Sandman: The Doll’s House

The last time this show spent time in a diner, it didn’t go well.

The Sandman has a very complicated history. While the title was part of the Vertigo line, it was still part of the wider DC Universe, and some heroes and villains came in and out of the book. They’ve made the decision to not bring in any superhero characters, so some slightly different versions of some of these characters appear in the series. That happens with two characters who have complex backgrounds of their own in “The Doll’s House.”

In the Dreaming, Morpheus finally gets a chance to spend some time in his own realm. He picks up a book and looks into the life of Rose Walker, and we see an ugly chapter from her early life, in 2015. She comes from a family with some serious issues, and isn’t getting the help she needs from the person who should be giving it to her. Finally, she is parted from one of her loved ones in a tearful scene. As this unpleasantness happens, two of Dream’s siblings are plotting against him, and there’s clearly some unresolved jealousy at the very least. It would seem the Walker family isn’t the only one with some dysfunctional relationships.

In 2021, Rose has grown up, and is getting ready to go on some kind of trip. She is also still trying to find her missing family member, and being stymied at every turn. She is close friends with a woman named Lyta, who has apparently recently lost her husband, Hector. And this is a good enough point to try and deal with the mess that is the backstory of those two.

In 1983, DC decided it was time to bring in some new heroes on Earth 2, the home of the Justice Society. They created Infinity, Inc, a team made up of the sons, daughters, and proteges of the JSA, the world’s (and comics’) first superhero team. Among the founding members were Hector Hall, son of the Golden Age Hawkman and Hawkgirl, and Lyta Trevor, daughter of the Golden Age Wonder Woman and her long-time love interest Steve Trevor. Hector and Lyta fell in love, fought side by side as Silver Scarab and Fury, and had many adventures. Eventually, they married, and then the curse laid on Hawkman and Hawkgirl caught up with them. Hector died, then came back as a version of Sandman, a hero in the dream realm. That story was later incorporated into the Sandman comic this show is based on. Later, Hector was reincarnated and became one of the many different hosts for Dr. Fate. Eventually, he and Lyta had one too many adventures, and were killed. Their spirits eventually ended up in a very special kind of happily ever after due to their connection to a powerful new being, but details of that might be a spoiler for the series.

In the Dreaming, Lucienne has been tasked with a new mission, and is determined to carry it out, despite Able babbling. We hear about something new that sounds ominous, but get no details at all. While Rose sleeps on the plane, Lyta has an in-depth conversation with someone, getting some insight and advice. By the end of the conversation, we get a better idea for some of Lyta’s personal tragedy.

Lucienne brings her results to Dream, and we get an interesting accounting of the Dreaming. During Dream’s long absence, assorted things and beings went missing, and we learn a bit about some of them, with some interesting visuals to give us more detail. Matthew is there, too, and just as puzzled about the mysterious something as we the audience. Dream and Lucienne talk about what might happen, and have very different takes on it. Finally, Matthew volunteers for a new job, and Dream and Lucienne give the recently departed man-turned-bird some parting advice. Rose has an odd dream as she’s brought to a big place in Sussex, England, and, later, asks about a term she heard. She and Lyta get a bit of a tour, and meet the person behind their trip here. It’s an interesting meeting that reveals an unexpected connection, both between Rose and this person, and the new person and an earlier part of our story here. As this meeting reveals its surprises, another meeting takes a very different tone. A planning committee for a special kind of gathering discusses getting a special guest, and debate ways to reach the elusive individual. They have some very sharply divided ideas of how to move forward.

Elsewhere, the Corinthian turns up, exuding that menacing charm we’ve come to expect from him. He’s on Rose’s trail, but is fortunately a bit behind her. He does meet Rose’s house sitter, and behaves himself, at least not leaving a trail of blood behind him. Back in Sussex, Rose hears voices and tracks them down to a room she hadn’t been in yet. Here we see the Fates, who have some warnings and omens for her. In the comics, the Fates have strong connections to both Dream and Lyta. That interview ends with Rose being very concerned, and Lyta a bit worried.

Unity, the woman behind Rose and Lyta’s trip, learns more about Lyta and Rose’s history, and makes an unexpected offer. Unity really seems too good to be true, and I can only assume it’s a matter of time before she either has some ugly secrets revealed or gets killed. Their conversation covers a lot of ground, and Rose gets several surprises. The Corinthian continues to show an unexpected side to himself and finally leaves Rose a message, the normal way. I was certainly surprised.

Lucienne gives Matthew a briefing for his new task, and he gets ready to go. We learn a bit more about the potential danger Dream might be facing, and, as Matthew leaves and gets some really cool visuals for his trip, we meet another character from the Sandman comics, voiced by an acting legend from a few different fandoms at this point. Matthew arrives at his destination, and we see Rose and Lyta’s new accommodations. It almost seems like the setup for a sitcom, as we meet a lot of new wacky neighbors, one of them only by reputation. Rose tries to make more progress on her mission, but hits a wall. While at first this seems to an obstruction from a cold and uncaring person, Rose listens for a bit and has a few things pointed out to her about her request.

Unhappy about the results of her efforts, Rose is taken out for the night by her collection of new neighbors. It’s a fun night out, and reveals a bit about one of them. Rose decides to take a break after some of the entertainment, but receives some unwanted attention outside. She proves quite capable of taking care of herself, but gets some help anyway. Matthew carries word of new developments to Lucienne, and, when she attempts to follow up on them, she makes a surprising discovery that clearly leaves her at a loss.

The group we met before at the diner have proven to be more alike than they originally thought in their methods. Each has done something arguably dangerous, and with all three of them contributing, it might be closer to outright suicidal. Their quarry finds them and seems perfectly ready to deal with them, but then is intrigued by their offer. They have some common interests, and he recruits them to his own cause. Rose sleeps, and, not surprising given the nature of this show, dreams. What is surprising is what, and who, she dreams about and ends up meeting. Everyone involved is surprised.

The final scene of the episode shows the object of Rose’s interests. This missing person is not at all enjoying the life they’re living, and I don’t blame them. It’s a nasty situation, and we can but hope there’s going to be some kind of rescue for them and payback for their tormentors.

What I liked: As has been the case with all the episodes of this show, the visuals are fantastic. They do a great job of adapting something complex, deep, and created with no thought of a budget into a very well done tv show. I’m intrigued by this spin on Rose and Lyta. Patton Oswalt continues to do an entertaining job as Matthew the Raven. The group in the diner is interesting, in a repulsive kind of way, and I’m very curious to see where their story goes. Boyd Holbrook is really good as the Corinthian.

What I Didn’t: I’m just enough of a comic book geek that I’m sorry so much of Hector and Lyta’s story is being cut for this. I get it, it wouldn’t fit the tone of the show, but I’m still sorry to see it. The group of “wacky neighbors” seems a bit light and fun for this show, and I’m expecting something nasty to happen in there soon.