“The savagery of my capture’s spoke a word whose dreams in my absence turned darker still. A world which will soon be at war again.”
Netflix’s “The Sandman” indeed is one multifaceted, charming story. However, while its origin and a huge part of its significance lie within the comic, as a viewer with no knowledge (not a fan of comics, sorry!) of the said comic, my understanding was rather sublunary.
The series begins with “Sleep of the Just”,—presenting two rather contrasting scenarios. One where Dream lord Morpheus is leaving his realm of “the dreaming” for “the waking world”, AKA earth, when Lucienne, librarian of the dreaming says—”As powerful as you are here in your realm, Dreams rarely survive in the waking world. Nightmares, on the other hand, seem to thrive there.” Morpheus is visiting to destroy one of his nightmares, “the Corinthian” who, upon escaping, seems to have planned on ruling the human realm.
Meanwhile, another scenario unfolds in the waking world wherein a desperate father who is also an aggressive, power-hungry cult leader is determined to enslave “death” in the hope of reviving his dead son. Both the scenes are different depictions of owners of powers—while the divine upon which our faith resides for safety and security is trying to honour the same, in our realm, another human leader is also focused on capturing another divine for his personal gains.
Eventually, the dream is enslaved instead of death, and we see how a father’s grief transcends into asking for powers of ‘immortality’, ‘eternal youth’, and ‘manipulation of the fellow human mind’. And dream uttering “he pleaded for gifts that are neither mankind’s to receive nor mine to give” In respect to mortal delusions.
The plot then runs on many dynamics of power, the desire to rule and dominate from the perspective of one’s status—secular or spiritual. But most interestingly, I looked at it as a critic of mortal victory; their savage need to dominate not only the human world but all things beyond as well!
Then there’s the human need to play God in being a better human, as it is in the episode “24/7”.
In the beginning, we learn how the dream’s captor took away his three weapons, and his “ruby” came to be acquired and transferred from a mother to her son, John Dee. The question is—what or who threatens its consumption more? Why/how is the human mind that calls out on our world’s corruptions, that dreams to transform it into a truer form, ultimately trying to be a mortal god?
John initially befriends a rather kind stranger; their conversation marks the difference in perspective of our own acts and their respective justification. Soon John decides on a 24/7 dinner as the site for his world transformation- a truer but sadder world, one where truth is necessarily more devastating than liberating.
Where endings are bloody, and the true human nature is brutal, savage, and each one deserving of the same brutalities that they inflict. But what surrounds John’s truer world is his presence as “the god”—the honesty obsessed, damnatory, unforgiving, dominating but ‘saving-the-world-from-lies’ God. Most importantly, the urge to defeat the ‘holy’—to become the new undefeatable using their weapons against them.
There’s a screaming thought of the mortal realm as defined by the ‘dominated’ and ‘the dominating’. Although our faith and hopes are upon the unexplained parts of the spiritual, the human will to capture even that is undeniable. Episode 11, “Dream of a Thousand Cats; Calliope”, makes it evident. Domestication is justification for dominating the animal world, where cats, as pets, dream of ruling the world instead. Struggling authors enslave, abuse, defile, and trade goddesses for decades until they can escape.
The Sandman, for me, is, therefore, a rather unveiling series that brings out our human need to ‘take over’ everything! And our advances as a civilization over the ages seem to overwhelm even immortal divinities. In fact, a war where mortal instincts nearly win. Where humans can and do enslave the higher powers, if not forever, then for decades.
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Where they themselves need ethereal objects procured from demons of hell to be safe from fellow humans. Where ultimately, freedom of the divine will rely on mortal mercy or unconscious mistakes, as was Morpheus’s escape.
Lastly, the representation of ‘dream’ and ‘death’—dream being a coalesce of overpowering nightmares and less effective achievable aspirations is an irascible person, whereas contrary to popular belief, death as the inescapable is still affectionate. Not to forget, the show begins with mortal attempts to ‘own’ death, indeed!
At the same time, our realm will not lose its gravity as a whirlpool of unexperienced corporeal emotions that draws nightmares and dreams alike to leave their purpose and visit us—to live among us and be us.
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Featured image source: Variety