Season 1 Episode 5
With Morpheus caught off guard, John settles in at a diner to watch the people around him – and put his theory about truth and lies to a terrifying test.
Morpheus is incapacitated when he discovers that his ruby has been altered to not amplify his power, but to take it. With Matthew trying to get Morpheus to wake up, John takes the ruby and finds himself at the doorway of a local diner. A local diner populated by a small group of people going about their lives. Lives that will never be the same.
There is a brilliantly ominous tone to the episode from the beginning and that tone is enhanced by the performance of David Thewlis. He doesn’t say much, but delivers a lot with just a look and how he rubs the ruby that compels the diners to finally start being with each other and themselves. Thewlis’ John Dee wants to people around him to finally start to be honest and he will begin by using the ruby to make them reveal those truths both dark and innocuous.
A new cast of characters is introduced in the episode and they each embody something interesting both on and beneath the surface. From the lovelorn waitress who has fallen for the wrong man, to the married couple who clash over a lunch order, each story is compelling in itself and the episode brings out those simmering resentments and dark secrets slowly and deliberately.
All of the characters find themselves doing some desperate things under the influence of the ruby and that is where much of the darkness comes from as John watches these people literally destroy their dreams along with themselves in some of the most disturbing imagery of the series so far. One of the best elements of the episode is that the producers and writers allow the story to unfold with the main character being mostly absent. It adds to the drama of the episode and makes it about John and his motivations.
When Morpheus does finally return, he is forced to battle John for possession of a part of him. A battle that will showcase the power of the Sandman and give this fan of the comic another reason to smile as it beautifully adapts the words of Neil Gaiman and the art of Mike Dringenberg.
Episode 5 of The Sandman is a wonderful, brutal, visually disturbing character study that is scary not in its darkness, but what it brings to the light about the characters and the darkness they hide behind the mask of civility. It’s a wonderful self-contained episode that could prove to teach another lesson to the series protagonist.