The Biggest Issues With Netflix's The Sandman
When readers meet Dream in "The Sandman" comic series, he's a traumatized, wrathful, and sad-sack mythical being who sees no issue in doling out eternally harsh punishments. If the dreams and nightmares that he brought into existence disappoint him, our Robert Smith lookalike often "uncreates" (read: kills) them. (Truly, the worst parent ever.) Neil Gaiman's writing revolves around how Dream, an Endless being fated to exist until existence is no more and serve humanity, resents his purpose. Dream's dour outlook, directly and indirectly, causes a lot of painful misery for others, which eventually causes him to change his tune. Due to this character arc, the series' first two volumes are extremely dark. There is no shortage of body horror, uncanny nightmares, serial killers, and sexual assault.
Overall, Netflix's "The Sandman" feels like it purposefully toned down its horrifying moments to appeal to a younger audience. When this is done to better serve the story, it works. Giving characters like Rose Walker more agency and omitting the series' over-reliance on rape as a premise for several characters' story arcs are clever moves. But other times, it seems like horror set pieces were removed to make it less terrifying for viewers. The main one that comes to mind is how Netflix's "The Sandman" changed Rachel's storyline.
In the comics, Rachel has a substance abuse problem and becomes addicted to sand. Her actions trap her in her apartment as the dreams eat away at reality — quite literally — and turn her father into a wall of flesh. In the Netflix series, Johanna Constantine gives the sand to Rachel to hold onto, unintentionally dooming her. However, Rachel's apartment isn't torn apart by dreams. It looks normal. Deciding to make Rachel's tragic fate Constantine's fault was a compelling change as it lends more emotional depth to the latter's journey. But making Rachel's home tidier (visually) weakens the terror of Dream's sand. There was room for both drama and the sinister stakes of sand so that viewers believe Dream is dangerous, too.