The Sandman: Dream, Death & the Endless, explained
Dream, Death, and the other Endless are at the heart of Netflix’s The Sandman, a long-awaited adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s seminal comic book – but who are they, and why are they important?
For the past three decades, many have tried and failed to adapt The Sandman. Gaiman’s tale of cosmic fantasy and humanity was branded “unadaptable,” with its brain-breaking concepts never seeming to translate to the screen.
Netflix has proven the skeptics wrong with its debut season; its journey may have taken eons, but The Sandman deserves to amass a legion of obsessives.
If you’re making your way through a binge-watch, or perhaps you’re already at the end, you may be a bit confused about the show’s lore; more specifically, Dream himself, along with the other Endless. So, we’re going to try and break it down as simply as we can.
The Sandman: Who are the Endless?
Before we get to the Endless, we need to explain Night and Time: the former is the embodiment of the vast emptiness preceding the universe’s creation; the latter is the embodiment of time itself. Neither is seen in the show’s first season, but it’s likely we’ll see them down the line.
Both entities emerged in the beginning – as in, the beginning – and while estranged, they’re the parents of the Endless, seven immortal personifications of life’s natural forces and aspects, immune to any harm that could befall an ordinary living thing. They are the ideas themselves, rather than just representing them, and they all rule over respective realms and tend to it in the service of mankind.
The Sandman: Dream, Death, and every other Endless explained
The Endless are the following seven forces: Dream, Death, Desire, Despair, Destiny, Destruction, and Delirium (formerly known as Delight).
As explained by Destruction in the comics: “The Endless are merely patterns. The Endless are ideas. The Endless are wave functions. The Endless are repeating motifs. The Endless are echoes of darkness, and nothing more… and even our existences are brief and bounded. None of us will last longer than this version of the universe.”
Dream, also known as Morpheus and the titular Sandman, is played by Tom Sturridge in the show. As the name implies, he’s the lord of dreams, nightmares, and every reverie in-between. He sports a rather frightening helm, and carries a powerful ruby and bag of sand.
His realm is known as the Dreaming, where he controls everyone’s dreams “lest they consume and destroy” them. Basically, anytime someone dreams, it’s under his watch, and he can force people into eternal sleep or curse them with slumberous suffering.
Unlike Dream, who’s undone by his arrogance at the beginning of the story, Death is a humble servant of her name. She’s played Kirby Howell-Baptise in The Sandman, and appears as a source of advice for Dream.
While many picture “Death” as the reaper with a scythe, she’s actually far more comforting. Death goes about her duties in peace, reaching people whose “time is up” and helping them come to terms with their passing. She knows humans fear her and the “Sunless Lands,” so makes an effort to be especially compassionate.
Desire, played by Mason Alexander Park, is the twin of Despair. As one of the younger siblings of the Endless, Desire often deliberately rankles their brothers and sisters, and particularly tries to interfere in Dream’s affairs.
They have no gender and are capable of seducing anything and anyone. They reside in the Threshold, a giant mold of Desire themselves, and despite filling whomever with lust, they’re considered more of an antagonistic force in the story.
Despair, played by Donna Preston, is the twin of Desire. In her brief appearances in The Sandman show, she mopes around Desire and pierces her own face with a hook, desperate to plot against Dream.
She works closely with Desire, essentially pushing people towards wishes they’ll never be able to fulfil, in turn filling them with Despair and pushing them too close to the edge. Her world, The Gray Realm, is full of mirrors in which she stares back at people.
Destiny hasn’t appeared in the Netflix show yet. He is the oldest of all the Endless, having been born at the same time as the universe. While depicted as a blind man with a cowl, he can see, and has a large book chained to his wrist at all times – oh, and it contains the story of all existence and every truth still to come.
Destiny resides within the Garden of Forking Ways, wandering its labyrinthian maze and reading the book, ensuring everyone will meet their fate.
Unlike the other Endless, Destruction doesn’t have a realm – well, he did, until he abandoned it. Since then, he’s been considered a lost sibling, despite his powers being pivotal to all creation.
He once held a sword as his sigil, but his realm was never seen. While he didn’t appear in the first season of The Sandman, he has been referenced as “The Prodigal,” so we’ll likely see him in Season 2.
Finally, we have Delirium, another Endless who’s yet to appear in Netflix’s The Sandman. She’s the youngest of the siblings, embodying happiness and joy – hence why she was formerly known as Delight.
Her appearance is generally that of a young woman in her late teens, with colorful, ever-changing hair. She inhabits the Madness, a realm so baffling that humans would never be able to understand it, and is surrounded by a sigil of swirling colors that change to black if she’s upset.
She’s also a uniting force among the siblings, all of whom are protective of her.
The Sandman is available to stream on Netflix now.