I completely missed THE SANDMAN train. Years ago, I’d hear people raving about the graphic novel series by Neil Gaiman, but it always seemed kind of obscure to me, without something I could grab onto or that grabbed me. When the Netflix adaptation came out, I figured I’d finally give a shot, particularly after all the praise. My reaction? Well, it was good for me but not great.
In the series, a Victorian magician seeks to imprison death but instead captures her sibling the Sandman, a lord who rules the realm of human dreams. Finally freed, he must now restore his derelict kingdom and reclaim his power by recovering his lost talismans, taking him into fantastic places and confrontations with interesting villains.
There are plenty of interesting ideas here. The first few episodes roll out as highly distinct and complete stories, most of them interesting. There’s an episode that takes place in a diner that’s super engaging, a tiny subplot of an immortal man that was great, and a setup of serial killers that was a lot of fun. Some of the settings, such as Hell, are very well rendered. The casting is perfect, the actors all fine at their roles, and the special effects make all the fantastical elements come to life. From what I hear, it’s a fairly faithful adaptation of Gaiman’s vision.
That being said, something was lacking for me. I didn’t get behind the Sandman character because there was little to relate to, and as I hadn’t read the comics, I didn’t have that going for me. A lot of the elements felt like McGuffins–a lot of “we have to get the object to make the other object work so the rare person doesn’t destroy the world,” that kind of thing, which felt a little meaningless after a while. A lot of the dialogue is people exchanging simple pleasantries. And the second half of the season seemed to start a whole new major plot that took way too long to invest me and lacked the density, unpredictability, and stakes of the first half.
So in the end, THE SANDMAN was good but not great for me. Despite its many admirable qualities and some interesting ideas, I just couldn’t get invested. To be fair to the show, I end up feeling the same about a lot of fantasy shows, as I tend to like stories that are a little more grounded. Overall, it’s a worthwhile watch, and I particularly recommend it if you’re into Gaiman or urban fantasy.