‘The Sandman’ Expected Storyline & Characters, Explained: Who Were The Endless? [Spoilers]


“The Sandman,” the upcoming Netflix series, is directed by Jamie Childs, Andres Baiz, Louise Hooper, Mairzee Almas, Mike Barker, Coralie Fargeat, and Hisko Hulsing. It is based on the characters conceptualized by Neil Gaimen, David S. Goyer and Allen Heinberg and published by DC Comics. A lot of prominent characters were unveiled in the latest trailer, and the fans are anticipating an epic showdown. So let’s take a dive into the fictional world of “The Sandman” and try to grasp its complexities and basic concepts.

Disclaimer: The information is based on Neil Gaiman’s graphic novels. There are major spoilers in the article.

Who Were The Endless?

The Endless, as mentioned in the “The Sandman” graphic novels, were the concepts, ideas, psychological notions, natural forces, or complex experiences of a conscious mind that were personified into human form and formed a part of the same family. The 7 Endless siblings, namely: Destiny, Death, Dream, Destruction, Desire, Despair, and Delirium, were children of Night and Time. Each one had its own characteristics and attributes. While some were ethical in their approach and were committed to their duties, some lurked in the shadows and tried to find a loophole to act “ultra vires” and trick the others. Though they were siblings, not everybody was on good terms with each other. They were like a dysfunctional family, where each had some issue with the other. Desire, for example, was known to play its own petty tricks. Dream a.k.a Morpheus, who is also the protagonist of the Sandman series, often had issues with his younger sibling Desire. Time and again, he had warned Desire to not manipulate human beings, as it was not ethical to do so, but it had little or no effect on them. Each sibling had their own realm, over which they had complete authority. The Endless were not Gods or Demigods, but rather embodiments of natural forces that were older and possibly more powerful than Gods. They were not the masters of the living beings, but instead served them, and it was said that they would cease to exist when the last living thing left the universe.

Why Was Dream Imprisoned? Was He Ever Able To Escape?

On June 6th, 1916, in Wych Cross, London, Dr. John Hathway met Roderick Burgess, who was part of the Order of Ancient Mysteries. He wanted to perform an occult ritual, and for that, he needed a book named “Magdalene Grimore,” which was in Dr. Hathway’s possession. There were two main reasons why Roderick Burgess wanted to have that ceremony: firstly, he wanted to prove his worth. As soon as he gets the book, the first thought that comes to his mind, which he tells his son, Alex Burgess, is that nobody would be able to mock him or make fun of him henceforth. Maybe he wanted validation from his peers and wanted to show them that Lord Magus was capable of much greater things in life. The second reason for performing the ritual was that he wanted to summon and imprison Death. He thought that by doing so, he could blackmail Death to make himself immortal. But the ritual didn’t go as planned. Instead of Death, Burgess had imprisoned Dream by mistake. Burgess took the three tools/symbols of Dream, i.e., a ruby, a helm, and a pouch, and put him inside a glass chamber that was circumscribed by occult symbols, just to make sure that he was not able to escape. The tools were of great importance as Dream, a.k.a. Morpheus had transferred much of his powers into these symbols. Though the “Lord of Dreams and Nightmares” still had enough energy to fight any mortal, he was in no state to go against other powerful beings of his own stature, without having the symbols in his possession. The tools of Morpheus were stolen from the possession of Roderick Burgess by his ally and second in command, Ruthven Sykes, and he disappeared together with Magus’ mistress, Ethel Cripps. The symbols didn’t stay with Ruthven Sykes for long. The sand pouch went into the possession of John Constantine, and then his ex-flame nicked it and took it with her, something that John wasn’t aware of, until he met The Lord of the Dream himself. The Helm was in possession of Choronzon, the high duke of the eighth circle in Hell, and he took it from Ruthven Sykes by giving him an amulet that would protect him from his enemies, especially from Magus. The Ruby was in possession of Ethel Cripps, who had left Sykes, and then it was passed on to her son, John Dee.

Until the time Dream was imprisoned, sleep sickness spread across the globe. Nobody had any clue why it was happening. Unity Kinkard was among those kids who fell asleep and was barely awake throughout the day. She was later raped while she was asleep. She gave birth to a daughter, who was sent for adoption as the family didn’t want it to become a scandal and tarnish their reputation.

Later, Roderick Burgess finally  figured out that it was Dream whom they had captured, not Death. He was frustrated because, all this while, Dream didn’t speak a word while in captivity. Roderick kept on waiting for the boon of immortality his entire life, and eventually passed away in the year 1947. His grave was engraved with a biblical metaphor that read, “Not dead, only sleeping,” as if one day he would be resurrected when his son, Alex Burgess, would be able to coerce The Lord of Dreams to bestow them with immortality. Alex was now the head of the Order of Ancient Mysteries. Alex knew that it was a big mistake that his father had committed by imprisoning one of the Endless. But now, he had no choice. He often used to visit Dream and tell him that the deal still remained the same, i.e., he would promise to not seek revenge and give him power and make him immortal in return for his freedom. But the Dream was stubborn. He didn’t utter a word but waited for that one mistake that would let him escape. 

In the year 1988, when a wheelchair-ridden Alex, who had passed on the command of the Order to his assistant Paul Mcguire, had gone to talk to Dream, he, by mistake, scraped the occult symbol that stopped Dream, all these years from penetrating inside the mind of the people. As soon as Alex left, one of the guards fell asleep, allowing the lord of Dreams to use it to his advantage. Morpheus fell all of a sudden inside his glass cage. Something like this had never happened in all these years. As soon as they opened the cage to check on him, he rose from his slumber and escaped from there. He confronted Alex Burgess later and gave him a curse of eternal waking, where he would be constantly haunted by nightmares. Dream now had to return to his castle, find his tools, and put things in order.

A List Of Characters Introduced In ‘The Sandman’ Trailers

First and foremost, we see Tom Sturridge, who plays the titular character of Morpheus, a.k.a. The King of Dreams and Nightmares. He has escaped from the clutches of Roderick Burgess, the occult magician, who had no clue what he was dealing with. The character of Roderick Burgess has been played by Charles Dance. A snippet of him performing the occult ritual was present in one of the teaser/trailers for “The Sandman.” He had meddled with one of the most powerful Endless, and had died in the hope that one day he would force Dream to make him immortal. Dream goes back to his realm and is shocked to see that everything has decayed during the time he was imprisoned.

We also see a glimpse of Mad Hette in one of the trailers, who is informing Johanna Constantine, played by Jenna Coleman, about the fact that the Sandman has escaped the prison. Though Johanna Constantine had met the Sandman in the late 1700s, this particular conversation in the “Preludes and Nocturnes” had taken place between John Constantine and Mad Hettie. Johanna also had a connection with the place where Dream was imprisoned. Fawney Rig was owned by Johanna before it passed to Roderick Burgess and became the epicenter of all his occult activities. Though the makers have invalidated all the fan theories, why they chose to show Johanna instead of John Constantine is still unclear. 

In the latest trailer, we see that Dream meets Lucienne, the head librarian, near his castle. In the comics, the character of Lucienne was a man, and in the Netflix series, it is gender swapped and played by Vivienne Acheampong. Dream’s castle had decayed during the period he was imprisoned. It was so because Dream was the incarnation of the Dreamtime, and with him gone, things in the dreamworld had begun to transmute and crumble. We also see Patton Oswalt as Matthew the Raven, who is often sent by the Sandman to gather valuable intel.

Next, we see The Corinthian, played by Boyd Holbrook. Corinthian was a nightmare created by Dream. When Dream was imprisoned, Corinthian took advantage of his absence and caused havoc in the United States of America, where he attended a convention of brutal criminals and also killed many people. Corinthian says, “He’s out there looking for me,” in an overconfident manner, because maybe over the period of time, he started believing that he could overpower his maker, i.e., the King of Dreams. But Dream says that his creations do not walk between the mortals killing things, making sure that he was not going to withstand such disobedience.

We catch a glimpse of John Dee, a.k.a. Doctor Destiny, played by David Thewlis, holding the Ruby, one of the symbols/tools that belonged to Dream. John Dee escaped from the Arkham Asylum after his mother, Ethel Cripps, died. John Dee was a genius scientist but had this obsession with ruling the world. If he wasn’t able to do that, he was ready to destroy it. John Dee no longer slept or dreamt after he came to Arkham. After escaping from Arkham, John Dee went to an American diner, and used the Ruby to wreak havoc on mankind. People started losing their minds, and the horrifying sight made it look like it would be the end of humanity. It still sends shivers down your spine when you read about it in the comics, even though it is a graphic illustration of the events. It would be interesting to see how the makers approach the scene and how they depict the bloodbath that happened in the restaurant. The confrontation between the Dream and John Dee is also quite intriguing, and we would have to wait for the Sandman to be released to witness the details and intricacies the makers delve into.

We see Lucifer, played by the enigmatic Gwendoline Christie, who welcomes the Lord of Dreams in her own menacing manner in Hell. Dream had visited Hell to take back his helm, which had been stolen by a demon named Choronzon. But there was a catch: Hell was now divided. It had two more co-monarchs, namely, Beelzebub and Azazel. Together with Lucifer, they formed a coalition. How Dream makes his way through the demons, and whether he is able to come out alive or not, would be an enthralling aspect.

Among other characters, we see Death and Desire, played by Kirby Howell-Baptiste and Mason Alexander Park, respectively. The conniving nature of Desire is evident from the snippet shown in the trailer. Even the realm of Desire, known as the Threshold, is shown in an aerial view. We see Cain, the caretaker of the house of mysteries, with Gregory the Gargoyle. We also spot the three witches, who guide Morpheus and tell him in a cryptic manner, much like the three witches in Macbeth, where his lost symbols are.

The multiple trailers and teasers of “The Sandman” have built on the excitement of the fans, as they eagerly wait for the world of The Endless to unfold. The most intriguing part would be to see how the makers create the world, the characters which inhibit it, the dynamics between them and what creative liberties they end up taking. There were some parts of the comics that were quite gruesome and dreadful, and, as Neil Gaimen puts it, probably the darkest pieces he has ever written. It would be interesting to see how those scenes are choreographed and are they able to bring out the essence of the subject matter. The casting so far, by the looks of it, looks quite promising. The only thing is that a lot of times, makers are not able to ascertain what all to include in the screenplay, which in turn makes it look scattered. How much they digress while telling the story and which parts they focus more upon, will also be something that the fans will be on the lookout for. For me personally the success or the failure of this Netflix adaptation will be heavily dependent upon its teleplay. Neil Gaimen together with David S. Goyer and Allen Heinberg have been made an integral part of the whole process, which will definitely help the cause. 

There are no two ways about it that it is one of the most intriguing pieces of writing. Moreover, because there are so many biblical and mythological references, it adds a much-needed depth, and gives a metaphorical tinge to the whole narrative. Sandman, by the look and feel of it, has not only created positive buzz but boosted the hopes of the comic book fans, and I hope that it doesn’t fall short of expectations.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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