Season 1 Episode 4
A Hope in Hell
A lead on the whereabouts of his helm compels Morpheus to seek an audience with Lucifer. A confused John receives a helping hand from a good Samaritan.
If the last episode was about Morpheus learning a lesson about compassion and humanity, this episode is all about the real danger the character faces in his quest. There is a more serious tone to this episode and a great pacing contrast between the two different stories.
In order to retrieve his helm, Morpheus and Matthew travel to hell to speak to its ruler Lucifer Morningstar. What makes the interlude work is the interplay between Morpheus and Matthew. Matthew is definitely our means of understanding hell from the perspective of an outsider and Morpheus acts as a guide as the viewer is transported by the stunning visuals. Sturridge and Oswalt have great banter and it’s a brilliant way of utilizing the same type of narration that a comic book would use.
On Earth, John Dee gets a ride to find his ruby and winds up having a pleasant conversation with the good Samaritan Rosemary. Knowing the quiet menace that Thewlis exudes as John, there is an immediate heightened level of tension that permeates every scene they are in and only increases when John starts telling Rosemary the truth about his past. Sarah Niles is brilliant as Rosemary and perfectly captures the terror one would feel in her situation. You root for her throughout the episode and fear for her as well. The interactions between the two characters create some of the best tension of the episode.
A different type of tension is at play as Morpheus makes his way to Lucifer’s palace. The demon escorting him takes him past someone who knows and has a history with Morpheus. A scene that is both sad and beautifully shot. That scene is one of the only breaks in the tension and the tension gets heightened when Morpheus finally stands before Lucifer. Gwendoline Christie is electrifying as Lucifer. She is both blisteringly beautiful and scary in the role. What follows is a battle between the characters that is wonderfully immersive and beautifully uses special effects to showcase the scope of their battle.
The fourth episode of The Sandman is a dark, beautifully tense experience. Both parts of the story showcase tension in different ways and the resolution of both stories are satisfying and engaging. The episode increases the drama as well as sets the stage for future tension and danger to come. An absolutely brilliant episode from start to finish.