The Sandman
Genre
Based on
Developed by
ShowrunnerAllan Heinberg
Starring
Music byDavid Buckley
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes11
Production
Executive producers
Producers
  • Samson Mücke
  • Iain Smith
  • Alexander Newman-Wise
  • Andrew Cholerton
Production locationUnited Kingdom
Cinematography
  • Will Baldy
  • George Steel
  • Sam Heasman
Editors
  • Daniel Gabbe
  • Shoshanah Tanze
  • Jamin Bricker
  • Kelly Stuyvesant
Running time37–64 minutes
Production companies
Budget$15 million (per episode)[1]
Original release
NetworkNetflix
ReleaseAugust 5, 2022 (2022-08-05) –
present (present)
Related
Dead Boy Detectives

The Sandman is an American fantasy drama television series based on the 1989–1996 comic book written by Neil Gaiman and published by DC Comics. The series was developed by Gaiman, David S. Goyer, and Allan Heinberg for the streaming service Netflix and is produced by DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Television. Like the comic, The Sandman tells the story of Dream / Morpheus, the titular Sandman. The series stars Tom Sturridge as the title character, with Boyd Holbrook, Vivienne Acheampong, and Patton Oswalt in supporting roles.

Efforts to adapt The Sandman to film began in 1991 but floundered in development hell for many years. In 2013, Goyer pitched a film adaptation of the series to Warner Bros. Goyer and Gaiman were set to produce alongside Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who was planned to star and possibly direct. However, Gordon-Levitt exited over creative differences in 2016. Due to the prolonged development of the film, Warner Bros. shifted its focus to television. Netflix signed a deal to produce the series in June 2019 and filming lasted from October 2020 to August 2021.

The Sandman premiered on August 5, 2022, with 10 episodes available immediately. An additional episode became available on August 19. In November 2022, it was renewed for a second season. The series has received generally positive reviews from critics with praise going towards the casting, production design, costumes, faithfulness to its source material, visual effects, and performances.

Premise

Morpheus, the personification of dreams and one of the seven Endless, is captured in an occult ritual in 1916. After being held captive for 106 years, Dream escapes and sets out to restore order to his realm the Dreaming.[2]

Cast

Further information: List of The Sandman characters

Main

Co-starring

Recurring

Guest

The animated episode "Dream of a Thousand Cats" features the voices of Sandra Oh as the Cat Prophet, Rosie Day as the Tabby Kitten, David Gyasi as the Grey Cat, Joe Lycett as the Black Cat, Neil Gaiman as the Skull Crow, James McAvoy as the Golden-Haired Man, David Tennant as Don, Georgia Tennant as Laura Lynn, Michael Sheen as Paul, Anna Lundberg as Marion, Nonso Anozie as the Wyvern, Diane Morgan as the Gryphon, and Tom Wu as the Pegasus.

Episodes

Season 1 (2022)

No.TitleDirected byTeleplay byOriginal release date
1"Sleep of the Just"Mike BarkerNeil Gaiman & David S. Goyer & Allan HeinbergAugust 5, 2022 (2022-08-05)

While attempting to apprehend a nightmare known as the Corinthian, Morpheus, also known as Dream, is captured in an occult ritual by British aristocrat Roderick Burgess, who was attempting to capture Death in hopes of obtaining supernatural powers as a means to increase his own power and wealth, in addition to a flawed attempt to resurrect his eldest son, Randall. Roderick steals Morpheus's totems of power: his helm, a pouch of sand, and a ruby, all of which are eventually taken by Roderick's resentful lover Ethel Cripps, who is pregnant with Roderick's child. Morpheus's imprisonment causes an epidemic of "sleepy sickness", which lasts for 106 years. In 2021, Roderick's younger son, Alex, is an old man who continues to keep Morpheus imprisoned and is cared for by his partner, Paul. After Paul "accidentally" erases part of the runes keeping Morpheus bound, Morpheus reaches into the dream of one of his guards to destroy his cage, allowing him to escape, condemning Alex to an eternal sleep.


Adapted from The Sandman #1 ("Sleep of the Just").[13]
2"Imperfect Hosts"Jamie ChildsAllan HeinbergAugust 5, 2022 (2022-08-05)

Morpheus returns to the Dreaming, his kingdom and the source of dreams. There, he finds his palace in ruins due to his prolonged absence. Morpheus visits Cain and Abel, a pair of dysfunctional brothers, to retrieve their pet gargoyle Gregory, which will restore his power enough to summon the Fates. Morpheus successfully summons the Fates, who inform him of the whereabouts of his equipment; the pouch of sand is in the possession of exorcist Johanna Constantine, his helm in the hands of a demon in Hell, and the ruby used by Ethel's son John Dee. Morpheus sets off on his quest to retrieve his tools. Back in the Dreaming, Morpheus sends a baby gargoyle to Cain and Abel, who they name Goldie, to replace their previous companion.


Adapted from The Sandman #2 ("Imperfect Hosts").[14]
3"Dream a Little Dream of Me"Jamie ChildsJim CampolongoAugust 5, 2022 (2022-08-05)

Morpheus tracks down Constantine, seeking the return of his pouch. Joined by his new advisor Matthew the Raven, they visit Constantine's ex-girlfriend Rachel, who has become addicted to the dream-sand in the pouch, which is all that is keeping her alive. Constantine persuades Morpheus to lay Rachel to rest. Warned by the Corinthian that Morpheus is free and looking for his stolen possessions, Ethel Cripps, now more than a hundred years old but made to seem much younger by use of a protection amulet, travels to an institution in Buffalo, New York, to visit her son, John, who has a dark obsession with Morpheus's ruby. She tells John that if he takes the amulet, he will no longer need the ruby. Handing it to him, she immediately ages and dies. John uses the amulet's powers to escape the institution.


Adapted from The Sandman #3 ("Dream a Little Dream of Me").[15]
4"A Hope in Hell"Jamie ChildsAustin GuzmanAugust 5, 2022 (2022-08-05)

To retrieve his helm, Morpheus descends into Hell, where he meets Lucifer Morningstar, the realm's ruler. He finds the demon with the helm, but in order to get it back, the demon challenges Morpheus to a game of wits. Morpheus chooses to represent himself in the challenge, but the demon chooses Lucifer as his champion. Morpheus eventually wins the challenge by invoking hope, a concept that Lucifer recognizes as unbeatable, and is able to regain the helm. Before he leaves, Lucifer promises to one day kill Morpheus. John is offered assistance by a good Samaritan and retrieves the ruby, but not before Morpheus discovers its whereabouts and the fact that John has altered the item to attune to his own wishes and nobody else's. John passes the protection amulet to his terrified rescuer, deciding that he no longer needs it.


Adapted from The Sandman #4 ("A Hope in Hell") and #5 ("Passengers").[16]
5"24/7"Jamie ChildsAmeni RozsaAugust 5, 2022 (2022-08-05)

John, now in possession of the ruby, takes refuge in a local diner. There, he uses the ruby’s power to prevent the patrons and staff (and the world at large, shown via the television) from being able to lie, eventually driving them to murder each other or commit suicide. Morpheus arrives and transports John to the realm of dreams, where John appears to use the ruby's power to defeat Morpheus. Crushing the ruby in his hand, John exults in his victory, before Morpheus reveals himself and tells him that by destroying the ruby, its power was released back into its true master, Morpheus. Taking pity on John, Morpheus returns him to the institution, seemingly in a state of long-term sleep. Elsewhere, Morpheus's sibling Desire plots against him.


Adapted from The Sandman #6 ("24 Hours") and #7 ("Sound and Fury").[17]
6"The Sound of Her Wings"Mairzee AlmasLauren BelloAugust 5, 2022 (2022-08-05)

Morpheus, now aimless after obtaining his tools, is visited by his sister Death and accompanies her as she escorts the deceased to the afterlife. Death attempts to show Morpheus the possibility of finding purpose and fulfillment in his duties as ruler of the Dreaming. In a flashback to the Middle Ages, Morpheus and Death visit a tavern where they encounter Hob Gadling, a commoner who vocally wishes to never die. Death agrees to spare Gadling for as long as he wishes. Hob and Morpheus continue to meet each other once every century. Hob maintains that no matter which turns his life takes, he still does not wish for death. Hob hypothesizes that Morpheus continues to meet with him because he is lonely and friendless, which greatly offends Morpheus. Due to Morpheus's capture by Burgess, he is unable to attend his regular meeting with Hob. When their usual location is sold, Hob chooses a new tavern a block away, hoping that Morpheus will find him. The two reunite in the present day; with Morpheus finally acknowledging Hob as a friend. Elsewhere, Desire continues their plans.


Adapted from The Sandman #8 ("The Sound of Her Wings") and #13 ("Men of Good Fortune").[18]
7"The Doll's House"Andrés BaizHeather BellsonAugust 5, 2022 (2022-08-05)

In 2015, Rose Walker and her brother Jed are separated when their parents divorce. In 2021, following the death of both parents, Jed is placed in the foster home system, despite Rose's attempts to locate him and claim legal guardianship. Rose is unknowingly a Vortex, a being who naturally attracts and manipulates dreams, and Desire and their twin sister Despair conspire to use Rose against Morpheus. Aware of Rose's nature, Morpheus plans to use her to track three errant residents of the Dreaming who are still at large. Rose and her friend Lyta Hall travel to England to meet Unity Kinkaid, a wealthy recovered victim of sleep sickness. Unity reveals that she is Rose's biological great-grandmother. Unity offers to fund Rose's search for Jed, and Rose and Lyta travel to Florida. Unable to locate Jed in either the Dreaming or the waking world, Lucienne and Morpheus deduce that the rogue dream Gault has severed Jed's consciousness from the Dreaming. Rose approaches Lucienne and Morpheus in the Dreaming for assistance in finding Jed. Meanwhile, the Corinthian, hunting for Rose, is invited as the guest of honor for a serial killer convention.


Adapted from The Sandman #10 ("The Doll's House") and #11 ("Moving In").[19]
8"Playing House"Andrés BaizAlexander Newman-WiseAugust 5, 2022 (2022-08-05)

Despite Lucienne's protests, Morpheus agrees to help Rose locate Jed. During the day, Rose and the other guests at the bed and breakfast post signs around Cape Kennedy, which attracts the attention of the Corinthian. That night, Morpheus and Rose travel through the dreams of the guests, eventually crossing into Jed's dreams, which Gault has manipulated to provide an emotional escape from his abusive foster father. Morpheus rebukes and punishes Gault for stepping outside her duties, though Gault maintains that she disobeyed because she believed it was in Jed's best interest. Meanwhile, Lyta seemingly reunites with her deceased husband Hector in the Dreaming. Hector attempts to convince Lyta to stay in the Dreaming and have a baby with him, and when Lyta wakes up, she is visibly pregnant. The Corinthian locates Jed and murders his foster parents, kidnapping Jed to lure Rose to the serial killer convention.


Adapted from The Sandman #12 ("Playing House") and #15 ("Into the Night").[citation needed]
9"Collectors"Coralie FargeatVanessa James BentonAugust 5, 2022 (2022-08-05)

Lucienne and Matthew deduce that Lyta's pregnancy is the result of Rose's increasing power, which threatens to break the barriers between the Dreaming and the waking world. The Corinthian calls Rose with Jed, sharing their location at the "cereal convention." Rose travels to the hotel to meet them, accompanied by Gilbert, a fellow guest at Hal's B&B and a self-styled "gentleman." Lyta continues to meet Hector in her dreams, and finds that her pregnancy is advancing at a rapid rate. Morpheus notices increasing damage to the Dreaming, which Lucienne attributes to Rose, though Morpheus is unsure of her theory. Morpheus finds Lyta and Hector in the Dreaming and realizes that the Vortex has allowed Hector's spirit to inhabit the Dreaming, in lieu of him passing on to the afterlife. Morpheus banishes Hector from the Dreaming and informs Lyta that her unborn child will one day belong to him because it was conceived in the Dreaming. Rose and Gilbert arrive at the hotel and search for Jed. While searching, the Corinthian and Gilbert recognize each other, causing Gilbert to flee to the Dreaming, where he is revealed to be a personified Fiddler’s Green, one of the other rogue Dreaming residents. Gilbert relays the Corinthian and Rose's location to Morpheus.


Adapted from The Sandman #14 ("Collectors").[20]
10"Lost Hearts"Louise HooperJay FranklinAugust 5, 2022 (2022-08-05)

Morpheus interrupts the Corinthian's keynote speech to the serial killer convention, but the Corinthian shows Morpheus that Rose's power enables him to defend himself against his creator. Morpheus informs Rose of the great danger she poses to the waking world, prompting Rose to temporarily restore the Dreaming and allowing Morpheus to unmake the Corinthian. Morpheus punishes the convention attendees with clarity about their crimes, allowing Rose and Jed to leave unharmed. That night, Rose confronts Morpheus in the Dreaming. Rose is ready to sacrifice herself to save her friends and brother, but Unity joins them in the Dreaming and convinces Rose to transfer the Vortex into her, allowing Morpheus to end her life. Morpheus realizes that Desire impregnated Unity to pass the Vortex to her descendant in an attempt to have Morpheus spill family blood. Morpheus confronts Desire, warning them against further schemes. Morpheus remakes Gault as a good dream and endeavors to act as a more benevolent ruler of the Dreaming. In the waking world, Lyta gives birth to a son, and moves with Rose, Jed, and Hal back to New Jersey. After being reproached by the Dukes of Hell, Lucifer ponders revenge on Morpheus.


Adapted in part from The Sandman #14 ("Collectors")[20] and #16 ("Lost Hearts").[21]
11"Dream of a Thousand Cats"Hisko HulsingCatherine Smyth-McMullenAugust 19, 2022 (2022-08-19)
"Calliope"Louise Hooper

Dream of a Thousand Cats: Late one night in this animated episode, a Siamese cat holds a gathering of other cats to tell her story about her encounter with Morpheus. A long time ago, she met a tomcat with whom she gave birth to a litter of mixed-breed kittens. This displeased her owners who took the kittens and threw them into a river, traumatizing the Siamese cat. In desperation, the cat dreamed of meeting Morpheus, in the form of a black cat, and begged him for a solution. Morpheus presented her with a parallel universe in which cats were the dominant species over humans until the humans fought back by dreaming, re-creating reality and turning their masters into the cats that mankind sees them as today. Upon finishing her story, the Siamese cat urges the other cats to perform the same enlightenment so that they may reclaim their status as the rulers of the earth.


Calliope: Struggling author Richard Madoc visits Erasmus Fry, an elderly former writer who has imprisoned the Greek muse Calliope. Fry transfers ownership of Calliope to Madoc, who discovers that by raping her, he receives inspiration. He does this more than once, despite his promises, until it becomes obvious he never intends to let her go. Calliope sends a desperate plea to Morpheus, her former husband, whom she has not seen since the tragic death of their son Orpheus. Morpheus becomes enraged and confronts Madoc. When he refuses to release Calliope, Morpheus punishes Madoc with an uncontrollable stream of ideas. Madoc soon frees Calliope, who asks Morpheus to lift his curse from Madoc. Morpheus does so, and Madoc finds himself unable to remember Calliope, Morpheus, or any of his ideas. Calliope vows to make sure that what happened to her doesn't happen to her sister Muses. She and Morpheus share a tender goodbye as she expresses the hope that she can visit him in his realm to grieve their son properly.


Adapted from The Sandman #18 ("Dream of a Thousand Cats") and #17 ("Calliope").[22]

Season 2

The first through sixth episodes are written by Allan Heinberg, Ameni Rozsa, Alexander Wise, Austin Guzman, Shadi Petosky, and Jim Campolongo, respectively.[23]

Production

Development

As a film

Attempts to adapt The Sandman, an American comic book written by Neil Gaiman and published by DC Comics from 1989 to 1996, had languished in development hell since the 1990s.[24] Inquisitr wrote that "Sandman's nature as a comic has been a very unique and life-changing experience for many and that made it very difficult and challenging to translate into the small and big screens."[25]

Gaiman was first asked about a film adaptation by Warner Bros. executive Lisa Henson in 1991, an offer to which he was apprehensive and subsequently declined.[26][27] Development on a film adaptation began in 1996, with Roger Avary attached to direct and Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio writing the script.[25] Elliot and Rossio's script merged the first two Sandman storylines, Preludes & Nocturnes and The Doll's House, into a single story, while also mixing elements of live-action and animation, citing Jan Švankmajer’s Alice (1988) as inspiration. Gaiman enjoyed the script, but Avary was fired as the studio officials did not enjoy his pitch while also having creative issues with executive producer Jon Peters.[28][29][30] Following this, Peters continued to develop his version of the film. William Farmer had written a screenplay for it by 1998, which Gaiman disliked and called it "not only the worst Sandman script I've ever seen, but quite easily the worst script I've ever read." He had wanted to sabotage the adaptation and leaked the script to Ain't It Cool News, resulting in the adaptation not going forward as Peters focused on Wild Wild West (1999) instead.[25][28][29] The script featured radical differences from the source material, such as casting Dream as a villain and making him, Lucifer Morningstar, and Corinthian triplets.[28][31]

After reading Farmer's script, Gaiman became doubtful that The Sandman would be adapted into a film. At the 2007 San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC), he remarked that he would "rather see no Sandman movie made than a bad Sandman movie", but added that he "[felt] like the time for a Sandman movie is coming soon. We need someone who has the same obsession with the source material as Peter Jackson had with Lord of the Rings or Sam Raimi had with Spider-Man."[32] He said that he could see Terry Gilliam directing the adaptation: "I would always give anything to Terry Gilliam, forever, so if Terry Gilliam ever wants to do Sandman then as far as I'm concerned Terry Gilliam should do Sandman."[33] In 2013, DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson said that a Sandman film was a project she considered a priority, considering the prospect as rich as the Harry Potter universe.[34]

David S. Goyer had pitched a Sandman adaptation to Warner Bros. in 2013 and by February 2014 was set to produce the film alongside Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Gaiman, with Jack Thorne writing. Warner Bros. planned for Gordon-Levitt to star and possibly direct.[35][36] The film was set to be produced by New Line Cinema as part of a slate of films based on properties published under DC's Vertigo imprint, separate from the DC Extended Universe.[37][a] Eric Heisserer was hired to rewrite the film's script in March 2016; immediately afterwards, Gordon-Levitt departed due to disagreements with New Line Cinema over the creative direction of the film.[38][39] The following November, Heisserer turned in his draft but departed, stating that the project should be an HBO series instead of a film: "I … came to the conclusion that the best version of this property exists as an HBO series or limited series, not as a feature film, not even as a trilogy. The structure of the feature film really doesn't mesh with this."[40]

Transition to television

Due to the prolonged development period of the film, in 2010 DC Entertainment shifted focus onto developing a television adaptation. Film director James Mangold pitched a series concept to HBO while consulting with Gaiman on an unofficial basis, but it did not materialize due to a "political turf war at WB".[41] By September 2010, Warner Bros. Television was licensing the rights to produce a TV series, and that Supernatural creator Eric Kripke was their preferred candidate to adapt the saga.[42] Gaiman later revealed that he disapproved of Kripke's take and rejected his pitch.[43] Subsequently, Kripke said the project was not happening, but DC Comics' then-Chief Creative Officer (COO) Geoff Johns revealed a series was still in development with the involvement of Gaiman.[44]

Around 2018, Gaiman was working on the television adaption of Good Omens, based on the novel of the same name he had written with Terry Pratchett, when Goyer approached him again about a television adaption of The Sandman. By that point, Goyer wrote several successful screenplays including those of The Dark Knight trilogy. Goyer connected Gaiman to screenwriter Allan Heinberg, a fan of Gaiman's work. Heinberg's contract with ABC Studios was ending, allowing his agent to set up a meeting with Warner Bros. Eventually, Goyer had called him, requesting him to be involved.[27] Heinberg initially refused his offer, spending the first two weeks rereading the Sandman comics, while also perceiving it as "unfilmable" and apprehensive of the project failing. Goyer managed to convince him as he was planning to adapt the comics as a series and assured him he would collaborate with Gaiman.[45][46] Heinberg later became the showrunner and executive producer. The three eventually met for dinner in Los Angeles to discuss the series and began pitching it three days later, with Heinberg signing his contract with Warner Bros. beforehand.[47]

In June 2019, Netflix signed a deal with Warner Bros. to produce the series and gave it an order of eleven episodes,[24] the first ten of which were initially released together,[48] and the eleventh as a bonus episode.[22][49] According to The Hollywood Reporter, Warner Bros. pitched the series to multiple networks—including HBO, which declined to move ahead with it due to its massive budget. Netflix "snapped it up" as part of its attempts to obtain big intellectual properties and attract subscribers.[24] The series was developed by Gaiman, Goyer, and Allan Heinberg, who also serve as executive producers.[50][51] Gaiman said he would be more involved than he was with the 2017–2021 television adaptation of American Gods (2001) but less than he was with Good Omens.[52]

Writing

The creative team sought to faithfully adapt the source material, beginning with the first season adapting Preludes & Nocturnes, The Doll's House,[b] and the first two issues of Dream Country.[54][22] The creators made significant narrative changes from the source material with Gaiman's approval and also received feedback while creating the sets, with Heinberg saying, "Everything gets Neil’s eyes and his feedback." The team was inspired by the art from the comics, with the props and sets being created to be faithful to the comics. The series features changes intended to modernize the source material for a contemporary audience. For example, it begins in 2021 rather than 1989, with Dream now having been imprisoned for 105 years instead of 75 years. Other characters were similarly updated, as "... if we were creating this character now, what gender would the character be? ... who would they be? What would they be doing?".[54][55] Morpheus' speech bubbles in the comics are black with white letter, with the team opting to integrate the concept into the series. As such, Morpheus' dialogue was meticulously written, with Gaiman calling it the thing he was "most obsessive about", as he was constantly revising scripts to ensure that he was satisfied with it.[56] Changes included expanding the role of The Corinthian into being the Big Bad for the first season, altering various characters and storylines, and removing references to other DC Comics characters such as Martian Manhunter and Mister Miracle. John Dee was not depicted as Doctor Destiny, and John Constantine was reimagined as a female character, Joanna Constantine. Gaiman opted to remove references to the DC Universe as the overall Sandman series moved away from the initial ties with the DC Universe to avoid potential implications that the series would tie into other DC Comics adaptions in the future.[54][57] The role of Matthew was also expanded in the series for Morpheus to have someone with which he can share his thoughts, which were depicted as thought bubbles in the comics and impractical to do in live-action.[54] Upon rereading the comics, Gaiman felt he "in a weird way did all the work" as he thought the comics "had kind of been rather ahead of its time", with Heinberg adding, "The Sandman comics were leagues ahead of everybody in the late '80s in terms of the depiction of women, race, sexuality and gender", while noting that changes were made for the series.[54][58]

Goyer, Heinberg, and Gaiman met at Gaiman's house to discuss the first season, where they came up with the story for the first episode in two days. They often discussed "Why is it essential that we tell the story of The Sandman right now?", with Heinberg stating that the answer "has informed every creative decision we’ve made since: The Sandman is an exploration of what it means to be human. To be mortal and therefore vulnerable. Capable of being hurt, but also capable of loving and being loved. The Sandman is the story of an honorable, arrogant king who slowly—very slowly—learns how to love. How to be a loving friend, a loving brother, a loving father."[46] Goyer summarized the series as "a story about a god who, over the course of the story, sheds his godhood and becomes mortal and learns what it means to be mortal ... It’s a story about a really fucked-up dysfunctional family. The Endless, even though they are godlike beings, they all have their petty squabbles. Some of them hate each other. Some of them love each other. It’s just that when they have fights, entire worlds and universes suffer" and called it a melodrama. He opted to include the stand-alone issues in the series in which Morpheus did not appear since he felt that it was "one of the things that’s wonderful about Sandman" and felt those issues did not involve Morpheus but were set in that world. He added that Morpheus was sometimes a protagonist and catalyst for events in the series. He described Morpheus as a character who "cares about humanity in the abstract, but not in the specific". Gaiman also felt that the Sleeping Sickness epidemic in the series was "incredibly apt" due to "some incredibly dreamlike moments because we were shooting during a pandemic".[59]

Writing for a potential second season had already begun by August 2022.[59] Netflix confirmed they had green-lit a second season on November 2, 2022, following rumors earlier that day from DC Comics and Gaiman that the series had been renewed.[60]

Casting

Patton Oswalt, a longtime Sandman fan, was the first actor who was cast in the series; he was cast as the voice of Matthew the Raven the day before The Sandman was pitched to Netflix.[6] In September 2020, Tom Sturridge entered negotiations to portray Dream, after screen testing alongside Tom York and Colin Morgan,[61] while Liam Hemsworth and Dacre Montgomery were under consideration for the role of the Corinthian.[62] Gaiman had said he had watched over 1,500 casting auditions for Morpheus and felt Sturridge was right for the role after watching his audition tapes.[56] Sturridge had been unfamiliar with the source material but became a devoted fan after he was cast.[63] Casting news was kept under high secrecy and not publicly released until the first season began filming.[64] According to Boyd Holbrook, the casting process was long, recalling that he auditioned around January 2020 but did not receive any further information until September.[65] In January 2021, Sturridge, Gwendoline Christie, Vivienne Acheampong, Holbrook, Charles Dance, Asim Chaudhry, and Sanjeev Bhaskar were announced to be starring in the series.[66]

Twelve more cast members were announced in May 2021: Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Mason Alexander Park, Donna Preston, Jenna Coleman, Niamh Walsh, Joely Richardson, David Thewlis, Kyo Ra, Stephen Fry, Razane Jammal, Sandra James Young, and Oswalt.[5] Park, who was also a fan of the source material, decided to contact Gaiman on Twitter for their role as Desire. Gaiman had sent their videos to Heinberg, who both agreed on casting Park.[67] The second casting announcement was met with backlash from a section of the Sandman fanbase, with some criticizing the casting of black actors as characters traditionally depicted as white in the comics, such as Howell-Baptiste as Death.[68][69] Mehrul Bari of The Daily Star felt that while the backlash against the casting announcement was clearly "rooted in flagrant phobias", some of the casting choices seemed like "stunt casting" that continued tokenism in Netflix productions and comic book adaptations.[69] For example, Bari noted that aside from Death, the rest of the Endless, including Dream, were still played by white actors.[69] Gaiman dismissed the fan backlash and defended both Baptiste's casting as Death and Park's casting as Desire, with the latter being depicted as androgynous in the comics.[68]

Production design

Costume designer Sarah Arthur worked closely with property master Gordon Fitzgerald to recreate items and costumes found in the graphic novel as accurately as possible. The Helmet of Dreams was designed by costumers to be four feet long and foldable, allowing it to be fitted inside a bag. Dream's ruby and bag of sand, like most items in the series, were created as physical objects and later enhanced by the visual effects team in post production. Lucifer's contrasting white and black costumes were designed by Giles Deacon with input from Gwendoline Christie. The team researched androgynous figures, including David Bowie, to intentionally convey Lucifer as an androgynous character. Wherever possible, the production team attempted to mimic the artwork from the source material, such as Lucienne's costume and glasses. For the set designs, the production team conducted research into various periods in history, particularly for the tavern scenes featuring Dream and Hob Gadling, which span several hundred years. The sets, costumes and props were redesigned for each century based on historical reference.[70] To design the Palace of Dreaming, supervisor Ian Markiewicz took inspiration from the artwork of Kris Kuksi. Markiewicz conceived the palace as a "dream mosaic". He was opposed to creating scenes using full green screen stages, so most scenes were filmed on location and augmented, including Dream's throne room, which was represented by the interior of Guildford Cathedral. The team used St. Peter's Square as the inspiration for the design of the balcony and rear of Lucifer's Palace in reference to Lucifer as a fallen angel. Production designer Gary Steele created the set for the Threshold of Desire as a curved arch by carving foam blocks.[71] For Episode 5, "24/7", Gaiman consulted with artist Mike Dringenberg about the original diner design in the comic book. Dringenberg provided him with the setting and menu of a real Salt Lake City diner, which was subsequently used in the show.[72]

Filming

The series was originally to begin filming towards the end of May 2020, but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[55] In September 2020, Gaiman revealed on his Twitter that filming was expected to begin in October "lockdown permitting".[73] Principal photography began on October 15, 2020.[74] Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, filming for the first season was limited to the United Kingdom.[75] Holbrook began shooting his scenes in December 2020. Production for the first season was expected to last until June 2021.[65] In August 2021, Gaiman revealed on his Tumblr account that the first season had wrapped filming.[76]

Filming for the first season took place in Greater London, Surrey, Watford, Poole, and Sussex. As the production team was limited to filming in the United Kingdom, scenes set in New York City were filmed at Canary Wharf. Filming locations in Surrey included Shepperton Studios and Guildford Cathedral. Hankley Common was chosen as the filming location for Hell. Other prominent filming locations included Warner Bros. Studios, Leavesden in Watford, Sandbanks beach located in Poole and the town of Petworth.[77]

Filming for the second season began on June 23, 2023, at Shepperton Studios,[78] before it was suspended in July due to the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike.[79] On November 30, 2023, it was confirmed by Gaiman that production had resumed.[80]

Post-production

The comic series' cover artist, Dave McKean, came out of retirement to design the end-credits sequences for each episode.[63]

Visual effects

To achieve the many visual effects in the series, One of Us and Untold Studios were hired to provide VFX shots for the first 11 episodes. One of Us supplied visual effects for several scenes, including a tower room ceiling sequence in which, "the stone walls break down like a fabric of reality", the backdrop for Desire's red room, and the visual effects for the Corinthian. Untold Studios supplied the effects for several sequences, including a scene in which Morpheus is engulfed in Hell, Stephen Fry's transformation into a forest as Fiddler's Green, and the animated cats in the bonus episode, A Dream Of A Thousand Cats. VFX supervisor James Hattsmith said that the VFX team approached the source material with an aim to, "bring it into the “real” world whilst balancing the feeling of the fantastical with maintaining tangibility."[81] Other companies involved in creating the 2,900 visual effects for the show included Framestore, Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), Important Looking Pirates, Rodeo FX, Union FX and Chicken Bone VFX. Framestore created the visuals for Matthew the Raven, which required an intricate feather system, puppets and live-action ravens to create realistic visuals. Rodeo FX produced visual concepts for Morpheus' palace that took inspiration from various world sculptures. The Rodeo FX team conceived the palace's fall into ruin as a representation of the collective consciousness and consequently the palace "reflected a broad cultural context". For the entrance to The Dreaming, the Gate of Horn was moulded by production designer Jon Gary Steele in the form of a small 20 x 25 foot section that was used to augment a gate measuring 300 feet wide by 300 feet tall. The Undercroft in which Morpheus is imprisoned was built as a set with a moat, smoke, wind effects, flame bars and self-igniting candles.[82] To create Lucifer's Palace, the VFX team was concerned about viewers' preconceived ideas of how it should appear and began by using Google Images to research previous depictions. The final design used a combination of traditional architecture and photorealistic imagery from the comic book.[83]

Music

The Sandman: Season 1 (Soundtrack from the Netflix Original Series)
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedAugust 5, 2022 (2022-08-05)
GenreSoundtrack
Length1:22:00
LabelWaterTower Music

The series was scored by British composer David Buckley, who was nominated for an Emmy Award in the Outstanding Theme Music category in 2017 for his work on The Good Fight.[84] He used a wide range of sounds, from recordings with a large orchestra (at Synchron Stage Vienna[85] and a choir to early music instruments such as the viola da gamba and baroque flutes, as well as esoteric sounds. He additionally combined these with modern electronic textures to "bridge time within the music."[86]

The Sandman: Season 1 (Soundtrack from the Netflix Original Series)
No.TitleLength
1."The Kingdom of Dreams (Main Title Theme)"2:14
2."Meet Ethel Cripps"2:54
3."The Threshold of Desire"2:43
4."Jessamy's Flight"2:40
5."The Houses of Secrets & Mysteries"5:20
6."Dream's Escape"2:51
7."Johanna & Rachel"3:43
8."The Oldest Game"5:27
9."A Kind Word and a Friendly Face"2:28
10."God Tells Me to Do It"2:38
11."Every Hundred Years"1:42
12."A True Annulet"3:59
13."Dreams Shape the World"3:24
14."The Throne Room of the King of Dreams"5:01
15."Jed Walker, Guardian of Sleepers"2:11
16."Sleep Well, John"2:49
17."New Dreams to Spur the Minds of Men"2:01
18."Even a Nightmare Can Dream"3:22
19."A Remedy for Poison"2:22
20."The Truth of Mankind"2:14
21."Into the Vortex"1:34
22."Return to the White Horse"1:27
23."This is Fiddler's Green"3:27
24."Children of the Endless"4:04
25."There Is Hope"4:25
26."New Dreams... A New Age"3:05
27."Fortune Go with You"2:10
Total length:1:22:00

Release

The series was released on August 5, 2022,[87] and consists of ten episodes.[48] An eleventh episode was released on August 19 as a "two-part story collection".[22][49] The first season will release on Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, and DVD in November 2023.[88]

Marketing

Gaiman, Heinberg, and the cast promoted the series at San Diego Comic-Con in July 2022, where an official trailer debuted.[63] Charles Pulliam-Moore of The Verge felt the trailer confirmed the series would retain the comic's "focus on the macabre" and featured "a sense of scale... that's hopefully going to be consistent throughout the show".[89]

Reception

Audience viewership

The Sandman ranked at number one globally on Netflix's Top 10 titles three days after its release with 69.5 million hours viewed.[90] In its first full week of streaming, The Sandman remained the most-watched show on Netflix's weekly Top 10 list of the most-watched TV shows, with 127.5 million hours viewed between August 8–14.[91] The Sandman remained the most-watched English-language TV show on Netflix for the third time in a row between August 15–21.[92] The show had been watched over 393.14 million hours in total by September 18.[93]

The show was the eighth most-watched English language show on Netflix of 2022 spending 7 weeks in the global top 10s.[94]

Critical response

The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported an approval rating of 87% with an average rating of 7.6/10, based on 97 critic reviews. The website's critics consensus reads, "While it may hold few surprises for fans of the source material, The Sandman's first season satisfyingly adapts an allegedly unfilmable classic."[95] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned a score of 66 out of 100 based on 27 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[96]

Amelia Emberwing of IGN gave a score of 9 out 10, praising the cast performances, particularly Sturridge's. She also praised the production values of the series, and felt that the series adapted its source material well.[97] The Guardian's Rebecca Nicholson gave it four out of five stars and summarized it as "transportive, playful at times, and certainly grand." She also praised the performances, the delivery of dialogue, and its faithfulness to the source material, and singled out the episode "24/7" as one of the best episodes of the year.[98] Both Emberwing and Nicholson questioned how much fans unfamiliar with the source material would enjoy the series.[97][98] Judy Berman of Time also gave a positive review, praising its production design and casting, while also highlighting the standalone episodes, calling the series "easily one of the best small-screen comic adaptations ever made."[99] Similarly, Glen Weldon of NPR also gave a positive review, highlighting its accuracy to the source material and felt that its changes improved the narrative of the series, writing "the changes introduced into the adaptation offer intriguing new variations on now-familiar themes without erasing what we love". He also praised its visuals and the performances, especially Sturridge's, whom he felt "captures the competing aspects of Morpheus that are forever roiling under his impassive surface — his haughtiness, his wounded vulnerability; his stiffness, his longing for connection. Also, his brittle anger, his ability to — almost, not quite, but almost — laugh at himself".[100]

Iana Murray writing for GQ praised David Thewlis for his performance and opined that his portrayal of John Dee "delivers perhaps the show's standout performance".[101] At Variety, Caroline Framke praised the narrative structure of the series and story, writing that it "metes out its material with an economical approach (no episode runs over 54 minutes)", but criticized some of the visual effects and use of computer-generated imagery (CGI) and felt it did not replicate the art from the comics. However, she did state that the episode "24/7" had the best visuals in the series.[102] The series was ranked the tenth best TV show of 2022 by Entertainment.ie, with one of the website's writers saying, "The Sandman is one of the finest examples of escapist television this year. Under the expert guidance of comic book creator Neil Gaiman, Netflix was able to streamline this mind-bending and rich anthology into a cohesive and beautiful series full of characters that each had their own defining outlook on the world in which they lived - or survived - in".[103] Los Angeles Times included the series in its unranked list of "10 best TV shows of 2022" and called it "a shimmering, magical, moving masterpiece that defies the odds".[104] Meanwhile, Collider named it one of the best new TV shows of the year and wrote, "The Sandman introduces audiences to a rich, layered, enchanting world of pure imagination. Tom Sturridge delivers an amazingly accurate performance as the show's lead character Lord Morpheus. As a whole, the show has a fully realized screenplay and an outstanding cast that manages to present a full rounded fantasy series".[105]

In a mixed review, Karama Horne of TheWrap called the series "visually stunning" and further praised its costumes, sound design, and the cast performances, while criticizing its pacing and noting that its "anthology style of storytelling" caused the plot to suffer, especially towards the season's end.[106] Giving the series a B− grade, Sam Barsanti of The A.V. Club called The Sandman a "generic fantasy series" that is too faithful to its source material, "doing what is essentially the bare minimum in replicating an acclaimed work of art and transferring it into a different medium", though he praised some of the performances.[107] CNN's Brian Lowry felt that the performances were "blunted by the narrative structure and dream-like storytelling". He gave a more critical review, praising its visuals, but noting the faithfulness to the source material as both a good and bad thing. He said that the "meticulous detail in replicating the look and tone [of the comic] doesn't create much emotional investment", noting the "episodic" chapters in the series which he thought negatively affected its pacing, but also felt that it would satisfy fans familiar with the source material.[108] Writing for The Hollywood Reporter, Angie Han also noted its faithfulness to source material, and thought the series "prioritizes fidelity over creativity" which she thought "makes for a decent echo of the comics — but it stops well short of becoming a classic in its own right". She was mixed towards the changes in the series, saying they were "not too bad, and sometimes they're good", and praised the episode "The Sound of Her Wings" as the best in the series. She summarized her thoughts on the series by writing "it’s difficult not to notice that for a series all about the power of dreams to spark creativity, to inspire our best selves or our worst ones, to change the course of a life or a universe, The Sandman itself feels a bit short on imagination".[109] In a negative review, Kelly Lawler of USA Today gave the series 1.5 out of 4 stars, calling the first season "a total failure", criticizing its pacing and its story, which she felt was "a pile of stories and moods randomly tossed on top of each other".[110]

Accolades

Award Date of ceremony Category Nominee Result Ref
Annie Awards February 25, 2023 Best Animated Special Production The Sandman Nominated [111]
Astra Creative Arts TV Awards January 4, 2024 Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series Gwendoline Christie Nominated [112]
British Academy Television Craft Awards April 23, 2023 Best Special, Visual Effects Industrial Light & Magic Nominated [113]
GLAAD Media Award March 30, 2023 Outstanding New TV Series The Sandman Nominated [114]
Nebula Awards May 14, 2023 Ray Bradbury Nebula Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation Nominated [115]
Saturn Awards October 25, 2022 Best Superhero Television Series Nominated [116]

Expanded universe

Dead Boy Detectives

Main article: Dead Boy Detectives (TV series)

In September 2021, a pilot was ordered by HBO Max for a TV series based on Gaiman's Dead Boy Detectives comics.[117] The series was given greenlight by April 2022.[118] Dead Boy Detectives was moved to Netflix in February 2023.[119] In April 2023, Gaiman confirmed the series would be set in the same continuity as The Sandman,[120] with Kirby Howell-Baptiste set to reprise her role as Death in the series.[121] On April 25, 2024, the series was released on Netflix and was met with positive reception.[122][123]

Potential spin-off

In October 2022, Johanna Constantine actress Jenna Coleman confirmed that she, Neil Gaiman, and Allan Heinberg had discussed a potential Johanna Constantine spin-off solo series of The Sandman about her character, stating that it was a "good idea" that they were "really behind".[124]

Notes

  1. ^ The final 29 issues of The Sandman were published under the Vertigo imprint, which was aimed at a mature audience.
  2. ^ Excluding The Sandman #9 ("Tales in the Sand")[53]

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