Spoilers below for The Sandman, so be warned if you haven't yet watched!
The Sandman quickly shot to the top of Netflix’s Top 10 rankings upon its long-awaited release, with the streaming adaptation at last bringing Neil Gaiman’s seminal DC Comics series to life after years of unsuccessful attempts. The well-deserved attention stems in large part from Gaiman himself co-developing the series alongside fellow executive producers David S. Goyer and showrunner Allan Heinberg, with all the attention possible dedicated to preserving as much of the source material as possible in the transition from page to screen. And for the award-winning comic writer and novelist, one episode in particular stood out as the biggest payoff in finally bringing The Sandman into live-action.
Neil Gaiman and Allan Heinberg spoke with CinemaBlend and other press ahead of The Sandman’s debut for Netflix subscribers, and they both had much to say about the streaming series being an idealized iteration that likely couldn’t have been accomplished in past years, given the scope of it all. As seen above, when I asked Gaiman what the biggest payoff was for him from the start of the process to seeing it in its finalized form, he didn’t hesitate before explaining why the sixth episode, “The Sound of Her Wings,” had such an emotional impact. In his words:
As comic readers are aware, Episode 6 is an astonishingly faithful combination of issues #8 and #13 of the comics, and it’s one that absolutely tugs at one’s heartstrings throughout, though in ways that weren’t so much soul-crushing as soul-uplifting. Which isn’t necessarily what one might expect from an installment that’s half-filled with Death, Kirby Howell-Baptiste’s empathy-oozing Endless, delivering final moments for a line of one-off characters.
Meanwhile, the other half of the episode focused on a centuries-strong friendship between Tom Sturridge’s Dream and Ferdinand Kingsley’s Hob Gadling, whose everlasting survival was spawned by him just outright refusing to succumb to death. (Or Death, as it were.) Neither case is an exact recipe for how to create an unforgettable slice of entertainment, but such as it goes with any Neil Gaiman project.
Neil Gaiman praised the attention to detail given to the “Men of Good Fortune” side of the episode, which balanced the real world of Death’s journey with a constantly changing setting that spanned hundreds of years. Here’s how he continued:
It'd be one thing if The Sandman's production process involved tons of CGI work for its settings, but just about every location that viewers see on the screen is completely authentic and created for the show, with digital effects kept to a minimum. But just as impressive than any of the settings, if not more so, is the wildly calming performance from the always excellent Kirby Howell-Baptiste.
On that note, Neil Gaiman continued with much high praise for how Howell-Baptiste embodied Death for the series, particularly with her soothing portrayal in Episode 6. Here's how the comic co-creator described her work:
Rarely have I agreed with anything as much as I side with Neil Gaiman's belief that Kirby Howell-Baptiste's Death is what should be there at the end of the metaphorical road for everyone. (Not to mention that it was worth all the efforts to make sure she ended up in The Sandman’s ensemble cast.) That might not be the takeaway that fans go into The Sandman looking for, but it's certainly there in full when all is said and done, as is the desire to see way way more of Gwendoline Christie’s superb take on Lucifer.
The Sandman’s 10-episode first season is currently available to stream in full on Netflix, and comic fans have no doubt been rewatching to catch all the awesome details. Head to our 2022 TV premiere schedule to see everything else popping up on the small screen in the months to come.
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Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper. Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.