Netflix's The Sandman had a big point to prove when it came out. The streaming giant spent tons of cash trying to bring Neil Gaiman's graphic novels to life, and we held our breaths on that gamble.
The TV series adaptation started with Lord Morpheus, the King of Dreams, and the story of how he became imprisoned by a hack magician. It's a darker kind of show than Netflix's usual fare, and it could've proven too dark for general audiences. A gamble, indeed.
But when it was released, The Sandman found huge success. Not only did it garner widespread acclaim and adoration from critics for its Gothic tone and creative narrative, casual viewers were hooked right in as well.
A good chunk of its success can be attributed to its characters. Here are our picks for the best characters in Netflix's The Sandman, what they brought to the table, and why they stand out.
7. Hob Gadling
Hob Gadling is a peculiar character. He never ages, he never dies, and he meets with Lord Morpheus once every 100 years in a London pub to discuss the past century and whether or not he wants to die yet.
Hob Gadling's role proves quite important to Lord Morpheus's own story, as it shows that the King of Dreams is capable of maintaining a friendship over centuries—one that he continually comes back to see.
The role, played by Ferdinand Kingsley, is small but heavy. Kingsley brings across the trials of a man who has such a thirst for life that he keeps on living, to show that he can truly be anything he wishes to be.
In The Sandman, Death has no scythe, no shadows, no ominous hood that haunts souls as they're transitioned to the next world after death. Instead, Death is a kind, sweet, and wise young woman.
In fact, Death is one of Lord Morpheus's sisters. She doesn't play a huge role, but when she appears, it's to console her brother and help him find purpose again after he regains his full strength post-captivity.
Few depictions of Death have ever been as embracing as this one, and to see Kirby Howell Baptiste play the role with such beautiful care makes this version of the character a most compelling one.
5. Lucifer Morningstar
The sweet, kind, loving face of Lucifer Morningstar is the one that Lord Morpheus fears the most. She's the ruler of Hell, the one who measures all bad deeds—and that makes Morpheus reluctant to face her.
When Morpheus and Lucifer battle against each other—in one of the most creative fights ever seen on TV—Lucifer shows her merciless power as she leaves Morpheus on the floor, dying.
The intriguing dynamic between the two hinges on Gwendoline Christie's perfectly animated and weighted performance as she counterbalances Tom Sturridge's Lord Morpheus.
Lucienne is the trusted, loyal servant of Lord Morpheus. She keeps everything in perspective for him when he loses sight, and she even keeps him in line when he oversteps as the King of Dreams.
Throughout the show, Lucienne always has Morpheus's best interests at heart, and that bond is what drives her to guide him through his turmoil when he returns to the Dreaming from captivity.
We're periodically reminded that Lord Morpheus isn't to be seen as God. He's never infallible or faultless, and Lucienne's role is to remind him of that truth, time and time again.
She's played with such gentle force by Vivienne Acheampong that it's hard not to side with Lucienne in their conflicts.
3. The Corinthian
The Corinthian is literally a nightmare. He was created by Morpheus for a purpose in the Dreaming, but he escapes to the real world and wants to roam free—all while exhibiting nightmarish behavior.
Time and again, The Corinthian attempts to have Lord Morpheus killed or locked away for eternity, and between those attempts he's killing people without mercy. He even starts a cult dedicated to murder.
Boyd Holbrook plays The Corinthian like a trapped beast, willing to do anything to be released from servitude to his master, resulting in a portrayal of the nightmare that's ever more cunning and almost lavish.
2. John Dee
John Dee is a man who's hell-bent on getting what he wants, but he's been trapped in a cage for decades. In that sense, he and Lord Morpheus have a lot in common between them.
Dee demands that the truth always be spoken, and he has the power to force people to speak truth when they otherwise wouldn't. This leads to an incredible episode set in a diner, where the breakdown of societal norms results in staff and customers killing each other in the absence of lies.
John Dee doesn't harm people for the sake of it. Rather, he sees himself as a minister of wrath, to exact judgment upon anyone who's found wanting. David Thewlis expertly imbues the character with the rounded sense of a man who's blinded by his ideals.
1. Lord Morpheus
Of course, Lord Morpheus would be the number one character of his own show. The difficult road that he travels—quite literally to Hell and back—shows us everything we need to know about the King of Dreams.
Morpheus, also called Dream, is a compelling and entertaining protagonist who's tasked with lordship over the Dreaming. He protects the real world from the calamity that would ensue if dreams ceased to exist.
We feel the pain of his imprisonments, the brutality of his rise back to power, and the vengeful nature of one who seeks inner peace. Tom Sturridge's performance captures the detached element of Lord Morpheus, while also showing his good soul beneath his cold exterior.