TV review: ‘The Sandman’ offers bold, ambitious storytelling

Have you ever finished a film, TV series, or book and thought, “Wow, that was an excellent story…but I’m not sure if I enjoyed it”? 

I recently finished watching Netflix’s big-budget adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s epic DC Comics series, The Sandman, and to be honest, I’m still working through my feelings about it. There were parts I really liked, and parts I struggled with.

This isn’t meant to be a negative review, because I was very impressed with the bold, ambitious storytelling on display throughout the series. Hollywood definitely needs more stories that are willing to take chances and challenge viewers, and I want to see other projects like The Sandman. Yet on a personal level, I don’t know if this series was for me. 

While I’d heard of The Sandman comics previously, I have not yet read them. I’m wondering if reading those first would have impacted my opinion on the TV series. Although I didn’t have trouble following along with the story, I had the feeling that what I was seeing was just scratching the surface of Gaiman’s fictional world. 

The series has a bit of an unconventional structure (which again, isn’t really a problem because not every story fits into the same neat and tidy little box). There are two main stories being told: Dream’s imprisonment and eventual escape, and then Dream dealing with a dangerous dream vortex. 

I definitely liked the first half of the series more. It was interesting to take a peek into Dream’s world, and then to see how society was impacted by his 100-year absence. Jenna Coleman as Johanna Constantine was absolutely great, and I’d totally be down for a spinoff starring her character. 

However, for whatever reason, I found myself not really connecting with the second storyline. The serial killer convention subplot really creeped me out and took me out of the story, and I was disappointed that we didn’t get to see more of Gwendoline Christie’s Lucifer (again, if I’d read the original source material first, I’d probably have known to expect this). The story also tackles some very heavy themes, and maybe I wasn’t as prepared for that as I thought. 

Although right now I’m not personally eager for a season 2, I really hope one is made, because this truly is a high-quality show and I believe it deserves more episodes. And I don’t want to be done with Gaiman’s storytelling on-screen either. 

I’m interested in listening to the full cast audio version of The Sandman with James McAvoy as Dream; I’ve been really into audiobooks recently, and I have a hunch the story might work better for me in that format. I’m also a believer in the fact that sometimes, a story encounters you at the wrong moment in life, and it’s worthwhile to try it again later. 

For example, Dune didn’t do much for me the first time I read it. Then years later, I got really hyped about the movie and listened to the Dune audiobook and absolutely loved it. Who knows? Maybe in 10 years I’ll revisit The Sandman and realize, “Wow, I really love this.”

Or, maybe this is an example of a story that’s great just as it is but just isn’t for me. And that’s OK. I feel like I say this a lot, but geek fandom would be a very boring place if every fan felt the exact same way about every film, TV show, book, etc. 

Even though I didn’t enjoy The Sandman as much as I was hoping to, watching it was still a very worthwhile use of my time, and gave me a lot to think about and mull over. 

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