Sandman: Imperfect Hosts

Remodeling is always such a pain

The Sandman was a truly fantastic comic series written by Neil Gaiman in the 1980’s. It deservedly won many awards, and became a fan favorite. After many years, there’s finally a video adaptation of some of this large body of work, airing on Netflix. The first episode reassured me about any doubts I had about the quality of the project. Now, the story continues with “Imperfect Hosts.”

Morpheus, or Dream if you prefer, was captured by a mortal sorcerer and held prisoner for decades. That’s not much time for an undying being like him, but it has wreaked havoc on the Dream world, and Morpheus has a lot of work to do. As he talks with Lucienne, we see that Morpheus’ powers are weakened, and he has to reclaim his stolen items to set things to rights. This scene actually features one of the few problems I have with the series so far. There is a big problem with sound balance, at least as it’s playing here. The music swelling and special effects are a lot louder than the dialogue, which keeps dragging me out of the story, as good as it is.

Back in the Waking World, as they call the “real” world, we meet a woman who is clearly very connected, and multilingual as well. As she makes a lot of questionable deals via phone and computer, she gets a surprising visitor: the Corinthian. Playing the spooky, mysterious stranger to the hilt, the Corinthian talks to the woman about some areas of mutual interest. We learn who this woman is, and what her connection is to Dream, and it works very well in my opinion. Boyd Holbrook really does a fantastic job as the Corinthian. In the Dreaming, Morpheus realizes he only has one way to proceed, and it’s a desperate enough course that Lucienne is worried. Reluctantly, she guides him to something that might help.

One of the great things that the original comics did was draw from all sorts of obscure corners of the DC Universe. For quite a while, there were horror anthology comics called House of Mystery and House of Secrets, each hosted by either Cain or Able. Yes, that Cain and Able. Those two, and their houses, became part of the Dreaming under Gaiman’s pen, and we meet the live action versions of them here. Dream comes calling, and has to ask something very hard of them to further his own quest. Cain is clearly not pleased, but Able, ever willing to please, is a bit easier to win over. Finally, a great sacrifice is made, and the drama between the brothers plays out yet again. It’s a very sad, somber, and well-done scene. Back at her lair, the woman and the Corinthian continue to fence about a few things, and he proves to be very knowledgeable and ruthless.

With some visuals that could have been right out the comics, Dream gathers what he needs for his next step, and performs a complicated ritual. Warnings don’t carry as much weight as direct experience, and Lucienne’s cautions go ignored until Dream learns for himself just how much things have changed while he’s been away. Finally, he reaches the ones he needed for guidance, and it’s a powerful, tense, and well-done scene of a very limited questions and answers game. He gets some guidance, and we see a preview of some people and places that can no doubt expect a visit from Dream of the Endless. This series of small scenes and visuals was stunning and speaks well of the very high quality of the show so far.

While part of the oldest brothers’ drama plays out yet again, the Corinthian and the woman he’s with continue their dance of words. They very clearly don’t trust each other, taking that “enemy of my enemy is my friend” concept but so far. Finally, the Corinthian gets overconfident and the lady in question sends him on his way in a not-really-friendly parting. The brothers bicker, as they tend to, and enjoy a peace offering of sorts from Morpheus, which they react to in their unique ways. Able always struck me as a sad character in the comics, not necessarily for the obvious reason, and that comes across very well here.

Most of the rest of the episode is a combination of comings and goings and some character work, and all of it done really well. The mysterious woman pays a visit, and there’s a lot of strangeness going on in her family dynamic, to put it mildly. Lucienne does her best to give her lord good counsel, but he’s not in the mood to listen as he takes off on his quest, once again leaving her behind. I think he’s taking a bit too much for granted, or he’s a lot more desperate than it has seemed so far. The Corinthian sorts himself out after his abrupt dismissal, but doesn’t seem to have learned anything from the experience. He has a debate about their outlooks with someone we’ve seen a good bit of, but not the two of them interacting before. After some dire predictions, the Corinthian takes off, and we’re left wondering what’s going to happen in the wake of everyone’s actions so far.

What I Liked: The writing is phenomenal, and pays great respect to Gaiman’s original work. The visuals are also stunning, and the acting is great. There were no weak performances here as far as I could tell. Cain and Able were great, the woman was smart and careful, and the ones Morpheus called on for help were done excellently.

What I Didn’t: Really, the only down note for me has been the sound issue I mentioned above. Some kind of remixing/editing is needed, because even if that’s being done for effect, the effect is “That’s really annoying.”

I’ll give this episode a 4.5 out of 5. It’s some gorgeous storytelling so far. On to more of it!