The plot is thickening! With two episodes left, we’re getting the shape of an endgame for Sandman season one. Rose, Dream, and the Corinthian are all at cross purposes. Dream wants to find and destroy the Corinthian, the Corinthian wants to find/use Rose, and Rose just wants to find her brother. Meanwhile, Desire is somewhere in the background pulling strings.
We open on Dream and Rose deciding to get their collab on. The plan is for Rose to continue her search for Jed when awake, and then she and Dream will look for him in the Dreaming when she’s asleep. Dream looks almost charmed talking to Rose. It has mentor-mentee vibes. But Dream has his own reasons for wanting to stick by Rose. The rogue dreams — Gault, the Corinthian, and Fiddler’s Green — are going to be drawn to her. If he stays near her, he can find his absent employees. Jed is an afterthought to Dream, as most mortals are. Dream takes his job very seriously, to the point where he sometimes cannot see the people he’s doing it for.
Speaking of characters who don’t understand that they have people’s lives in their hands, we see the foster-care caseworker again. My blood boiled pretty much every time this broad was on screen. When Lyta goes to apologize to her (why? She deserves to be yelled at!), the lady is having a glass of wine at her desk. Excuse me? Are we in Mad Men or are you responsible for the well-being of minors?
Lyta reiterates that Rose just wants to know that her brother is safe. This woman says, “I’m sure he’s fine,” which means she doesn’t actually know, which means she isn’t doing regular visitations. And when she actually does check up on Jed, she just sits in the foster parents’ kitchen. You are supposed to take the kid out for, like, McDonald’s expressly because then they aren’t being intimidated by their foster parents and are more able to report abuse going on in the home. But Little Miss Wine-for-Lunch wouldn’t know anything about that. Anyway, I’m glad she’s dead.
Morpheus is right, and the stray dreams are being drawn into Rose’s orbit. The Corinthian thinks he has agency, that he’s going to use Rose to his advantage, but he’s still being drawn to her. And Gault has been with Jed pretty much since he and Rose were separated. She came to him as a nightmare, saw how he was being treated, and decided to make his dreams a safe place into which he could retreat. She creates a world where Jed is a superhero, the Sandman, who protects the children of the world. At least someone was able to look beyond their job and help this kid.
As promised, Dream helps Rose look for Jed in her sleep. As the Vortex, Rose can travel between the dreams of people she knows, which they find unsettling. But we get a nice peek into the inner lives of everyone at Hal’s boarding house. Ken has a basic-ass fear-of-nudity nightmare, while Barbie has an ongoing epic adventure in her brain. Chantal is in love with a sentence, while Zelda is a child. Hal dreams that he’s watching a macabre version of his own drag show, while Lyta is playing house with the ghost of her dead husband (hence the episode title). More on that later.
Rose travels through her friends’ dreams toward her brother’s. Eventually, Dream and Rose find Jed and Gault. One expects a big showdown between Dream and his errant nightmare, but Gault goes willingly to protect Jed. Then Dream wakes the Walkers up before she can get many details out of Jed. He’s still very callous toward humans, and it’s going to bite him in the ass one day.
This is when we learn Gault’s motivation for her mini-fiefdom in Jed’s brain. Dream assumed she had wanted to be the lord of her own personal realm, but she really was just tired of scaring people. Gault argues that people (even nightmares, even the Endless) change, and should essentially be allowed to follow their bliss. Dream gets pissed at the suggestion that even he can or should change. He’s almost as mad as when Hob suggested he needed friends. Touchy, touchy. He’s even mean to Lucienne when she reminds him that her function has changed over the years. But the King of Dreams doesn’t wanna hear it. He’d be furious to know that I think he’s changed a great deal since his imprisonment.
Let’s look at the evidence. Would pre-bubble Dream have acknowledged his friendship with Hob? Would he have been so gentle while guiding Rose through other people’s dreams? Would he have been worried for Matthew’s safety outside the Dreaming? I put it to you, the reader, that Dream is not the same fuddy-duddy who entrapped William Shakespeare all those years ago. He’s a slightly different fuddy-duddy.
Even with Dream’s abrupt end of their reunion, Rose gets enough deets from Jed to find his foster parents. She doesn’t wait for Lyta to set out and find him, which is just as well. She’s got problems enough on her own. Apparently Lyta’s dead husband Hector’s ghost is posted up in her dreams. Every time she falls asleep, it’s the two of them. And when Lyta wakes up, Hector says, he stays in the dream, which makes him think he’s more than just her grief-stricken mind. I am inclined to agree, since he appears to have somehow gotten her knocked up IRL via some freaky dream ghost sex.
Rose is fast getting to Jed, but the Corinthian is faster. Being a dream and all, he can basically teleport to every place he suspects Rose of being, from Unity’s rest home, to the beach at Cape Kennedy, to the foster-care office, to Uncle Barnaby’s. Rose shows up to the foster house only to find cops taking the presumably now eyeball-less bodies of Barn and Clarice out. And Jed is riding shotgun to a serial-killer convention.
Fables and Reflections:
• That song that ends the episode is unforgivably bad. Sorry, this is prestige drama, not a Chevy truck commercial.
• I said in the series-premiere recap that one major theme of the entire run of the comic series is that things need to change or else they’ll perish. Glad to see the show hitting that theme pretty hard.
• What did Lucienne used to be before she was the librarian? Inquiring minds want to know.
• It can’t feel good to wake up one morning with a trimester’s worth of baby in your stomach. When Lyta looks at her bump in the mirror, she should be absolutely covered in stretch marks. But maybe I’m being too fussy looking for realism in a magical ghost dream pregnancy.
• I wish there were more stylistic differences between the boarding-house dreams. They could push the color timing, throw in some Dutch angles, make choices in the soundtracks, maybe have one with puppets or interpretive dance to really make each brain distinct.
• I did appreciate the way they fucked with writing in everyone’s dreams. Hot tip: If you think you’re dreaming but you’re not sure, try to read something. Your brain can’t construct writing for you to read, so the letters will be all swirly like they were on Jed’s poster in Ken’s dream.
• Hal flirting with the Corinthian was scary. TBH, I don’t love that every gay man in the show is into the Corinthian. Surely there’s someone out there who doesn’t want to hook up with a guy who never takes off his sunglasses or would hang out with him long enough to realize he’s, y’know, a serial killer.
• Rose looks up Barnaby and Clarice on track-a-being.com, which is one of the Google substitutes I’ve ever encountered. This is worse than when people kept insistently using Bing on The Vampire Diaries.
• Lyta’s dream house is ugly, sorry. The time for all-white interiors is over.