The Sandman successfully showcased the bleakness of Neil Gaiman's original works while maintaining a sense of hope.
The story of Lord Morpheus (aka Dream) came to life with a narrative that made us feel every ounce of a god's journey, one that depicted him literally going to Hell and back to recover the items stolen from him.
Dream's century-long imprisonment and struggles with immortality could have resulted in a show that was cold and depressing, but the creators smartly guided the show in a different direction.
Of course, some parts were ultimately better than others. Here we look back at The Sandman's best scenes and why they stand out.
8. Calliope Calls for Morpheus
Calliope's imprisonment is one of the most haunting arcs in The Sandman. She's a Muse who can inspire creativity, but that makes her vulnerable to desperate men whose wells have gone dry.
The writer Richard Maddock doesn't just hold her captive, but he sexually assaults her—repeatedly—as his way of stealing inspiration from her, all because he's run out of ideas on his own.
After decades spent living in this inescapable hell, Calliope learns that her former husband Lord Morpheus has escaped from his own imprisonment, so she calls upon his aid as her last resort.
When Morpheus arrives, he's angered by the way she's been treated and immediately forces her captor to let her go—by flooding him with endless ideas that effectively cause him to go insane.
7. Morpheus Is Captured
At the very moment when Morpheus is about to send The Corinthian back to The Dreaming, he's captured by dark summoning magic and transported to the basement of Roderick Burgess.
Burgess steals all of his items—his mask, his ruby, and his sand—and confines him to a glass cell. Yet, once captured, Morpheus never utters a single word. He gives nothing to his captors for 100 years.
Lord Morpheus sits in silence for an entire century, waiting for his moment to arrive, which it eventually does. Unfortunately, during his capture, the dreams of the world become a mess and many humans never awaken from their eternal sleeps.
6. Death Takes the Old Man
One of the sweetest moments in the entire series centers on Death, the sister of Morpheus. But Death has no scythe, no hooded cloak, no evil intent; instead, she's a kind woman who only tries her best to make the transition from life to death a peaceful one.
In this scene, Morpheus has come to Death for sisterly advice, and they spend the scene walking around as she seeks her next soul to escort away from the mortal world.
It's a most touching moment when she takes one elderly gentleman from the living realm and into the next, which completely subverts our expectations for what a character like Death ought to be.
5. Morpheus vs. John Dee
The battle between Lord Morpheus and John Dee is the climax of the first half of the first season, with the pair doing battle against one another to control the fate of the living world.
John Dee appears to have the upper hand against a weakened Lord Morpheus, armed with the ruby that contains much of Morpheus's power. However, he underestimates Morpheus's true strength.
In the end, the mere human—blinded by personal glory—thinks he has triumphed in killing The Sandman, only to end up in the palm of Morpheus's hand as he's outstretched against the cosmos.
4. John Dee Escapes
Suddenly imbued with immense power of his mother's ruby, John Dee decides he has had enough of his hospital prison and walks free. Anyone who tries to harm him, like the guards, is brutally obliterated.
He emerges from his prison to stand alone in the cold streets of New York during winter. He's achieved his freedom, and he now knows what he must do to "save humanity" from itself.
Seeing John Dee walk free is an incredible moment in the show, as it presents us an opponent that Morpheus might struggle to defeat.
3. The Immortal Meetings
When a man in a pub brashly claims to have so much he wants to do in life that he would opt out of death, Morpheus is intrigued—so Death grants the man immortality, on the condition that he meets with Morpheus every 100 years in that very same pub.
The man, named Hob Gadling, has no idea who Morpheus is but agrees to the deal. Then, every 100 years, we watch as Lord Morpheus and Hob Gadling indeed meet up (with different outfits and styles that change with the eras and Hob's up-and-downs throughout life).
Watching as centuries pass, with Gadling trying to work out how to get the most out of life while Lord Morpheus studies his behavior and mentality, is one of the best sequences of the show.
2. Morpheus vs. Lucifer
The Sandman is filled with moments that flip the script on traditional fantasy stories and subvert our expectations.
When Morpheus ventures into Hell to meet with Lucifer Morningstar and retrieve one of his stolen items, we know there's going to be some kind of fantastical showdown between the two—but it's a showdown that's far more creative than anyone expected.
The fight between Lucifer and Morpheus is a duel of the minds, where each take turns assuming entities that defeat the other. A hunter defeats the wolf, a snake defeats the hunter, and so on.
With every assumed entity, the stakes grow ever larger until Lucifer ultimately becomes anti-life—which Morpheus overcomes by becoming hope. As Lucifer herself still deeply hopes for heaven, she has no rebuttal for what kills hope, leaving Morpheus as the victor.
1. Morpheus Escapes
The Sandman starts with Lord Morpheus's 100-year imprisonment ends, in which we're made to feel every second of his suffocating capitivity.
But one day, his guard falls asleep while on watch, and that opens up a way for Morpheus to break free—by entering the guard's dream of a sunny beach, grabbing sand from that beach, and then manipulating the guard to shoot his glass cell with a gun.
Now freed from his magical prison, Morpheus uses the sand from the dream beach and blows it onto the guards back in reality, causing them to fall into a deep sleep. Then, he escapes home via portal.
It's an iconic sequence from the Sandman comics, brought to life on screen in full glory. The angered Lord of Dreams is finally free from his prison and able to start piecing his life back together.