7 Things to Know About The Sandman, Netflix’s Buzziest New Fantasy Series

Netflix's The Sandman has been more than 30 years in the making. Find out if it was worth the wait.

While there’s no shortage of amazing TV shows on Apple TV+, Peacock and Hulu right now, if you’re a fantasy fan or just looking for an incredibly addictive new show to watch, Netflix is the place you’ll want to be. That’s because The Sandman, based on the beloved graphic novels by Neil Gaiman, finally premiered on the streamer on Aug. 5. We say “finally” because an adaptation of this cult classic has been planned and plotted since the first book came out in 1989 but faced decades of failed development deals and rejected scripts. But now, Netflix’s The Sandman has done the seemingly impossible, and it’s currently one of the top TV shows on Netflix.

With a perfectly assembled cast, including actor Tom Sturridge in the lead role of the immortal character Dream—complete with the dark, tousled hair and sharp cheekbones of his comic-book counterpart—this book turned TV show has viewers pretty much losing their minds. In the week of its release, it was the most-watched show, logging a whopping 69.5 million viewing hours in its first three days.

Intrigued? You should be. Only time will tell if The Sandman makes it onto our list of the best TV shows of all time, but in the meantime, here’s everything you need to know about it, from its plot and how it differs from the books it’s based on to why you’re probably going to be obsessed with it.

What’s The Sandman on Netflix about?

The Sandman tells the story of a godlike entity named Dream who controls—you guessed it—the dreams and nightmares of all humanity. And he’s just one member of a family known as the Endless, made up of seven siblings: Death, Desire, Despair, Destiny, Delirium, Destruction and Dream, each embodying the idea they represent. Like most families, the siblings don’t always get along or agree, but some of them have formed alliances.

When the series opens, Dream has been held captive for nearly a century by a crazed occultist, and as a result, earth has been thrown into chaos. Millions have become afflicted with “the sleepy sickness” and simply never awake from their sleep, while others are cursed to sleepwalk, literally, through their lives. When Dream eventually escapes from his prison, he realizes that the dreams and nightmares he once controlled are now out living among the human world. Now it’s up to him to fix the situation. In the process, he tangles with Lucifer, ruler of Hell, as well as demon hunter Johanna Constantine.

Where can I watch The Sandman?

The Sandman is streaming exclusively on Netflix—and the streamer paid a pretty penny for it. How much did the series cost to make? Reportedly a whopping $165 million for the first season alone, with some episodes costing $15 million apiece. Netflix, of course, is no stranger to spending big bucks on its headlining shows. Season 4 of Stranger Things reportedly cost $30 million per episode, while The Crown costs around $260 million per season. Speaking of which, here’s what to expect from Season 5 of The Crown, including when it drops.

How many episodes of The Sandman are there?

Season 1 consists of 10 episodes, with each episode anywhere from 37 to 54 minutes. They were all released on Aug. 5, so you can binge-watch the whole series right now. When you’re done with The Sandman, Netflix has plenty of other series to chill with, of course, including the best classic TV shows, Korean dramas and sitcoms.

Who’s in the cast of The Sandman?

the sandmanCourtesy Netflix

Many of the actors who appear in The Sandman are classic “Hey, it’s that guy!” character actors, while others are likely to become much bigger stars thanks to the show’s massive appeal. Tom Sturridge, who previously starred in the Starz series Sweetbitter, as well as HBO Max’s Irma Vep, stars as Dream. Kirby Howell-Baptiste, who costarred in The Good Place, plays Death, while Boyd Holbrook (who you might recognize from Narcos and Logan) is deliciously evil as the Corinthian, one of Dream’s nightmares come to life.

Fans of the comic books will notice that several characters have swapped genders for the TV series: Most notably, John Constantine is now Johanna Constantine and is played by Dr. Who star Jenna Coleman, and Lucifer is played by Game of Thrones star Gwendoline Christie. Actors David Thewlis, Stephen Fry and Joely Richardson also appear in the series.

And you might recognize a few famous voices too: Matthew the Raven is voiced by Patton Oswalt, the comedian who has starred in everything from The King of Queens to Ratatouille (he was Remy the Rat). And then there’s Merv Pumpkinhead, the Dreaming Realm’s janitor who literally has a pumpkin for a head. He’s voiced by Mark Hamill—yes, that Mark Hamill, of Luke Skywalker fame.

How closely does The Sandman follow the book series?

Unlike, say, Bridgerton season 2, which is based entirely on one of Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton novels, the first season of The Sandman on Netflix combines elements from the first 16 comics in Gaiman’s book series. Eagle-eyed fans of the comics will notice that certain scenes are out of order or have been omitted, but overall, the Netflix series is a faithful retelling of Dream’s story as it’s laid out in the first two volumes of the comics.

There are a few notable exceptions, though. The Sandman comics are an imprint of DC Comics, and early on they even featured DC mainstays like Batman and Arkham Asylum as part of their story. In an attempt to distance itself from the DC superhero universe, there’s no mention of anything that could definitively tie Netflix’s The Sandman to DC.

Also, as mentioned, several characters’ genders or aesthetics have changed from their comic book depictions, including Johanna Constantine, who replaces the much-beloved character John Constantine (who also happens to be the star of a spinoff comic book series and two films starring Keanu Reeves). In the comics, John Constantine is a skilled magician and occultist who works with Dream to find items (totems) that were lost while he was held captive.

Was Neil Gaiman involved in The Sandman TV show?

Gaiman is the author of The Sandman comic book series, and he has adapted several of his other books, including Good Omens and American Gods, into successful TV shows. After finding success with those series, Gaiman became actively involved in developing and creating Netflix’s The Sandman, and he is credited as the writer of the first episode.

Over the years, Gaiman has said that he “distanced [himself] from Sandman adaptations” that were being developed, because they weren’t quite right in his mind. In press materials for the show, Gaiman explained, “This adaptation is the first time that I’ve been willing to come on board. … For well over 30 years, my part in Sandman adaptations was just to try and stop bad ones from happening.”

More recent technological advances in filmmaking gave Gaiman more confidence that the final product would meet his standards. “Longer-format, novelistic television series now have the special effects and budgets to bring this world to life,” he said. “Technologically, I really think we’re in a place right now where we’re getting to make Sandman in a way that we could not have dreamed of making even 15 years ago, even 10 years ago.” This may bode well for your other favorite fantasy books that haven’t yet made it to the small screen.

Will there be a second season of The Sandman?

While a second season has not been officially green-lit by Netflix yet, things are certainly looking good, at least in terms of viewership numbers. Plus, one of the show’s producers, David S. Goyer, has said that scripts for season 2 are already being written.

And if everything goes well, there’s plenty of source material for many seasons to come. The Sandman spanned 75 issues that have since been compiled into 10 volumes. As noted earlier, season 1 covers just the first two volumes, Preludes and Nocturnes and The Doll’s House. 

What shows are like The Sandman?

The Sandman‘s fantasy elements tell a story unlike any other on TV at the moment. Pairing glossy special effects and a big budget with Gaiman’s richly layered, fantastical story gives the series a dark, moody vibe that’s feels unique and somehow timeless. While the series feels like a true original, there are a few shows that it reminds us of.

Netflix’s Lucifer is based on the Lucifer character that also appears in The Sandman comics. Though the character is played in the new Sandman series by Gwendoline Christie, in Lucifer, he is played by Tom Ellis. Both characters are based on the same source material (and some fans were disappointed that Ellis was not cast as Lucifer in The Sandman), but Lucifer is a much lighter, more comedic take on the demon and asks the question, “What would happen if Lucifer came to Los Angeles and opened a nightclub?”

While The Sandman features a world where sleep and dreaming have been manipulated, See, one of the signature shows on Apple TV+, which is about to premiere its final season, also features a fantasy world. But instead of a distorted dream world, See depicts a dystopian future where everyone is blind and the last humans on earth battle one another for their survival.

And then, of course, there’s Constantine. The NBC series lasted only one season, but it also featured the story of The Sandman‘s demon hunter John Constantine. You can watch it on Amazon Prime Video.

Sources:

  • Den of Geek: “How Netflix’s The Sandman Brings the Neil Gaiman Masterpiece to Life”
  • CBR.com: “Netflix’s Sandman Series Has an Astronomical Budget”
  • Netflix: “Meet the Dreamy (and Sometimes Nightmarish) Cast of ‘The Sandman’”

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Liz Kocan
Liz Kocan has over 20 years of writing and editing experience, contributing to numerous lifestyle and culture publications including USA Today, Vulture, VH1, Reader’s Digest, Decider, and SheKnows. Her interests include burritos, watching television, and serial commas.