girl
Michael Walters as The Water Boy
Gianni Calchetti as Death Stalker
Lenny Henry as Martin Tenbones (voice)
David Gyasi as Grey Cat (voice)
Bill Paterson as Dr. John Hathaway
Joe Lycett as Black Cat (voice)
Martyn Ford as Squatterbloat
Meera Syal as Erica
Samuel Blenkin as Will Shakespeare
Emma Duncan as Bette Munroe
James McAvoy as Golden-Haired Man
Clare Higgins as Mad Hettie
Munya Chawawa as Choronzon
Steven Brand as Marsh Janowski
Deborah Oyelade as Nada
Angus Yellowlees as Kit Marlowe
Roger Allam as Azazel (voice)
Eleanor Fanyinka as Rachel
Laurie Davidson as Mark Brewer
Lewis Reeves as Philip Sitz
Sarah Twomey as Lushing Lou
Ernest Kingsley Junior as Kai’ckul
Georgia Tennant as Laura Lynn
Daisy Head as Judy Talbot
Hannah van der Westhuysen as Princess
Sam Strike as Todd
Curtis Kantsa as Franklin
Stacy Abalogun as Nurse Edmund
Anna Lundberg as Marion
Michael Sheen as Paul
James Udom as Garry
Kieron Moore as Crispin
Stephen Odubola as Kevin Brody
Lourdes Faberes as Kate Fletcher
Marcus Fraser as Agilieth
Sia Alipour as Aiden
Stevie Hutchinson as Alex Logue
Roger Ajogbe as James Kincaid
Nina Galano as Astra Logue
Sarah Quist as Lindy
Nonso Anozie as Wyvern (voice)
Diane Morgan as Gryphon (voice)
Tom Wu as Hippogriff (voice)
Jon Rumney as Harry
Graham Bohea as Hangman
Rebecca Night as Esme
Martin Bishop as Neurologist
Arthur Darvill as Richard Madoc
Crystal Yu as Jackie
Kirsten Foster as News Anchor Annie
Marcus Adolphy as Cab Driver
Jay Rincon as Meteorologist Mike
Leemore Marrett Jr. as Tourist Husband Sam
Liberty Buckland s Tourist Wife Tabitha
Georgia Goodman as Rebecca
Stanley Morgan as Charlie
Harry Burton as Geoffrey Chaucer
William Chubb as Edmund
Amita Suman as Nora
Derek Jacobi as Erasmus Fry
Sacharissa Claxton as Officer Sandra Davis
Alex Akindeji as Louis
Christopher Colquhoun as Paul McGuire
Justina Kehinde as Sofia
Kelsey Cooke as Tara
Kirsty Rider as Emanuela
Angus Castle-Doughty as Devin
Ruchika Jain as Clara
Amy Rockson as Margaret Kincaid
Neil Gaiman as skeletal raven (voice)


Neil Gaiman writes a groundbreaking series of graphic novels and, after enough time has passed that the culture, technology, and effects exist to adapt it as a tv series, Neflix does so profitably.

Okay. In 1916, a group of mystics tries to capture and bind Death. Less gifted than they imagine, they get, instead, Death’s little brother, Dream. After decades of captivity, Dream escapes, and tries to put his kingdom back in order.

High Points

In an interesting parallel with its title character, The Sandman sat in development hell for decades. During this time the show’s creators (Gaiman included) could consider aspects of the adaptation. The series tightens plot connections: while some of these feel unnecessary, many improve the story. Dream escapes in 2022, creating a different timeframe and historical context to which the stories must adjust. I really liked how they used this fact in the tale of Hob Gadling. They maintain his history and timeline, changing only the conclusion, since the TV Sandman missed 1989. The clever handling of this difference arguably works better than the original. The more diverse casting (and the source was always sexually diverse) generally works well. Cain and Abel, for example, are played by actors of Middle Eastern and west Asian descent. That makes sense, since they appeared in another source before they were DC characters, one that is a product of that region.1

The main reason the series changes, of course, is that comics and TV are two very different media. The superheroes, for example, would clutter this adaptation, so they’re gone.2

The bonus episode, which features an animated/rotoscoped adapation of “Dream of a Thousand Cats” and a fairly faithful version of “Calliope,” is excellent.

Low Points

As in the source, the first episode requires a certain amount of patience. They’re setting up a world and, while the show serves up fascinating concepts, it doesn’t yet have engaging characters. Throughout, some aspects get lost in translation—in particular, some of the interesting complexities and rough edges are missing.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6 Comics and series TV are very different things. While this adaptation stays basically faithful to the source, it makes changes. Some of these do not work as well, but may be better-suited to the new medium. Others actually improve the story.

We re-watched the incredible fan film version of “24 Hour Diner” after watching the Netflix ep. The 2017 film is worth seeing. It presents a faithful and darker version of the story, but also one that plays very like a comic book being acted out. The Netflix ep has its flaws, but it plays like a conventional short narrative film, which is what they were after. And sometimes fidelity to the source proves problematic. Dr. Dee in the fan film looks exactly like the comic-book rendering. My wife, who had to avert her eyes a few times at the horror elements, had trouble not laughing any time the fan film showed Dee close up. His design works fine in a comic, but it looks, well, comical in live-action, and not in a good way. The more understated, though clearly disturbed, Dee of the series works better in live-action. Dee also has a different origin, one connected to the series’ established universe, and disconnected from mainstream DC characters.

The fidelity of other chapters proves problematic. “Collectors” is nicely done, but it always seemed a stretch, more a satiric yarn than anything that makes literal sense. I enjoyed it, but some viewers may find it beyond the pale even for a fantasy series.

Acting: 6/6 The series features, overall, a strong cast. Sturridge has to deliver some poetic lines, things people would not normally say, and he does so effectively. Several actors– Patton Oswalt as Matthew, for example, and the main cast of the Doll’s House arc— are pretty much perfect. While I once had hoped to see Aubrey Plaza for the role of Death, time has moved along, and I like how Kirby Howell-Baptiste handles the part. We get a great sense of her compassion for the human race, despite her particular role in our lives.

Story: 5/6 The Sandman was always going to be chaotic—grains of sand blown at the viewer—but this version works well overall. Like the source, it is more a series of connected stories with a very broad overall arc than a single piece. For better and for worse, this story cannot be disconnected from its own epic chaos and meandering tone.

Production: 6/6 You know what The Sandman looks like? A Netflix prestige series. I wish they had been a little more experimental with the approach, but I cannot deny that the results look appealing.

Effects: 5/6 While certain effects are obviously that, I found I rarely thought about it.

Emotional Response: 5/6

Overall: 5/6 I’m a huge fan of the graphic novels, while my wife has never read them. We both enjoyed season one of The Sandman. It differs from the source material, but it’s not like the source material isn’t still there to read, in its original form. It remains similar enough, however, that, if The Sandman was your thing, you’ll probably enjoy this version. If it wasn’t, you’re not going to like the TV show.

In total, The Sandman, first season, receives 35/42


1. Typical of current American/British media, the diversity casting mostly ignores people of Pacific Asian background. If they’re going to make a point of touting the diversity of the adaptation—and they did– they might consider whom they’re not including. Some people I know have been particularly galled by the fact that the one significant Pacific-Asian character strongly recalls the Dragon Lady stereotype. Elsewhere in the series Canadian actress Sandra Oh gives a strong performance, but as the voice of an animated cat. A Siamese.

2. We see some Justice League toys, but that obviously doesn’t mean superheroes literally exist. Jed’s love of them people immediately connect to comic books. In any case, I’m not certain stronger connections to the DC Cinematic Universe, in its present states, would increase viewership.