The Sandman E03 "Dream a Little Dream of Me": From Comics to Screen

The Sandman Episode 3, "Dream a Little Dream of Me," is one of the most anticipated episodes because it adapts the third issue of the comic, which features John Constantine. The most eagerly-anticipated story is issue 8, "The Sound of Her Wings," which introduces Death, and then possibly issue 13, "Men of Good Fortune," about those much later. This is all about Constantine.

Constantine (Jenna Coleman) and Dream (Tom Sturridge) in "The Sandman" Image: Netflix

Or rather, Johanna Constantine, played by Jenna Coleman. No other episode screams "BACKDOOR PILOT!" as much as this one. The story broadly follows the original comic but changes many of the elements to update and fit a TV show. Never mind that it's Johanna, not John Constantine, her story, character, and central driving ideas are still the same. Constantine is a magician who will sacrifice anyone and everyone in her life to win and lose people she never accounts for collateral damage. Dream (Tom Sturridge) seeks out Constantine to get his pouch of sand back. Constantine left Dream's pouch with an ex-girlfriend named Rachel, who becomes corrupted by the sand. Dream gives Rachel a dream of happiness with Constantine to ease her into death and takes back his pouch. He then stops Constantine's recurring nightmare, so she's no longer tormented by it. The Newcastle Tragedy is not the recurring nightmare Constantine has in the comic.

"The Sandman" Cr. Courtesy Of Netflix © 2022

The horror elements are also downplayed in The Sandman TV show because they weren't needed here. There are no walls of living human flesh that were victims of Rachel's nightmares when she gets addicted to the sand from Dream's pouch. That element was part of the 1980s horror trend, "Splatterpunk," as it was called then, headed by the likes of Clive Barker. When Constantine steps into Rachels apartment, the nightmare she encounters is not the general "fear of falling" nightmare but one specific to her guilt at dumping Rachel so unceremoniously before. Rachel is not a junkie but a normal, good person who was unfortunate enough to fall in love with Constantine and have her heart broken. She's another casualty of Constantine's life as a magician, an unnecessary one due to Constantine's carelessness.

The other subplots run concurrently to keep the show's arc going: John Dee (David Thewlis) is not a Justice League villain like in the comics but the traumatized illegitimate son of Roderick Burgess by his mistress Ethel Cripps (Joely Richardson). He's in a high-tech private mental institution instead of Arkham Asylum because the show doesn't have the right to use Batman characters or lore. Unlike the comic, Ethel Cripps dies in John's arms when she gives her annulet to him to protect him, which enables him to escape. Dee here is not a sadistic, angry child, but sad and gentle, falling into nihilism. He doesn't even actively murder anyone – the amulet's power destroys whoever tries to harm its owner. The Corinthian (Boyd Holbrook) shows up to help him escape so he can hinder Dream.

Cr. Courtesy Of Netflix © 2022

Neil Gaiman, executive producer David S. Goyer, and showrunner Allan Heinberg have been around the block enough to know what they're doing by now, and the fact that they've spent so much of the episode building up Johanna Constantine suggests they were not blind to the potential of a Johanna Constantine spinoff series.  Why else would they depict her backstory of the exorcism where she inadvertently loses a kid named Astra to hell, an essential part of John Constantine's story? Why else would they give in to temptation and show Johanna Constantine conducting a hilarious exorcism where she poses as a Church of England vicar to fake-marry a Royal princess and con a demon into reciting its banishment spell? These scenes were not in the original Sandman comic. The Newcastle tragedy with Astra is from the Hellblazer comic, the scene written by Jamie Delano and drawn by Richard Piers Rayner, here faithfully adapted but with a contemporary Johanna Constantine instead of John. Why else would they cast the brilliant Meera Syal as a gender-flipped Ric the Vicar who's Constantine's conduit to the Church of England and the Royal Family? It gives the writers the chance for Constantine to express her left-wing anti-Royal stance as well to establish her anti-Establishment stance. Rachel's death adds another piece of bad karma to Constantine's moral ledger and closes this episode of her story, but we're given the Complete Constantine Experience and are left wanting to see more Johanna Constantine.

The Sandman E03 "Dream a Little Dream of Me": From Comics to Screen
Image: Netflix

Whether there will be a Johanna Constantine spinoff is up to the fates and rights holders. The reason they couldn't have John Constantine in The Sandman show was that J.J. Abrams has been developing a new Constantine series for HBO Max. if it's still on track as rumoured, then Warner Brothers-Discovery would not allow another Constantine series to be made. However, if the HBO Max Constantine series were to be cancelled, as many DC shows on the streamer have been, then a Johanna Constantine show on Netflix can become a real possibility, given the enthusiastic reaction to Coleman's Constantine so far. Who wouldn't want to see more of Coleman cursing like a, well, a typical Londoner and playing her first major LGBTQ role on top of a morally compromised occult detective and exorcist? "Hellblazer starring Jenna Coleman" sounds like an attractive proposition right now, a lot more than some amorphous show that doesn't even have a lead actor yet.

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Adi TantimedhAbout Adi Tantimedh

Adi Tantimedh is a filmmaker, screenwriter and novelist. He wrote radio plays for the BBC Radio, “JLA: Age of Wonder” for DC Comics, “Blackshirt” for Moonstone Books, and “La Muse” for Big Head Press. Most recently, he wrote “Her Nightly Embrace”, “Her Beautiful Monster” and “Her Fugitive Heart”, a trilogy of novels featuring a British-Indian private eye published by Atria Books, a division Simon & Schuster.
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