Sandman: Sleep of the Just

I do not care for this “lockdown.”

In 1989, a new and very different comic book came out from DC’s Vertigo line. Neil Gaiman introduced an entire new mythology, drawing on a very old and fairly obscure DC character, and keeping nothing but the name and a slight detail about the head. I’ve been reading comics most of my life, and usually stick with the superhero themed ones, but when Sandman #1 came out, I was hooked. I read each issue, talked about them with a good friend who generally doesn’t read comics at all but enjoyed these, and was constantly surprised and enthralled with where the stories went.

When I heard they were adapting the series to video, I had some doubts. This was a masterwork of storytelling and had some really high concepts in it. I wasn’t at all sure it would work as a live action series. I was wrong. Netflix did a fantastic job bringing the story to the small screen, or at least they’ve certainly started off that way with the first episode, “Sleep of the Just.”

With an opening narration by Dream, we get introduced to the titular character, and some of his universe. The visuals are stunning, and I was pleased to see they didn’t dumb anything down. After we get a feel for who and what Dream is, we meet some key players, including the Corinthian, Dream’s aide Lucienne, and a mortal Magus named Roderick Burgess. Like many a man before him, Burgess can’t handle grief and loss, but unlike most, he lights on a bizarre and desperate plan to have his lost loved one returned. In what you could call a cosmic mistake, Burgess sets out to do something most would consider impossible, and while he doesn’t quite succeed, he doesn’t wholly fail. The production team does a great job of recreating the beginning of the Sandman saga, with a long imprisonment and all the chaos that comes from it.

Burgess is nothing if not determined, and that force of will lasts for decades. He’s fully committed to this cause, and much less so to his son, Alex. Finally, as time passes, all his careful scheming comes undone, despite some help from a powerful ally that shares a common foe with Burgess. Burgess’ own abuse comes home to turn things against him, and eventually, the wrongly imprisoned being is released. It’s not a pretty end to the decades of imprisonment, and he’s not kind in victory, although I don’t blame him. Returning home, Dream sees what has happened in his absence, and he has a lot of work to do to restore what’s been lost. It’s going to start a very interesting quest in motion, and I can’t wait to see how it plays out.

What I Liked: This impressed me on every level. The visuals were gorgeous and stunning. They captured the feel and tone of the original stories, which I would have bet against when I first heard about this. Tom Sturridge gave a fantastic performance as Dream, and Charles Dance continues his run of notable, irredeemably bad guys (Tywin Lannister spring to mind).

What I Didn’t: Nothing comes to mind. It was a fantastic story on every level. The few changes I’m aware of from the original stories made sense and were minor.

I’m giving this a rare 5 out of 5. It was a fantastic opening, and I can’t wait to see the rest of the season.

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