Sandman: Dream A Little Dream of Me

A priest and a warlock meet a dream lord…

The plot is in motion on Netflix’s Sandman, and things are off to an interesting start. Dream has escaped from the prison he was in down in the Magus’ basement, and now he needs his stolen items back. We’ve learned roughly where they are, and he has some errands to run to restore his collection and his power. We get to see more of the fallout from events in Burgess’ mansion, a new spin on an old character, and a great character from the comics with a fantastic choice for the voice. The quest for Morpheus’ items continues in “Dream A Little Dream of Me.” Personally, I kept expecting to hear that song, but I don’t believe we ever did.

The show opens with us learning a bit about Johanna Constantine. There was a lot of talk about how this was a new character, and not “just” a gender-bent John Constantine. After watching the episode, and comparing most of the major events and character traits, the only real difference I can find is that this version is a lot less likely to get followed around by store security. Jenna Coleman did a great job, but I can’t really see a big difference between Johanna and John, down to being plagued by nightmares, which is our first scene of the show.

Johanna arrives at her destination, and is greeted by Mad Hettie (a character that is a friend of John’s in the comics). Hettie delivers a warning that Constantine doesn’t believe, and then Johanna goes inside. She’s at an unlikely spot and her contact shares some really odd details about what’s needed. Before she gets down to business, she has a brief meeting with Morpheus, but blows him off, mostly due to ignorance and the usual Constantine attitude. When she gets a chance to get going, Constantine comes up with a creative way to do what’s needed, and there are several surprises. Morpheus shows up again, and Constantine begins to realize who she’s dealing with. There are some interesting attempts at bargaining from various parties, and things don’t go quite the way most involved would have wished.

In his very high security cell at the asylum, John Dee’s visit with Ethel, his mother, takes some turns. Ethel, no fool, doesn’t want Dream coming after her or her son, and is trying to take steps to prevent that. John isn’t exactly cooperating, and there’s a lot of personal history to deal with as this discussion goes on. Constantine has a discussion with her contact to wrap up her task, and then speaks with Morpheus again. The Lord of Dreams shares how high the stakes are for his quest, and Constantine finally starts to listen. She also points out they have a visitor, and Morpheus meets Matthew the Raven, an ongoing presence in the comics, and here voiced by the always enjoyable Patton Oswalt. Dream and Matthew disagree about Matthew’s role in events, and Constantine wanders off during the distraction.

Ethel and John keep discussing Dream’s ruby, and we learn a lot more about what it can do. I don’t think John grasps just how dangerous things might get, but I can see why he’d be reluctant to surrender that item of power. Morpheus and Matthew have some more discussions, and Oswalt’s delivery is great as we get an idea of the recent odd events for Matthew. Eventually, Dream moves on to find Constantine, and we see a tragic event play out that, once again, seems to be the same as the original John Constantine character. In the wake of this, Constantine has another encounter with Dream, who is relatively polite but very insistent about what he needs. Dream shares a bit of his history, and Constantine gets a few more surprises. I guess that’s at least one difference: John Constantine has a façade of world-weariness and cynicism that rarely, if ever, falls, while Johanna seems to have more emotional range.

Ethel keeps pleading with John about getting the ruby back, and we get some hints about what led him to be confined to the asylum. John is definitely not a pleasant man, but we don’t have a lot of those in this world. Ethel ups the stakes and makes a very surprising offer. Whatever her other faults are, Ethel is clearly sincere in her concern for her son. Johanna shares some details with Morpheus about what he’s after, and we see a softer side of her. Brash as ever in whatever incarnation, Constantine makes conditions for her help with Dream, and goes to attend to things. As she has a reunion that seems to go well, Matthew gives Dream some advice about humans that’s highly cynical, but not exactly inaccurate.

Constantine’s meeting goes on for a while, and we learn that she’s bi (just like John), and doesn’t exactly have a lot of friends (also like John). As often happens, things aren’t what they seem for this reunion, and Constantine gets an unpleasant surprise about what’s actually going on. Morpheus walks her through the reality of the situation, and what happens when mortals play with things meant for what might as well be gods. To no surprise, things take a tragic turn, but Constantine does manage to wring one minor mercy from Morpheus. At the asylum, John is shocked by his mother’s offer, and she pushes it on him, taking actions that can’t be undone and leading to some surprising results. By the end of the scene, things have changed and we see a new power loose in the world. As if that wasn’t bad enough, there is the beginning of an unlikely alliance that bodes ill for everyone else.

The episode ends with Constantine and Dream. She leaves on a good exit line, and Morpheus turns his attention to Matthew. The Lord of Dreams and the newly minted raven talk for a bit, and Matthew gets swept up in events that spin out of his control. The poor bird tries to slow things down, and then does whatever the avian equivalent of a shrug is and goes along for the ride. The next episode, if it’s covering what I believe it does, will have my favorite exchange of the entire comic book run of Sandman in it.

What I Liked: This series has been fantastic so far, and continues to impress me. The visuals, writing, and concepts have been great, and that quality continued here. Jenna Coleman did a fine job as Johanna Constantine, and Patton Oswalt provided a great voice for Matthew the Raven. The depth of Ethel’s concern for her son came across well and took surprising form.

What I Didn’t: I missed getting to see Lucienne. I enjoy her counterbalancing Dream’s desperation/determination. I really don’t see why the Johanna Constantine character was created. I don’t see any huge differences from the original. If they just wanted to do their own spin on the character, I get that, but they made it sound like something profound and different was going to happen, and it didn’t. Or at least, not as far as I could catch.

I really enjoyed this episode, and the series has been great so far. I’ll give this a 4 out of 5, and move on to more Dreaming as soon as I can.