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Neil Gaiman’s ‘The Sandman’ – 2022’s Single Greatest Hour of TV Drama

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Neil Gaiman’s ‘The Sandman’ – 2022’s Single Greatest Hour of TV Drama
‘This is the era of megabudget fantasy television’ … Jenna Coleman and Tom Sturridge in The Sandman. Photograph: Liam Daniel/NETFLIX

This dark, engrossing comic book adaptation is utterly lavish, and features an emotional depth that’s almost unheard of in fantasy epics. It should delight fans and newcomers alike

It has taken 30 years for an adaptation of The Sandman (Netflix), Neil Gaiman’s celebrated comic-book series, to make it to the screen, and little wonder. It is a big, bold story of gods and demons, so deep and rich that the idea of cramming its wonders into 10 episodes seems borderline ludicrous. Yet this is the era of megabudget fantasy television, with the imminent arrival of a small-screen Lord of the Rings and the return of the Game of Thrones universe in House of the Dragon. With its debut season, The Sandman can stand proudly among them, albeit as their moody goth older brother.

The first couple of episodes exist firmly in the realm of fantasy. The notes I took when watching include “Patton Oswalt is crow?”. It’s that kind of show, and it immerses you in its world immediately, setting the Sandman off on his journey of discovery. It begins in 1916, when Lord Morpheus, or Dream, or the Sandman, or Lord Morpheus, Dream of the Endless, to give him his pedigree name (a sinewy Robert Smith type, played with breathy sulkiness by Tom Sturridge), is mistakenly captured by Charles Dance’s sinister – and Dance is very good at sinister – magus.

Sinister … Charles Dance as Roderick Burgess in episode one. Photograph: Ed Miller/Netflix

The magus wants to harness Death’s power to indulge in a spot of necromancy and revive his favourite son, who was killed in wartime. Instead, he ends up with Dream, and traps him naked in a glass sphere in his basement. For a while, the period setting feels a bit dark Downton Abbey, but it soon becomes clear that this is far too expansive to stick to one era or genre. Throughout the series, time flies, and slows, and we leap through different periods and cities and realms. It all feels like rather a lot, but it works well.

It is engrossing from the start. It is transportive, playful at times, and certainly grand. But above all, it is dark. Bodies explode, limbs are severed, and demons crawl out of the mouths of professional footballers, fist-first. Nestled in among its more grotesque spectacles, though, is an emotional depth that elevates this far beyond the usual “let’s see what we can blow the CGI budget on” fantasy fodder. Given the source material, that’s no wonder. For fans, it may well turn out to have been worth the long wait, but for newcomers to the Sandman’s world, there is plenty to discover.

Courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd. Read the complete article here.

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