You’ve reached the end of the first season of Netflix’s surreally seductive series. You probably have a lot to think about. Here’s how the series teases the cliffhanger and how the comic could inspire Season 2.
the series titled is “a delicious, dark, humorous fusion of myth and magic in a modern world, filled with seductive and destructive supernatural beings in a richly layered realm of fear and fantasy.” The show, which is airing now, follows Morpheus aka Dream, the creator and ruler of human dreams. Imprisoned for a century, his escape and return to the dream world brings him into conflict with the slick serial killer Corinthian, the imperial Lucifer in Hell, and a man wielding the power of “faith” whose existence threatens to destroy both of the waking. and dream worlds.
The ending has two aspects that we can delve into. First, there’s the show itself and how its characters and stories wrap up. Second, there are the source comics that we can look to for clues as to where the show’s story might be going next. If the series got you hooked on reading the comics—and we highly recommend it—we won’t spoil it for you.
The series is based on the iconic comic book series written by Neil Gaiman with artists Sam Kieth and Mike Dringenberg and many others. The TV version draws on the first two episodes, titled Preludes & Nocturnes and The Doll’s House.
In some ways, the series is faithful to the comics. The park bench encounter between Dream and Death in episode 6, for example, is translated pretty much word for word from the page. Other changes are bigger: comic book character John Constantine is tied into the wider DC continuity with his own live-action show and appearances on Legends of Tomorrow, so he’s been replaced on the show by Jenny Coleman’s badass exorcist Joanna Constantine. This is obviously a big change from the comics: He has a distinctly London accent, while John is from Liverpool.
The second half of the season sees Dream threatened by the emergence of the “dream vortex”, something he once saw destroying the human and dream worlds. He’s grimly determined to destroy the vortex, which is bad news because he’s actually a person: a young woman named Rose Walker, played by Vanessa Samunyai.
Losing control of her powers, she breaks down the barriers between individual dreams, so her friends find their dream selves congregating in one unconscious place. Here we see Barbie learning about her husband Ken’s wandering eye, while Hal’s duet with his drag alter ego suggests that he has reconciled different parts of his personality after a bloody earlier dream. The spider-obsessed couple Chantal and Zelda are also residents of the boarding house, and their dream includes a recursive sentence that keeps repeating itself (“It was a dark and stormy night and the captain said to his mate, ‘Tell us a story, mate, and this is the story. It was a dark and stormy night…”), inspired by the line now generally derided as a literary cliché that opened the 1830 novel Paul Clifford by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton.
They are interrupted by a real whirlpool-y vortex that drags them one by one into oblivion. She eventually accepts that her powers threaten the world and submits to Morpheus and her fate.
Fortunately, it turns out that Rose was never meant to be a vortex. That fate was originally intended for her great-great-grandmother, Unity Kincaid. But when Dream was imprisoned, Unity was one of the millions who succumbed to a constant sleep (we saw her father trying to wake her up as a child in the episode 1 “sleeping sickness” montage). Unity and the librarian figure it out and arrive in time for Unity to take back the vortex from Rose that caused her death.
Rose is reunited with her long-lost brother Jed, whose dreams of becoming a superhero can be seen as a wry reminder that superhero stories are rooted in childhood fantasies of power.
She’s also reunited with Lyta, whose dream reunion with her late husband led to a supposed pregnancy — which somehow turned into a very real baby bump when she woke up. Morpheus is less than happy about this turn of events and warns Lyta that the child conceived in the Dreaming belongs to him.
A dream and a desire
Speaking of unorthodox pregnancies, it turns out that Death’s sibling, the alluring Desire, was responsible for all the trouble. Desire, played by the crooked Alexander Mason Park, hates Dream and has a bitter rivalry with Desire’s twin brother, Despair. But the scheme goes beyond sibling sparring: Desire impregnated Unity, meaning her offspring—including Rose—are also children of the Endless family, just like Dream and Desire. Desire knew that one day Morpheus would have to kill the vortex, putting Dream on a collision course with the Endless family, the golden rule is not to kill each other.
Unity was able to pull Morpheus out of this deadly gap, but Desire is far from defeated. Morpheus visits Desire’s lair and reminds his sibling that he still has Death and Fate on his side. But what about the missing Endless member?
Lucifer in hell
Desire and despair aren’t the only enemies scheming behind Dream’s back. When Morpheus went to Hell to retrieve his helm, he publicly defeated Lucifer. In the final episode, we see the main demons of Hell pressuring Lucifer to strike back. If they can’t leave hell, they reason, they should expand the borders of hell. Gwendoline Christie’s Lucifer (Game of Thrones’ Brienne of Tarth) bows to the pressure, even if it annoys God.
At the end, Morpheus is back in the Dreaming. But his experience has made him grow and perhaps soften, toning down his haughty and domineering nature to turn Gault from a nightmare into a dream, leaving the librarian to take over the running of the empire. In the meantime, he’s focused on creating new dreams and nightmares, including a possible replacement for the Corinthian. While this looks like a welcome period of reflection and recovery for Morpheus, you have to wonder if he should be looking over his shoulder at his gathering enemies…
How does Sandman draw from the comics?
Okay, now we get to the spoilers for the original comics. Here’s how these different threads play out in the books, but that doesn’t mean Season 2 of the TV version will follow the same plots.
Lucifer’s attack on Morpheus comes in Volume 4, Season of Mists. But it’s a more subtle and diabolical revenge than you’d expect, as Lucifer hands Morpheus an extremely prepared chalice: the keys to Hell. Dream has only come to rescue his former lover Nada – the caged woman he encountered upon entering Hell in Episode 4 – but finds himself facing the hordes of Hades. His enemies include Azazel, the nightmare demon who feuded with Lucifer (incongruously voiced by cute British actor Roger Allam) in the season finale, and the Norse gods Thor and Loki. We wonder if he’ll appear in the TV version of this story, given that Loki is currently a major character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — not to mention Gaiman’s own American Gods, a recent TV series on Starz.
One of Rose’s friends also reappears in the comic: Barbie, who later leaves Ken and moves to New York. He reappears in the 5th volume of A Game of You comics, having further adventures in his fairytale dreamland alongside canine sidekick Martin Tenbones (voiced by legendary British comedian and actor Sir Lenny Henry).
And we will no doubt see more Lyta Hall. Interestingly, when the original comics started, they were tangentially connected to the DC superhero universe. Lyta was originally Wonder Woman’s daughter. But even without any superbonds, Lyta has an important impact on the story when she teams up with the three-faced Furies, the witch-like women from Episode 2.
Whether or not the series will follow the storylines of the comics remains to be seen, but with the TV adaptation of The Sandman garnering critical and fan acclaim, there’s obviously a lot left to dream about when/if Netflix confirms a second season.
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