OK, honestly, I was a little nervous about watching this one. While the comic series The Sandman was at least originally billed as a horror series, I never really thought it was all that scary…except for the issue that served as the basis of this episode.
Then again, it was also the issue where, arguably, the series finally hit its stride and became the series everyone who became a fan remembers today. Will this adaptation do the same?
OK, as far as whether or not the adaptation is as gruesome as the comic version…not quite. Instead, it goes in a way I think might be far more appropriate for this series and makes the horror completely psychological by having John Dee do one relatively small thing to the people inside a small diner: he makes them stop lying.
On the surface and at first blush, that doesn’t sound so bad. The waitress, the last victim, even thinks it sounds downright pleasant when Dee first says he’s going to do it. For myself, I figured it meant people would stop telling the little white lies that everyone probably tells at one point in time or another for the sake of maybe getting along with others without hurting feelings or ourselves in ways that are ultimately probably harmless. I remember an uncle of mine, who has since passed on, used to loan me copies of various sci-fi and fantasy magazines, and I distinctly remember one story about how people always knowing exactly what you mean could end with the world in chaos.
In the story, God came down to Earth and manifested next to a very wealthy man. God’s a bit frustrated, and he isn’t too happy when the rich guy asks to buy Jupiter. So, God decides to do the reverse of the Tower of Babel and make it so everyone always understood each other. So, no more different languages? Why is that a punishment? It soon becomes obvious when everyone, including numerous characters that the story’s POV character had met along the way, said exactly what they meant in a accent-free tone. Fairly harmless sounding things like a taxi driver with a pleasant demeanor and a Jamaican accent or a St. Patrick’s Day parade soon gave way to recriminations, accusations no one could deny even if they were only subconsciously true, and a lot of violence and mayhem. That’s the sort of stuff I expected from this episode when it became clear that John Dee wanted total honestly, and while there is a bit of that, there’s also something else that is dramatically and thematically important to who and what Morpheus is.
See, Morpheus is the Lord of the Dreaming but also the King of Stories. So, what happens when not only do people stop lying to each other, but they stop lying to themselves?
What, in the grand scheme of things, is the difference between a dream of, say, becoming a published author despite a lack of talent or the sort of luck or hard work that actually gets work professionally published, and a lie?
What does it mean when a husband stops telling himself he isn’t resentful of his wife’s success?
What happens when someone gets mad enough to commit murder and then doesn’t want to believe they legitimately wanted to kill someone?
Yeah, that’s the sort of world John Dee wants.
That’s a far cry from the original story where Dr. Destiny used the Sandman’s ruby to take control of a diner full of people and made them do stuff for his general entertainment as they gradually killed themselves. Yeah, this adaptation of the diner encounter includes many of those same acts of violence, much of it self-inflicted (in the sense that Dee is coercing people into committing these acts on themselves), and it isn’t the sort of thing that Morpheus can just wipe away afterwards, even when he gets all his power back, but the difference is noteworthy.
Anyhoo, making the effects more the people doing things that they maybe always wanted to do on a subconscious level and not just the work of a disfigured supervillain that everyone somehow overlooked may make the story even scarier on some level. However, it ends the same way.
And lookee there…there’s Desire. It’s gotta be Desire. Desire…I will say more about Desire in the future, but always good to see them pop up in something like this.