December 1, 2022

Gabbing Geek

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The Sandman “A Hope In Hell”

Season One, Episode Four.

I said in the previous episode’s write-up that I had my doubts about the casting of Jenna Coleman as Johnna Constantine.  Well, for the record, I never had any doubts about Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer Morningstar, and that isn’t just because I never saw more than the pilot of the Fox series loosely based on this character’s spin-off series.

I mean, from what little I saw of Lucifer and having read the series, it is very loosely based on that character.

However, here she is as the devil, and she, like so much of the rest of the cast, is perfect in the role.

I remember the issue this episode is based on pretty well, mostly because the duel between Morphues and the demon isn’t any sort of physical confrontation.  It’s a unique way of setting up how Dream of Endless deals with problems, and it isn’t through a fistfight.  In the comic, he tosses one minor demon barring his path aside, and that’s about the extent of it.  Dream fights, when he fights, with ideas.  The confrontation here, though showing both Lucifer and Morpheus reacting to physical damage based on their verbal descriptions of what they are doing is an interesting twist, but the concept is still the same.

Point is, the duel largely works in a somewhat scaled down way.

But that’s now what I want to focus on:  episodes like this basically are there to establish the rules, quite literally.  Who wrote the rules?  No one says one way or the other, but there are a lot of rules.  Morpheus has gone to Hell to get his helm.  His only companion is Matthew, an excellent dramatic device to explain how things are done since he’s new to this level of existence and is largely surprised there is a Hell and it’s rather cold.

It’s creepy too.  Good special effects work there, especially since I’d wager the filming was just Tom Sturridge walking around a greenscreen room with maybe a stunt man to stand in for his demon escort.

That said, the trip through Hell is there to firmly establish even more that Morpheus believes in following these rules and he’s not a gentle soul.  There’s a former lover down there, a human woman, that he tossed into Hell for what is eventually revealed to be the crime of breaking his heart.  Does that deserve millennia of demonic torment?  Of course not, and the audience needs to get that even if Dream is the protagonist, that’s doesn’t make him benevolent.  Then again, part of the point of the series was to show his learning how to be more flexible with the rules and maybe become a less distant and cold being.  Heck, in many ways, it’s about Morpheus growing up since he comes across as a petulant teenager quite a bit, some moody kid who lashes out when he doesn’t get his way, especially to those who can’t exactly strike back.

Basically, it means he can punish the likes of Matthew or the Corinthian, but he wouldn’t dare lay a finger on Lucifer unless the rules allowed him to.

Cripes, I think I just described Morpheus as a bit of a bully.

That said, is he any better than John Dee?  Dee has that amulet of protection, and his story has changed quite a bit, and in welcome ways, from the source material.  Now he has what might best be described as a simple black-and-white morality, one where he basically just hates liars.  He’s not really killing anyone onscreen directly.  It’s just that anyone who tries to hurt him in some way finds the harm rebounded back to themselves.  But Dee’s beliefs in good and bad people don’t seem that different from Morpheus’s adherence to the rules in certain respects.  For both figures, you either follow the rules or you don’t.  There’s no in-between.  Sure, this Dee will give his protective amulet to the terrified woman who drove him around, but it’s still clear he has a very basic moral code.  And since he still has control of the Sandman’s ruby, well, I guess I’ll see how that turns out.

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