Among the many things impressive about the adaptation of The Sandman, something that impressed me even before the series came out was the cast. That said, there was one I was somewhat wary about, and she makes her first appearance here.
Yeah, there was a really impressive cast to this series, and I’m just going mostly off the actors I’ve heard of. Of the rest, I have no complaints. David Thewlis is a great actor for the nervous and unwell John Dee. Yes, he’s not quite the Justice League foe Dr. Destiny, but he’s a distinct character with his own set of troubles instead. Joely Richardson likewise is a great choice for Dee’s mother. About the only recognizable actor I am a little wary of, it is oddly enough Patton Oswalt as the voice of Matthew the raven. Something about it seems a little weird, but it might just be because he’s got a distinctively American accented voice in a cast that so far hasn’t had too many of those since they seem to be, you know, British.
But then there’s Jenna Coleman.
Now, when the announcement came out, I did recognize Coleman’s face and all, but I hadn’t seen her Doctor Who work yet. But by the time The Sandman came to Netflix, I certainly had. So, setting aside that Coleman’s Clara was one of the more, shall we say, divisive companions in Doctor Who‘s long history, was there anything to this character that made me think she could play a female version of John Constantine?
Not in the slightest, no. She was the girl-next-door type with an adventurous streak and zero chemistry with Peter Capaldi. For that, I am generally more inclined to blame the writers and producers of Doctor Who as even the best actors can only do so much with the scripts they are given. And while I am very much not a fan of Clara as a character since she didn’t seem to serve any real purpose other than being this cute girl–I mean, Coleman is an attractive woman and it’s not like I’m blind or something–but there’s nothing to Clara that might make a Constantine. Likewise, I understand Coleman went on to play a young Queen Victoria after she left Doctor Who, once again not a role that sounds like it has a lot in common with anyone named Constantine.
Now, I’m going to assume there may have been some rights issues when it came to using John, otherwise Matt Ryan probably would have happily played the role as he has more or less everywhere since first getting cast for a short-lived TV series and then on into the Arrowverse, various animated works, and even an episode of Harley Quinn. And even then, well, rights issues. Johanna Constantine did appear as one of John’s more upper class ancestors in The Sandman, so it made sense to reuse that name anyway. Regardless of all that, especially as the series is still recreating the early, weaker issues, how did Coleman do as notable asshole John (or Johanna) Constantine?
She did fine actually.
True, she looks a little too cute to be someone who at first glance looks like a lowlife sorcerer, but appearances aren’t everything, and she more than holds her own in her scenes. Granted, I haven’t seen her in anything but Doctor Who, but this was some pretty fine acting for Coleman.
Maybe it just goes to show what happens when you give an actor a good character to play.
As for the plot, the series is still basically in set-up mode. John Dee gains his mother’s amulet and she dies without it, but then a few security guards likewise die when they try to stop him. The Corinthian gives him a helping hand outside the asylum, but Morpheus meanwhile has managed to retrieve his bag of sand from Johanna’s ex-girlfriend before helping the poor woman experience a peaceful death. He even eventually decides to more or less accept Matthew’s assistance.
Now he just needs to go to Hell.