June 16, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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The Sandman “Playing House”

Season One, Episode Eight

Wait, did I say that this series probably wasn’t going to do anything with the Jack Kirby version of the Sandman?  Because it turns out I was very wrong.

Sometimes I like to be wrong.

That said, I am less pleased when I observed that the actress playing Lyta may not be the only one giving a less-than-pleasing performance here, and it hit me why:  it’s all the actors playing ordinary people.  The Endless, the magically-gifted, all of them, they’re doing OK.  But the regular mortals getting sucked up in the wake of everything that’s happening…yeah, I’m not feeling it.  I don’t know if it’s the acting or the writing (it is still very Gaiman-esque), but something isn’t working for me too well.

But by this point, the story has made some noteworthy changes.  I noted last time that Morpheus is hunting for three errant dreams instead of four, and while the season seems to be setting up the Corinthian as some sort of Big Bad, something that will seem kinda silly if Morpheus just deals with him as easily as he did in the original comics, I did like what they did with the other nightmare.  I had assumed that the character would be just out terrifying people.  They weren’t going the route from the original series where Hector Hall, despite being dead, was going through the motions created by Kirby’s adventures just so they wouldn’t have to go back to the Dreaming.

Here, the nightmare, a shapeshifter, stayed behind to be the only comfort for an abused child by playing superhero in the boy’s dreams, hence the Kirby Sandman stuff.

That…I did not see coming.

I think there’s a good deal of validity to something like that.  Being a nightmare in the Dreaming doesn’t automatically make the being a monster.  Being a nightmare is more or a role or a job.  This being, Gault, has to be a scary dream to represent the primal fears humanity has.  She isn’t really allowed to be anything else according to the rules.  The second Corinthian is another example from the comics.  He looked just like the first one, but he was a loyal citizen of the Dreaming who just happened to be the sort of scary tracker guy that Lord Morpheus might have to dispatch from time to time anyway for special assignments.

It occurs to me as I type this that people not living up to the expectations and roles that they were given when they were born could make a nice allegory to what it means to be a trans person, something the original comics tried to do a bit awkwardly in their original run and that, I hope, is handled a bit better with perspective if/when that storyline gets adapted.

Still, Gault’s telling Morpheus that the rules are too confining is the sort of thing that is basically the whole theme of the Sandman story writ large.  Morpheus believes in rules.  Who wrote them?  Who knows?  Morpheus lives by them, and so do all his subjects.  Arguably, Gault and the Corinthian committed the same violation by disobeying the rules.  The only real difference is one of intention:  Gault did it to try and help a defenseless child while the Corinthian just wants to hurt people.

And boy does he hurt people here.  The series has only been implying he murders people, but for the most part, he hasn’t done a whole lot of that on-screen.  This episode chalks up three more victims, all in an effort to get Jed Walker as leverage to use against Morpheus since his sister Rose is the Dream Vortex.

Yeah, I think I am gonna enjoy it when he gets his comeupance.