Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman took the comic world by storm when it debuted in January 1989 and over the years grew into a cult classic, introducing readers to the world of The Endless. The Sandman Universe continues in comics today, but its biggest battle has always been getting onto the big or small screen. Fans have waited decades and lived through many false starts since development began in 1991 with Joseph Gordon-Levitt even being attached to the project at one point. Finally, though Morpheus has arrived. Has it been worth the wait?
As the episode opens, we get to witness Morpheus (Tom Sturridge) apprehending a nightmare known as The Corinthian (Boyd Holbrook). Just as he is successful Morpheus himself is captured in an occult ritual by British aristocrat Sir Roderick Burgess (Charles Dance), who was attempting to capture Death. With Morpheus captured The Corinthian escapes. Sir Roderick takes Morpheus’s totems of power: his helm, a pouch of sand, and a ruby. He then imprisons Morpheus for what will eventually be 106 years. This causes an epidemic of sleep sickness across the world.
We witness the growth and development of Sir Roderick’s son Alex (played initially by Benjamin Evan Ainsworth and then Laurie Kynaston) and his relationship with Morpheus as well as witness the theft of Morpheus’ totems by Roderick’s angry partner Ethel Cripps (Niamh Walsh), who leaves Roderick while pregnant with his child.
Finally, we get to the year 2021, Roderick’s son, Alex, is now an old man (played by Benedick Blythe) who continues to keep Morpheus imprisoned. Alex is cared for by his partner Paul (Christopher Colquhoun). Alex offers to set Morpheus free in exchange for his and his lover’s protection, and one final time, Morpheus does not respond. As they leave Paul deliberately erases part of the rune circle keeping Morpheus magically bound with the wheel of Alex’s wheelchair. He exchanges glances with Morpheus, with Morpheus realising he has allowed him to escape…
Verdict: 9/10. As far as adaptions go, this remains tight to the source material. Gaiman said he would be updating some aspects of the story and having Morpheus imprisoned longer just adds to his plight. Director Mike Barker weaves stunning visual effects throughout the narrative and keeps both balanced when either could run away from the other. As a first episode we get a clear introduction of our main character and his capabilities with a cliff-hanger ending that leaves us wanting to watch more. I do wonder though if non-readers would feel the same way?