Ever since the first trailer dropped for The Sandman, I have been restless waiting for the first season to drop (which happened today, August 5). (The Sandman just shot up to the Netflix No. 1 position as well). So needless to say, I queued the first episode up as soon as I woke from my dreams.
The first episode did not disappoint. In fact, it was so good — though admittedly it suffers from some of the slowness that first episodes typically do — that it baffles me that Netflix decided to release season 1 all at once. Especially since at the end of the episode, they include a trailer for what else is to come the rest of the season.
We will get into that more later on, but for now, here are my early impressions after watching The Sandman episode 1, "Sleep of the Just." Oh, and don't worry, this article is spoiler-free.
The Sandman is cast perfectly
Tom Sturridge may be an unknown to most people reading this article. When I saw the cast reveal he was an unknown to me as well, but I came away from episode 1 struggling to find a better actor to portray Dream.
Admittedly, some of this is down to the physical appearance of Sturridge, who looks like Dream was ripped from the pages of the comic and dropped in front of a green screen. However, whether through his acting, the writing, the directing or some combination of the three, he nails the essence of who Dream — a.k.a. Sandman, a.k.a. Morpheus — is in the first volume of Neil Gaiman’s comic.
The rest of the cast is equally well done, though there are some characters — notably Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer Morningstar — that we have yet to meet. Aside from Sturridge, the clear standout is Boyd Holbrook as the Corinthian. The former Narcos star grabs your attention every time he comes on the screen, and I now am looking forward to him going forward as much as any other character.
The Sandman has a comic book feel at times
In episode 1 most of Sturridge’s lines come from voice-over work as a narrator. This gives The Sandman almost a comic book vibe, as if you were reading along rather than merely watching.
As the season progresses, we may find this device used less and less, as we need less and less exposition. But for the first episode, it was a nice touch that made me feel as if I was back in the pages of the book.
The Sandman episode 1 starts a little slow but is still largely satisfying
Okay, time for a bit of a negative. The middle of the first episode drags a bit — though readers of the comic will understand why. First episodes will often suffer from this problem, as they need to introduce characters, stakes, etc.
For the record, The Sandman does this all well. In the episode, you can already feel the stakes of the story, why you should care about Dream and why you should be wary of certain other characters.
Still, if viewers come away complaining that they picked up their phones at times to scroll, I understand where they’re coming from.
Outlook: The Sandman shouldn't have gotten the standard Netflix full-season release
Much like with Stranger Things season 4, Netflix choosing to release the entire season at once is a baffling decision. There was clearly a lot of time, care and money put into The Sandman, as evident in the casting and the CGI. The production values wouldn’t feel out of place up against a Harry Potter movie.
So the fact that Netflix takes these properties and puts them out all at once makes no sense in a pop culture world centered around constant content drip to dominate the conversation. We could easily talk about this show for weeks like we would with any Marvel show or like we probably will once HBO’s House of the Dragon and Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power drop in the coming weeks.
Plus as a viewer, I honestly feel the anticipation would help as well. I am genuinely excited to watch the rest of the season; there’s a reason we included it in our list of shows and movies to watch this week. Waiting a whole week would crank that anticipation up to 11, and I think the show would be better for it. But regardless, I just hope that the release model does not hurt The Sandman, because I am already looking forward to season 2.