Continuing our Sandman conversation reviews, we follow Morpheus back to the Dreaming as he reunites with his remaining subjects, while rogue nightmare The Corinthian pays Ethel Cripps a visit. Read on for our in-depth discussion of The Sandman episode 2, “Imperfect Hosts.
As we established in our review of The Sandman episode 1, our one big critique of the new TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman comic is in relation to Netflix’s binge model. The Sandman is ten (edit: now eleven!) incredibly rich and varied hours of television, but we believe it would have been a valuable experience to have gotten it week-to-week, to give each episode time to permeate, allowing every detail be chewed upon and unpacked. We know we’re not alone in this opinion, so that’s how we are covering it — with an extensive weekly discussion review, in order to give each episode what it deserves
Caveat: Please do actually stream The Sandman as soon as possible! Whether you binge all the episodes at once and then re-watch more slowly, or simply, ahem, leave the show running on your TV or tablet while you’re out of the house so you can watch later at your own pace, Netflix will be counting the speed of completion rate in order to decide on a season 2 renewal. Our treatment of The Sandman as week-to-week here is not an endorsement of letting the episodes sit unplayed. Let it stream through on Netflix as soon as possible, even if you don’t actually watch it while it plays!
Read our prior conversation review of The Sandman episode 1, ‘Sleep of the Just.’
The Sandman episode 2, titled “Imperfect Hosts,” is adapted from and named after issue #2 of the comic. It covers Dream’s return to his destroyed realm and his reunion with Lucienne the Librarian, but when his strength fails to return, he makes a regretful sacrifice in order to summon the Hecateae and make enquires about his tools. And when the tools’ thief, Ethel Cripps — who plays a bigger role here than in the comic — receives a visit from Dream’s rebellious missing nightmare The Corinthian about the whereabouts of a certain ruby, the threat triggers a visit to her son, John Dee.
“Imperfect Hosts” features Tom Sturridge as Dream, Vivienne Acheampong as Lucienne, Sanjeev Bhaskar as Cain, Asim Chaudhry as Abel, Boyd Holbrook as The Corinthian, Joely Richardson as Ethel Cripps, and David Thewlis as John Dee. The Hecateae or Three Fates are played by Nina Wadia in the aspect of Mother, Dinita Gohil as Maiden, and Souad Faress as Crone.
‘The Sandman’ episode 2 review in conversation
Natalie: So episode 2 of The Sandman is issue #2, “Imperfect Hosts,” which involves Dream discovering the full extent of what had happened to the Dreaming and working out what to do next, and Ethel Cripps looking amazing and doing the most.
Brittany: Truly stunning.
Natalie: Following Dream, there’s this sense of slow, creeping tragedy as he trudges around all heartbroken. He’s so shellshocked. But it got me thinking about his power, a lot — he clearly did not expect this level of destruction. I guess he thought enough of his power was inherent to the Dreaming itself, and would hold up on his own. So the biggest thing for me here was this feeling of… I guess… the new realization of responsibility. His own fallibility, and the responsibility of this realm that lies within him, more than he had really thought about in a long time.
Did you get any sense of that? He’s so floored by the fact that his absence caused this, and what he says about the loss of the tools, that he knows not what he is without them. It feels almost like he’s forgotten the scope of his own power — how much of it comes down to him. It must have been a long time ago that he created it all.
Brittany: Dream is definitely spiraling a bit from this new information of what he was to the Dreaming, not just what the Dreaming was to him. There is physical evidence of how much of his power actually held the Dreaming together, as we see from his attempt to repair the windows of the palace. But there is also the emotional consequence we see in Lucienne, who although still very much loyal, seems a bit weary. And When Dream hears how she lost her entire purpose — the books going blank to vanishing — that really drives it home. He is gutted as each new detail sinks in.
But she does have suggestions, each of which she tiptoes up to at least somewhat delicately throughout the episode. However, what seem like good solutions to Lucienne from a logistical and power standpoint, push Dream into a deeper place of feeling not worth anyone’s time.
Natalie: That certainty that the other Endless knew what happened to him and just didn’t care to help… well. There’s history there to make him believe that is true — if you read Overture, relatively recent history — but it isn’t correct of all of them, as we will learn later. Poor Dream. Woe is he. Nobody loves him. Or so he thinks. The bigger you are, the harder you fall, and Dream as a ruined king hit the ground heavy from such a great height. Tom’s performance for all of this is just very visceral.
Brittany: It was. But it does course correct very quickly as we mentioned in the last episode. He has just gotten himself back into the Dreaming and he is ready to figure out a plan. As for that line you mentioned, not knowing who he is without his tools, it makes the endgame of the next action pretty set for us to follow. Lucienne, however, notes just how weak he is in his current state. I don’t think we would have needed the visual of him trying to rebuild his palace to gain that knowledge, but it does serve as a reminder that even though he built the Dreaming, it no longer serves him. It is a shell of its prior potential. It’s basically a 360-degree mirror of his inefficiency.
Natalie: Oooof. Burn.
Brittany: Lucienne’s advice of rest, food, and more rest goes right over Dream’s head though. He needs to draw power from something else. Unfortunately that something else has a very cute face.
Natalie: Look, this was just…. a really miserable moment for all involved. Sandman #2 in the comics opens on Gregory bringing a weak Dream to Cain and Abel, who live in the Dreaming as the First Murderer and First Victim. They help him out and send him back up to the castle. In the book, Cain and Abel are fantastic in and of themselves and when these fellows were cast, I was so excited — Asim Chaudhry as Abel especially had such a big jolly smile that I knew immediately seeing it all wobbly and watery, seeing him put on a brave face of positivity and hope while weeping over how Cain treats him, would really get to me.
But nothing could have prepared me for the Gregory bit in the show. Even though Dream comes in all hat-in-hand earnest and seems reluctant to do it, to take back his power from one of his live creations, nothing on this earth could have prepared me for what he actually says. Because you see, when Cain tries to stand up to him, and says that the answer is no, Dream says “I have not come to ask you,” and if you had made me bet money, I would have predicted that the next line would be one of authority. Something along the meaning of “I am trying to be polite about this, but it wasn’t a question, I am doing it.” I was NOT ready for “I have come to ask Gregory.” The honor of it, like, the respect of it.
It is SO upsetting, and SO effective in terms of that softening of Dream, of showing how good he is.
Brittany: Yeah, I was thinking a lot about this scene specifically when we spoke about that softness in Dream in episode 1. The setting for this too really plays a role. Coming back to the barren land with all the destruction, seeing Dream just break out of that cold, dark captivity, and seeing him in a lovely little field having a genuine moment under that, forgive me, soft light. It was a lot.
Natalie: Yes — and again, in my interview with the EPs, Allan Heinberg recounted that this was done not with like, a tennis ball on a stick, but with a puppet head — not a full animatronic, but an actor in a green screen suit using a puppet head for Morpheus to interact with, and that they were watching this go down on the set, Tom Sturridge acting with the puppet, and everyone was crying. Those two animal deaths, Jessamy and Gregory, did a lot of work to give us a tender Dream that we love right from the start.
Related: ‘The Sandman’ EPs Neil Gaiman and Allan Heinberg explain Gregory’s death scene as one of the show’s ‘very emotional’ new ways to get to know Morpheus
Brittany: For a show where I was anticipating quite a bit of death mixed with gore, this was not what I had in mind for the start.
Natalie: Absolutely not. And I never thought I would be feeling like I love a pair of “gratuitous” animal deaths. But I do. It’s so important.
Brittany: Alas. Gregory, with his strong G name, will be missed.
Natalie: It seems that people have responded very dramatically to Gregory’s death, as they should. I don’t actually really know how to explain how much it means to me, the slowness of it, the way that they decided to weight this huge grave moment in caring about the right to life of an animal. Neil is very compassionate regarding animals, the role of animals and our relationship with them plays a part in a few of his stories, and he has a lot of strong emotional stories about the animals in his life on his blog, but this was next level.
It was somewhere between like, the tragedy of a sentient being’s noble sacrifice — always miserable, and pet owners having to decide to euthanize — always miserable. And it just went on and on, with Cain and Abel saying their goodbyes… Obviously, in the real world, animals can’t consent, and we don’t call their deaths “murder.” And here we have the murder of Jessamy, and the consent of Gregory, as sentient beings, yet the show is also attributing the innocence of animals to them — the unfairness of it all.
Sorry to go on about this, but it really hit me hard.
Brittany: You mentioned a bit about Cain and Abel and then of course right after we see this very touching and emotional goodbye, Cain murders Abel and walks away. Really opposite vibes here.
Natalie: Hey, that’s how Cain copes.
Brittany: He did bury Abel in a shallow grave, so he was truly in his feelings.
Natalie: He needed companionship sooner rather than later. These two actors, Asim Chaudhry and Sanjeev Bhaskar, are so great.
Brittany: In the first watch of this, I must say I was disappointed that it cut from them at that moment to follow Dream. I felt a bit robbed. But I was delighted when they let the rest of the Cain and Abel narrative play on a bit at the end of the episode.
Natalie: Yes, we’ll return to them, because among all of this, this version of The Sandman finds a way to bring things roundabout to get us back to the baby gargoyle Goldie, and I liked how they did that very much. We will get back to that soon enough though. First, as you say, we follow Dream as he pulls together a gift basket of dream items for the Fates.
This bit I LOVED the narration for. And the imagery, the transition from straightening up from picking up the crossroads to the noose and so on. There is a real flair for the dramatic in Dream that comes out for the first time here I think — I mean, in as much as it can while weary. Coat go swish. And when he picked up the serpent’s egg, I was like “Ohhhhhh!” I could see where that was going and was excited to get back to that at the end.
Brittany: I agree, the visuals of how Dream can be in the action of someone’s dream (the hanging) or larger than life (the lifting of the crossroads) was all very, very visually stunning. But my favorite visual of this entire episode was his reflection in the water just before he goes to collect the gifts. It’s so amazing. It felt very much like seeing comic Dream more fully reflected back.
Natalie: Yes, the distorted nature of it, the most powerful and terrible version rather than this fragile one. The facets of him as like, a man, and an entity.
Brittany: The journey is not exactly easy. As Lucienne points out, things have changed, it become a bit harder to find what he is seeking in the dreams of others. But he manages alright and presents the items for the Fates, who are pleased, intrigued, and annoyed to see him, respectively. That whole bit with Circe left lasting wounds.
Natalie: He definitely has, you know, an interesting history with the Hecateae. And an interesting future.
Brittany: In this interaction, I think here is where Lucienne’s advice to maybe take a breath would have come in handy. Navigating their one question, one answer protocol means asking the right question for the right answer. Tricky, tricky. He does well on question one! But I must say his follow-up question and immediate apology was one of my favorite Dream line readings so far.
Natalie: He should have stuck to like, “What is the full name of the being who currently has my ruby.” Really back them into a corner. “Who holds it?” is too open ended! But even the perfect question might get no good answer if the Hecateae don’t feel like it. He gets a little bit of something to go on, at least. Well, a few good specifics. It’s interesting to see him beholden to these rules and rituals larger than he is.
These actresses were glorious aspects of the Three — the mother, maiden, crone goddess idea that is found across a lot of mythologies. These ladies have a huge role to play in the future, and I think they’re fantastic. Did you like it better when they were being individuals with different fondnesses for Dream, or when they became the One that is Three?
Brittany: Definitely, the individuals. A crush, a doting mother, a disapproving elder. I liked how each of them played each bit of their interaction with him.
Natalie: For me, I think their individual elements each felt so rich and fun that it made it hit harder when they drew themselves up to full force to yell at him. It’s that classic thing with god types, extreme power holders. We saw this a lot with Wednesday in American Gods, right? Someone that huge, they can play things as light as they want for fun, but there is always the threat of that immense power and righteousness and anger under it.
Brittany: The final shot of them got that message across. They were slightly helpful though and I think it played into their individual personalities. The maiden giving the clearest path forward, the mother a bit foggier, and the crone the least helpful of the three.
Natalie: Yes, Dream has somewhere to start at least, with Constantine, and he knows where demons are to be found. The “mother and son” is so vague, but obviously we know who they are and honestly, Dream, just go up to the waking world and look up some microfilm at the British Library. It would be easy, I think, to find out that Ethel robbed Burgess and go from there. But he’ll get there eventually. But it’s time for him to take his ball (egg) and go home. So you liked getting back to Cain and Abel this way?
Brittany: I did! I thought we were going to move on from them and not return. That the murder of Abel was meant to be enough of a nod. But no! We got the whole thing!
Natalie: Abel’s innocent joy at thinking it was a present from Cain is so sad.
Brittany: Yeah, poor Abel. He wants to believe in the story of the two brothers so badly. But if murdering Abel is what makes Cain happy, then so be it.
Natalie: God this was all so cute.
Brittany: It is, again, another great moment of softness from Dream though. Leaving that egg for Abel, who will see it upon crawling out of his grave.
Natalie: Another thing I wasn’t prepared for — in a good way — was “Alright then. Girving.” It was such a silly little thing, but it was an unexpected joke in an exchange I already know really well, the whole Irving/Goldie fight.
Brittany: Little baby gargoyle Irving. Goldie among company.
Natalie: Tiny things like that mean that even old Sandman fans can have new feelings with this show — not just new bits of plot or circumstance, even new laughs. I appreciate that.
Brittany: Irving was properly adorable. A+ execution all around for this bit.
Natalie: The flapping to the grave weighted down by his fat belly. I died. It’s SO cute. And then the proper loveliness of Asim Chaudhry trying to talk to him and tell him about their lives, that the murdering is alright, really, because this is their story, this is who they are. Cain can’t help it. The nuances of the true happiness and sweetness of Abel and the fact that it’s covering a great sadness, that he wishes this wasn’t his story, is so brilliant.
This page in the book, Abel telling Goldie the story he’s imagined for himself about him and Cain, always gets to me. And in the show there’s this added element of “Do you even know what a story is?” Just giving a little heads up to the audience about the theme of story itself within this story, and why things are the way they are for creatures of Dream’s realm, or how stories shape reality.
Related: ‘The Sandman’ star Tom Sturridge on the show’s storytelling theme: ‘It’s about how the stories we tell each other inflict themselves upon our lives and upon our dreams’
Brittany: We should all be like Irving, happy to listen to them all. Even if we have no idea what is going on at times.
Natalie: I, for one, would like to know less things at this point in my life. So yes, sounds good. Dream has a little power and a little information and decides to head back to the waking world in search of Constantine and the sand, and then will go to Hell for the helmet. Lucienne is not pleased with this idea, and I feel like her performance needs to be highlighted here, the way she pivots between prim and patient, and then kind of sassy. She’s so long-suffering and has put up with so much, and Dream won’t even talk a cell phone — I mean, raven — to keep her updated. You loved Dream’s apology earlier, I love Lucienne’s here, the hands-held-up “Sorry,” when she oversteps.
Brittany: She just wants some reassurance that he will be coming back. It’s not like he has a great track record interacting with humans. The least he can do is use the Find My iRaven feature she wants to send him off with.
Natalie: This is obviously the first hint of Matthew, who will show up very soon, and another facet of Jessamy’s death shines here. It shone in my head when it happened, actually — “Oh damn, this will add layers to the way he connects with Matthew” — but here we see it spelled out a bit. Subtly but clearly. “No more ravens.” And he tries to cover up his feelings with pride and authority — perhaps it genuinely is a bit of that too — by saying that he is Very Important and Powerful Being Dream Who Doesn’t Need A Minder.
But the tone, when he adds that Jessamy was the last, tells the obvious truth about his reluctance. He’s being protective, of his own heart but also of the potential bird, and those emotions tell us one story about him, one that is in sharp contrast to the story the Corinthian tells when he shows back up at the gates. How he got there is a story we will loop back to in a second, but I think this final interaction, Corinthian and Lucienne, is something to be addressed now. A battle of wills, two very different viewpoints on their mutual master and creator.
Brittany: That interaction was great. Lucienne is facing the nightmare responsible for Dream leaving in the first place with the stance of, “oh, Dad is going to be so mad when he gets home.” Only to be met with the child who climbs right back out the window.
Natalie: Well, when you put it like that.
Brittany: Boyd Holbrook is so fantastic as the Corinthian. Properly scary when he needs to be and also exceedingly arrogant and insufferable all the time. His air of being more than or better than everything that is or was in the Dreaming is really on display here.
Natalie: As well as — and you may not feel the same — a somewhat valid sense of self righteousness? Obviously we don’t want him to go out murdering people, but the impact of bringing him in early, for me, is to highlight this very prominent issue for Morpheus as the Dream King — the “I am what you made me, you gave me this purpose” kind of thing that this episode also addressed with Cain and Abel. Not that Dream created them, but just that they are what they are and that is how they must be.
The Corinthian is not a good guy, but I respect his wish for autonomy, just as I am annoyed on Lucienne’s behalf for Corinthian mocking her loyalty. Lucienne doesn’t have to be deferential in this scene, so her real feelings come out.
Brittany: They have a sibling dynamic. Here we are getting a glimpse of who she is outside of that dynamic with Morpheus. And through all of her conversations with Dream, and now with the Corinthian, it’s evident that she has just lost a ton of people, creatures and beings and probably hasn’t had much interaction with anyone for years. So even the worst of the worst shows up, she is like “Oh good, you’re back.” (– said no one ever to the Corinthian.)
Natalie: Oh my God. But yeah. Kind of. Corinthian thinks the worst of Dream, and I think that there was probably validity to it. Dream’s failings are plentiful. But these two kind of represent the black and white ends of the spectrum — in this case the white being the “bad” judgment, and Lucienne, in black, the overly positive one. (This show puts all the white-hats in black.) They’re both very like You Don’t Know The Real Him to each other, but The Corinthian’s last lines, the words that close the episode… “You can’t change him. You can’t save him,” are a rather awful promise.
Brittany: Her saying he’s not here at the moment, but he is coming back. Crushing. Truly very different ideas of Dream here.
Natalie: Do you think it sows doubt in her? Honestly she’s probably told herself the worst too and pushed the thoughts away.
Brittany: I don’t think so. Dream did come back. He is focused on regaining his full power. She saw that devastation all over his face, the interactions with Gregory, the delivery of the egg. I think if anything she has renewed faith in Dream. This was a test of that faith. I don’t think she was too shaken. I think she knew that Dream would go after him again, and that is what she fears.
Natalie: That’s a good point. We see plenty of just how disturbing the Corinthian is throughout the waking world side of this episode, which catches up with Ethel Cripps over 100 years after she left Burgess, and also with her son, John Dee.
Brittany: Ethel looks absolutely incredible. It’s as if life on the run and finding work as a multimillion dollar rare artifact dealer after stealing from one of the Endless has its perks. Granted, her first two dealings were made to start a new life for her and her son John away from England and the Burgess household. But from the opening standpoint, she seems content, good at what she does, and extremely influential. However, the cost of that life is living in Buffalo, New York in an apartment with a pretty radical security system. Not exactly the hub of business dealings, or nice weather.
The Corinthian finds her in the apartment and basically says, “Time’s up. The Sandman is coming and he’s coming for you.” I like when we see when and where people use which name. The Sandman here is meant to provoke more fear and boogeyman type vibes. Though he does a proper job of putting Ethel on edge, he is about half as good as Dream in terms of getting information. At least he has a better line on who the mother is with the ruby, which is what gets us here in her apartment learning a bit about how a woman who is comfortably in her 100s manages the life she does. We learn that the sand paid for passage, the helm for protection, and the Ruby… more on that in a bit.
The protection comes in the form of an amulet, which has some pretty gruesome capabilities that we only scratch the surface of in this episode. But backing up a bit, what did you think of Ethel’s life here?
Natalie: I think with Ethel, I was quite surprised at the focus of her here. There is a page or two of her in this issue of the comics, but here, the story of Ethel and her son and what Ethel is doing with her life now was quite interesting to me. As was her warmth.
Brittany: I agree that was the most shocking part of it, especially when we get to John Dee. But it’s evident even in the scenes without him.
Natalie: I found her really likable, both in the 1920s and now. Still posh, but I don’t know. There’s something about her. I always enjoy the kind of trope of older or immortal people who have been around long enough to create different identities and run various grifts. Neil loves a grifter.
Brittany: No! That’s shocking.
Natalie: I mean, maybe her dealing of precious goods isn’t all black market, but it probably is. The level of rich-person secret business that never hits the books.
Brittany: I’m not her accountant — thankfully — so regarding the fortune she amassed I’m just going to say, good for her. A woman has to do what she has to do to set up a life for her son while carting around items stolen from a mythical being trapped by her ex. A classic story.
Natalie: She snaps back at Corinthian pretty well when he implies that Dream’s items are what made her successful in her business, which I enjoyed. Exposure to them has kept her looking glamorous, but the rest is all Ethel.
Brittany: Now that Dream is on his scavenger hunt, Ethel realizes that the borrowed time she has been living on is nearly at an end. And her first, and probably only, thought, is her son, John Dee.
Natalie: I was surprised that the Corinthian came to her to ask her to wield the items and take Dream out. Seriously? But it was a good tip off at least! That they’re a target now.
Brittany: He definitely is not in the business of getting stains on his suit. So if Ethel can handle it, why should he be bothered? But that backfires when we get to see the amulet in action. His departure isn’t quite as gruesome as his reconstruction in the Dreaming, I must say.
Natalie: I mean the whole thing is a mess of skin and teeth. The eye effects look great in general, don’t you think?
Brittany: Oh yeah, absolutely awful. I hate it. I think the entire execution of the Corinthian right now is fantastic. Really striding that line of making you want to hang on his every word yet get as far away from him as quickly as possible.
Natalie: He has always been such a huge fan favorite horror character, and canonically he was the reason Dream left the Dreaming in 1916, though I don’t think as many people who know the opening to Sandman know the details of the prequel quite as well. Still, I wasn’t expecting him to see so much action from Boyd Holbrook so early on. This is a huge role! What are you thinking of him hanging around so much? Good addition?
Brittany: I think it sets up something different for the show, for sure. Just as Ethel has the threat of Dream breaking free and coming for her all these years, now the viewer has this plot lurking in the shadows as we move into the search for the sand, the helm, the ruby to run parallel to what we is going to play out as the rest of Preludes and Nocturnes move forward. If it was anyone half as charismatic, I might not love it.
Natalie: He’s very good. And a very complex character in the long run. This must be very interesting to play.
Brittany: It’s one of those insertions where as an actor, you have all that material at your disposal, but how do you bring it into something so early on? I’m sure you have more insight on the actual weaving of this into these stories, but it does shift some dominoes down the line.
Natalie: I’m not sure I have insights exactly, more that they felt he was a good vehicle for helping to deliver information, but I think his contribution to certain themes of the story is big. Like I said, we are getting a whole representation of Dream’s power and creation in the Corinthian, and also the duty Dream has to his creations, and the difficulty of ruling them. He helps keep Dream’s complex struggle as a king at the forefront for me. Rather than me just being like, I wanna hug that angry cat.
Brittany: And we respect that. But also, your palace is a mess, my man.
Natalie: So, how about visiting adult John Dee? This was a lot.
Brittany: It felt very personal for me.
Natalie: Go on.
Brittany: First of all, the casting of David Thewlis — there is no one else who could play this character who, up until this point, was a brown blob of a melting man in a trench coat. When I first read Sandman, not going to lie, I didn’t get into it. At all. I read Preludes and Nocturnes in a class in college and that class was one of the first times I read any type of graphic novel, comic, etc. It was the John Dee arc that really got me to go pause, go back, and try again. Much, much, more on the specifics of that in episode 5.
For the introduction of John Dee in issue #2, there is a two page spread in the midst of Dream being brought back to Dreaming where we take a side jaunt to Arkham and see Mrs. Dee go to visit her son after 8 years. In the book, she doesn’t travel from one side of Buffalo to another, she says she travels 8000 miles. So already, quite a few differences from the Ethel and the John Dee we see on screen. She remained close enough that it would not take an extensive journey to see her son, but she also keeps him locked away from the world.
Ethel arrives and is escorted through what appears to be a maximum security mental health hospital where her business dealings might fund a lot more than his room and board. Much nicer than the basement of Arkham, which does not have the best — or any — health standards.
Natalie: I definitely think the cleanliness added to the sort of… warmth element even if it was, you know, tonally cold colors.
Brittany: Their first interaction, the joy on her face, the brightness of the room, matched against his curt responses. It’s wild.
Natalie: We only see the start of the conversation and I think you’ll have a lot more to say later but this is SUCH a terrific role for Thewlis, people are saying best of his career, and what struck me here, before we visit them again, is the fondness and the fear. This might be on me as a reader, but in the initial comic I took both of these people as sort of evil-cacklers full of malice. That’s so not true here. Ethel, okay, yeah, we didn’t have much to go off. But right away, Dee is broken in a way that seems so much gentler than I expected. I never expected to feel sorry for him, even if it was always true that his bad behavior was from the ruby sending him mad.
Brittany: Yet it accomplishes the same thing! This scene is meant to reflect that something has gone wrong and so wrong that things are happening that would not otherwise be. On the page, it’s the fact that Ethel is visiting at all and that she has grown old, which John notes through the cell. On screen it’s that Ethel is willfully bringing up the ruby with John, a topic that is so off limits. While I agree with your comic interpretation Ethel — we only see her this one last time on the page — I don’t agree with John. I had a fondness for him even on the page. Maybe not the first panel, because, terrifying.
Natalie: That is so interesting to me and I want to know more.
Brittany: Well we need to wait!
Natalie: Well, tell me what you liked about Thewlis as a first impression. What you knew would do your man justice.
Brittany: When the casting was announced, I had no strong feelings. I was intrigued, but like with Dream, I was kind of nervous what they would do costuming wise with him. This man was so gruesome and deteriorated that they could have gone extreme with it. But when David says, “Hello, mum” I was like, nope that’s him. There is this boyish, sheltered man who in Arkham is still very much in his one track mind but it’s his calmness and patience that always set me on edge. David can walk that line, like he can snap at any moment, but if he does it will still be silent. Which is so threatening and I love it.
Natalie: Yes, it felt so little-boy. It definitely was a more sympathetic entrance than I was expecting, and made me feel fascinated. I am glad it worked for you and I can’t wait to hear more about your relationship with the character. I’ll have to read over his issues again with a new light. Because I will admit, I think of him and I think of him being responsible for “24 Hours” and that’s kind of it. And maybe subconsciously I blamed him for falling for the ruby and not putting it aside, but I guess it isn’t his fault.
Brittany: I think in this episode we really only have 2 pages to work with, but on screen I think his tone is perfect. The delivery of “Same as ever. Slightly bored, highly medicated,” in response to “How are you?” is childish but not in a stunted way, in an “I’m annoyed with your presence and you are why I am here” way. It’s a lot to read into, right off the bat, but it tells so, so much. Ethel’s reassurance that it is not a prison but a hospital really made this entire interaction like a seesaw — who is in the right here? The likely answer is that they are both wrong, but it is so loaded.
Natalie: It feels like another “It’s not fair” situation- like Morpheus taking Gregory – that like, yeah, it’s not fair but what else can be done? In terms of his imprisonment due to his mind being unsafe. It isn’t fair, she knows it isn’t fair, probably blames herself, but… what else can you do? I really love how it all continues in later episodes and am keen to discuss with you — am I remembering correctly that you did a paper on “24 Hours?”
Brittany: Yes, there is a smattering of John Dee before “24 Hours,” one interaction which is absolutely incredible in the Audible production. And yes, I did indeed write a paper on this. There is a great moment where she asks him what his doctors are saying, how therapy is going, and he replies, “Is that your way of asking me if I’ve forgiven you?” Listen, there was a lot to write when I just had the comic. I’m not going to lie, I almost just went straight ahead and watched “24/7” before any other episode. I didn’t, and I’m glad I made that choice because I think these interactions color the character a lot more.
Natalie: Time for another paper.
Brittany: I don’t have time for the proper psych classes I would need to do it justice, but alas, there’s a lot here.
Natalie: There will be a lot more to get through with these two coming up…
Brittany: What I liked most about these expanded moments with John and his mother definitely changed the light in which I see this John Dee, but not the comic. It’s an interesting separation!
Natalie: I think it’s an example of the way that maybe the comic constraints page-wise didn’t have time to give everyone this level of roundedness, but also in complicating the “villainy” of what’s known as one of Sandman’s worst horrors, in “24 Hours.” People were dreading that episode.
Brittany: I was an outlier there.
Natalie: Setting up Dee and his baggage here more deeply, that kind of adds weight to watching it on screen. It certainly helps add to justifying his fate with Dream, in a way. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. We have another John to deal with before we get there – or rather, now, a Johanna.
Brittany: Johanna Constantine. The hunt for the tools is officially underway…
‘The Sandman’ season 1 is out now on Netflix
Read our other episode reviews so far:
‘The Sandman’ episode 3 in conversation: ‘Dream a Little Dream of Me’
‘The Sandman’ episode 4 in conversation: ‘A Hope in Hell’
‘The Sandman’ episode 5 in conversation: ’24/7′