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Neil Gaiman's acclaimed fantasy series finally received its first live-action adaptation on Netflix, more than 30 years since Sandman's original comic debut. The streaming series about the King of Dreams and his journey throughout our subconscious is one of the most faithful adaptations of a graphic novel we've ever seen—which is perhaps why it took so long for Gaiman to give a script the green light.
But that is not to say it was straightforward, simple, or even easier to understand. Instead, the fact that The Sandman has such dense lore and rich world-building means we have a lot to dive into. Namely: figuring out what the hell we just watched. Let's get into the ending of The Sandman, Season One.
The Stage Is Set for the King of Dreams
Roderick Burgess, an early 20th-century occultist, attempts to summon Death to bring his late son back to life. He quickly learns that he is dealing with magic outside of his control, and he accidentally captures Morpheus, the ruler of dreams. He keeps him imprisoned in his mansion for over 100 years until Morpheus, a.k.a. Dream, is finally able to escape and return home to his kingdom.
He rules over a subconscious realm known as The Dreaming, where all humans go when they fall asleep. During his absence, his palace has been left in shambles and many of his nightmares have escaped into the waking world. After reclaiming his lost possessions and reestablishing his domain, he sets out to stop a nightmare from wreaking havoc and threatening to destroy The Dreaming.
What's In Store For the Perfect Nightmare?
According to Dream, he created The Corinthian to be a black mirror that reflects the worst of humanity back on itself. After the imperfect nightmare escapes, he starts sadistically murdering people in the waking world. He also has two mouths with teeth where his eyes should be. Scary! In the comics, he can view his victim's memories by eating their eyes, but this goes without any explanation in the Netflix series.
The Corinthian's escapades eventually attract the attention of other serial killers who cunningly refer to themselves as "collectors." They throw a pun-filled "Cereal Convention" in a motel to meet up, share stories of their murderous conquests, and bask in awe of their nightmare hero.
After restoring order to the Dreaming, Dream finally comes to reclaim The Corinthian and he swears to the nightmare that he will be remade better next time. He also remakes Gault, a shapeshifter who occupies the dreams of a young boy named Jed Walker. Gault fills his dreams with superhero adventures (and easter eggs to the original Jack Kirby Sandman comics from the '70s), but Morpheus chides her for not letting Jed experience real life. Later realizing that she was helping Jed escape foster care abuse, he remakes Gault as an inspiring dream.
The Dream Vortex, Explained
The funny thing about the Dream Vortex is that no one—not even Morpheus—really understands why or how it occurs. Like a hurricane, these things just form within people once every 100 years or so and threaten to blur dreams with reality until the universe is destroyed.
Jed's older sister, Rose Walker, is this era's Dream Vortex, and the powers it grants her place her right in the crosshairs between Dream and The Corinthian. The only way to stop the Dream Vortex is to kill its host. Luckily, Rose is saved when her great-grandmother, Unity Kincaid, offers to sacrifice herself instead. Unity was meant to be the Dream Vortex, but she was trapped in a 100-year-long slumber that coincided with Dream's imprisonment.
Rose's connection to the Dream Vortex also causes her friend Lyta to get pregnant in the real world after she has some steamy dreams with her late husband. Morpheus tells Lyta that he will be back to claim her child one day since he was conceived in The Dreaming. Infuriated, Lyta swears that she will never let Morpheus take her dream baby away from her. My dream, my choice, Mr. Sandman!
Family Squabbles Within the Endless
Referred to as The Endless, Dream's six family members also embody universal concepts. While Death cares for her brother, Dream, Desire, and Despair seem to be working behind the scenes to make him suffer. At the end of Season One, it is revealed that not only were they secretly involved in his century-long capture, but that Desire was also Rose Walker's great-grandfather. They are hell-bent on making him "spill family blood," which seems to be the biggest no-no in their eternal order of things. What kind of beef does Desire have with Dream? We'll have to wait and find out.
Speaking of Hell, My Ears Are Burning
If that wasn't enough for Morpheus to worry about, he also has a grudge against Lucifer Morningstar, the ruler of Hell. Gwendoline Christie may look her finest, but she gets humiliated by Dream in a game of wits. (It was a kind of word game that you can seemingly only play once, and Dream found the perfect answer.)
A quick scene during Dream's trip to Hell also revealed that he had a past relationship—over 10,000 years ago—with a prisoner named Nada. She refers to him as Dream Lord Kai'ckul, one of the many ways he appears to people on Earth. "Do you not still love me?" she asks him. "Yes," he responds, "but I have not yet forgiven you." Ouch! After 10,000 years?! More on this insane grudge next season.
The last episode ends with Lucifer preparing to watch "several demon battles for entertainment." I would have loved to see those, but the upcoming festivities are interrupted by Lord Azazel. He looks like some sort of evil Pokémon peering in from another dimension. Feeling her wrath, the demon informs Lucifer that the armies of Hell demand that she goes to war with the King of Dreams. However, Lucifer has something far more sinister planned.
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