Though the series begins with Dream imprisoned, captured by a mortal occultist, and stripped of the totems of his office (a pouch of sand, a powerful ruby known as the Dreamstone, and the disturbing Helmet of Dreams), the episodes that follow see the newly freed Dream attempt to seek revenge on his captor, rebuild his kingdom, reconnect with his family (who have mixed feelings about his return), and track down his missing symbols of power.
“It’s not a procedural where we’re doing similar things next week. There’s [always] something that’s going to be different about the next episode,” Markiewicz explains. “And Dream may not be onscreen for every frame of the show. [But he] is always going to be at the heart of things.”
Adapting the Unadaptable
Part of the reason previous attempts to adapt The Sandman floundered is the sheer breadth of the story and the lore involved. Though the original story is told in graphic novel form, its roots are in classical literature, mythology, and folklore from a wide variety of cultures. Its scope is almost terrifyingly vast—it touches on life, death, heaven, hell, and everything (quite literally) in between. Trying to adapt its complicated plot for the screen is a truly Herculean task, one that took hundreds of people and nearly a dozen secondary companies to pull off.
“It was definitely daunting,” Markiewicz admits. “One of the things that’s always so challenging—which is also what’s exciting about it—is, ok, we’ve inherited this property, this amazing piece of artwork and literature and fantasy. How can we do it justice? How can we possibly do this thing faithfully while transferring it to the screen?”
This question has haunted every potential adaptation for over 30 years (efforts to adapt The Sandman for the screen have been happening in fits and starts since around 1991).
“Basically, it’s like a train, and you try to make sure each car on the train is part of the whole train,” Steele laughs. “You can kind of see where you’re going, and you know what’s coming—you’ve already designed some of the big pieces like Hell or the Threshold of Desire, which is shaped like the inside of a heart, and all these other things—after that, it just kind of evolved.”