Fears and fantasies unite in this intriguing opening episode.
This recap of Netflix’s The Sandman season 1, episode 1, “Sleep of the Just,” contains spoilers.
The Sandman season 1, episode 1 recap
The episode opens with a man traveling in a car and falling asleep. Simple but beautifully constructed as we follow a raven flying from the real world into another realm in the dream state, where we are introduced to The King of Dreams, Lord Morpheus. Here we learn that he is needing to leave his realm to chase down a nightmare that has gone rogue. He is warned that dreams do not do well in the waking world, but nightmares thrive there. Already we’re given the impression that Lord Morpheus is a powerful and honorable character. Throughout the episode, we have Morpheus narrating to the audience through voice-over.
We cut back to the man, introduced as Dr. Hathaway, arriving at a grand house and meeting Alex and his father Roderick. Roderick and the doctor have both lost sons, and the wounds are still deep. Their aim is to capture death and compel them into bringing their sons back. Whilst Morpheus is on his mission in the waking world, he is accidentally captured by their cult, which causes chaos. Sleeping sickness takes over, with many people left continuously sleeping or begging for sleep. This shift has a huge effect on the world, without them realizing it.
A mystery visitor, who later becomes known as The Corinthian, comes and teaches Roderick of The Endless, a special group that includes Desire, Destiny, Despair, Death, Destruction, Delirium, and Dream. Roderick confronts Morpheus, stating that he wanted to capture death, and if he can return his son he will let him go. Morpheus keeps silent. Kept in the basement, Roderick builds a cage strong enough to maybe contain him, so long as no one falls asleep around him. Taking his belongings, which include a bag of sand, a ruby necklace, and a mask, using these tools for himself, Roderick becomes known as a magic magus’ with hundreds of people wanting his attention.
Now in the future, we cut to an older Alex, working at his father’s party. Alex’s character is a lot weaker and softer than his father’s, and as we watch him go into the chamber where Dream is kept, we can guess he’s going to be the reason Morpheus escapes. Alex tells Dream he would let him out, and Roderick hears, dragging Alex from the basement and threatening to kill him. The Raven, Jessamy, comes back out of nowhere as Roderick is about to beat Alex, and Alex is given the heinous task of shooting the bird, something Roderick has not been able to do in ten years.
A mixture between CGI and a real bird, the bird is an excellent performer, setting fire to the house, causing a distraction so she can get to her owner and try and set him free. As she’s pecking at the glass cage, Alex shoots her. A heartbreaking moment. A powerful moment, this feels like the last straw.
Ethel, Roderick’s mistress, is pregnant, and Roderick wants her to get rid of the baby, so she runs away in the night, leaving everything behind her, except all the previous belongings that Roderick stole from Morpheus. Nine months later she gives birth to a baby boy, Jonathan, and we see her playing with the ruby necklace.
The build-up of hostility and hatred between Roderick and Alex finally leads to them fighting, and Alex knocks his dad into the glass cage, where he hits his head and dies in front of Alex and Dream. His last words are “you’re never getting out of here”. Morpheus reaches out to Alex, and there is a definite connection between the two, whether this is true or a hoax for Morpheus to set himself free, we’re not sure. Alex pulls away, out of stubbornness and fear.
Finally, one of the guards falls asleep, as we were warned, and Morpheus goes into his dream and manipulates the guard to shoot the glass cage, freeing him. In a hue of blue swirling light, he is lifted into the light.
In the closing ten minutes of the episode, Morpheus comes to visit Alex, giving him the gift of eternal sleep. The torture of sleeping and sleepless nights has come to end, and The Corinthian feels the shift.
Morpheus returns to his realm, but it is not as he left it. The beautiful world we saw in the beginning is destroyed, it’s decayed and crumbled, as if it’s ruined and wrecked. His people have left, abandoning him for the real world. He vows to bring them all back. The episode ends with the giant walls of the dream world closing slowly.
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