The Sandman Bonus Episode TV REVIEW: Our dreams and nightmares, come to life.


One Thousand Cats dreamed this was still the banner, and here it is!

Last week, on the world's Number 1 show, the story of Rose Walker, The Vortex of Dreaming, reached its epic conclusion! As Rose's powers peaked, she came dangerously close to destroying reality as we know it... then, Dream finally put the Corinthian in his place, Gilbert's true nature was revealed, and revelations from Rose's family tree made a few things very clear. All told, it was one HELL of a finale!


But, it's far from the end of Dream's tale... so, now, we have a cheeky surprise for you all! As we return for a bonus episode, featuring two of the most well known and loved one-off tales, from The Sandman's many awesome short stories.


Nyan

First, we have "Dream Of A Thousand Cats". This delightfully animated short tells the story of a young kitten, who sneaks out of their house to attend a meeting with a wandering prophet. Who is also a cat. This Cat Prophet tells of her journey to the heart of The Dreaming, to speak to Dream of Cats, and find out how to set the world to rights.


I remember, when this episode first aired, I tried to use it to convince a friend of mine to start watching the show (It worked, she loved the series. Score!). But, jokingly, knowing this episode was coming, I told her not to let her cat watch Episode 11. This backfired somewhat, as she got rather worried that it would be an unfriendly episode towards cats, and as an animal lover she might not want to watch it. So, yeah, that backfired, a little bit. Thankfully, once she got around to actually watching the episode (without her cat!) she loved it as much as I did.


This is mostly due to Sandra Oh's amazing performance as The Prophet, as this episode is 90% narration, and if you don't have a strong voice to carry the episode, it easily could have fallen flat. But, as with every other role in this show, the casting agents hit it out of the park and Sandra Oh takes us on quite the journey, as we wander through a beautifully animated dreamscape, to an adorable but oddly ominous end.


This episode also features the voice talents of David Tennant & Michael Sheen, because it's now written into his contract that those two have to be in every show Papa Neil makes.


Another perfect case of "Context makes this image horrible"

Our second tale is "Calliope", the story of struggling author Richard Madoc and the horrific lengths he goes to, to avoid the dreaded blank white page.


Are you ready to have your mind blown? Because that's exactly what I'm about to do, I'm going to blow it WIDE open.


I'm about to write a sentence, which has never been written before. And will in all likelyhood, never be written again.


"This was a good show, but Arthur Darvill kinda dragged it down."


BOOM. An impossible sentence, which has never been said before. Because it never needs to be said, because Arthur Darvill is one of the most consistently amazing actors on Television. Taking on the lead role in this second tale, Darvill plays Richard Madoc, who has published one VERY successful book, and has now run out of ideas. So, he trades a lump of gross hair to Derek Jacobi in exchange for one of the Muses, namely Calliope. From there, everything gets pretty awesome for Ric (he changes his name to Ric, because he's the fucking worst) and pretty horrific for everyone else.


It's one of the darkest stories in The Sandman, which says a lot when you realise this series features multiple trips to hell and at least three instances of infanticide.


This is yet another in the catalogue of "Stories in The Sandman that people wanted to see, but also REALLY didn't want to see." so, naturally, a lot of people were questioned exactly how this show was going to bring certain scenes, to the screen... but we needn't have worried. It seems the clever, clever people at The Sandman have mastered the art of 'less is more' and taken to heart Stephen King's lesson, that the most horrific scenes are the ones that aren't shown.


This culminates is quite possibly one of the most chilling and unsettling scenes in the first season of The Sandman:


Richard sits at his desk, staring at the horrors of a blank white page. He gets a call from his agent saying he HAS to send his publishers something, or he's totally screwed... now, he has no choice.


He disappears upstairs, we hear him talking to Calliope, then nothing.


The scene begins again, focused on Richard's hands FLYING over the keyboard. He's writing like a man possessed.


The camera pans up to his face, and you see a single scratch, on his cheek.


Without a word said, without any unnecessary and potentially upsetting scenes, we know EVERYTHING that has just happened and it's horrifying. The implications are more than enough, and we spared any of the more R-rated scenes from the comic, while still knowing that Richard has crossed that line.


It's an absolutely perfect scene, and I genuinely think it's one of the best single shots I've ever seen.


Something else hit me though, on this second viewing.


So, Calliope is one of the muses. She inspired works that have captured the minds of readers thousands of years after their creation, created some of the most enduring stories ever told...


And yes, Erasmus Fry, who captured her and eventually sold her to Ric, says his works have fallen out of favour, within his own lifetime. And even with Ric, we see that while his work has mass appeal, there are many that don't seem to be as appreciative of his work.


And then, we have Calliope herself, who says that to gain the favour of The Muses you must worship them, follow them, and await their gifts.


So, I can't help but think, given how Fry and Madoc took those gifts, rather than acquiring them the right way, did they receive a weaker version? Did their stolen talent create lesser works, because they didn't gain those blessings in the way it was intended? You have to wonder, if Fry hadn't been such a monster, would his work still have been enjoyed, the way Homer's epics are, to this day?


Just something that came to me, and I thought I'd share.


If you want to continue your journey through The Dreaming, don't forget to spam Netflix until they #RenewSandman!


RECOMMENDED READING:


For the bonus episodes, check out:


The Sandman Volume 3: Dream Country. (1990, by Neil Gaiman, Kelley Jones, Charles Vess, & Colleen Doran)


 

Taheg Gloder is a Freelance Copywriter from England. Obsessed with comics and Manga since his teens, he now splits his time between writing comic reviews and retrospectives for POP, and doing reactions on his YouTube Channel, The Dragon & The Hound. He lives alone, because he’s a hermit.

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