It’s been a week since the highly anticipated TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Sand Man comic book series airs on Netflix, and we can’t stop thinking about it. Rich and diverse characters, vast themes, epic fantasy world-building, horror feel and beautiful storytelling – this show has something for everyone.
What is this about? It follows Morpheus, The Lord of Dreams, as he emerges from a decades-long prison and embarks on a journey to restore his powers and care for his realm. Along the way we meet characters and beings who are affected by Dream’s absence, and it’s their stories, dreams, and hopes that form the core of the show.
There’s so much to enjoy here, and the tone is much darker and more mature than your usual comic book adaptation. There’s the Endless – Dream and her siblings are personifications of human ideas and aspects, each with distinct personalities and govern their own realms. There’s Lucifer Morningstar and a trip to Hell. There are nightmares awakening, friendships that last for centuries, terrible nights at restaurants, and talking crows.
If you’ve finished season one party and need more shows of the same vein, we’ve put together a list of TV shows to whet your appetite.
And if you don’t know The Sandman yet and want to know what the fuss is all about, head over to Dreaming and stream all 10 episodes on Netflix (opens in a new tab).
The Dark Matter – BBC iPlayer, HBO Max
Philip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy The Dark Material brought to life in this beautiful adaptation. The show concerns the orphaned Lyra, a mysterious particle called Dust, and the ominous Magisterium who wants to suppress her. Lyra embarks on an adventure that traverses the world (literally) while battling kidnappers, family secrets, and a powerful clerical order.
World building as beautiful Sand Man, although it is rooted in the reality that only shadows are removed from us, imbued with magical elements. There are talking polar bears, wise mages, airships and, most effectively, daemons – external manifestations of one’s soul in the form of a talking animal.
It’s a lavish, captivating show that doesn’t shy away from confronting the science vs religion theme, and there’s a dark tension that underlies all of the characters’ motivations and actions. Fantasy elements, simple, magical.
First two seasons The Dark Material could streaming on BBC iPlayer and HBO Max (opens in a new tab)and the third and final season will arrive at the end of 2022.
Umbrella Academy – Netflix
Come for the super-powered but dysfunctional sibling dynamics, stay for the awesome needle-drop.
Umbrella AcademyAn adaptation of the comic book series written by Gerard Way, focuses on seven estranged adoptive brothers with unique superpowers who reunite to solve the death of their recently deceased father and prevent the impending apocalypse.
It’s a tantalizing premise, made even more entertaining by the conflicting personalities of the siblings – all with their own quirks, hatreds, secrets, and extraordinary abilities that are far more attractive than your average superhero. The show tackles themes big and small, with a colorful palette and witty pop culture undertones, a fast-paced and satirical script, and characters who are empathetic as well as fun to hang out with. Even when they were too busy fighting with each other to save the world.
Fun, loud, has a wicked soundtrack. And there’s time travel too.
You can watch all three seasons on Netflix (opens in a new tab) now.
Constantine – Amazon Prime Video
If you liked Jenna Coleman’s excellent portrayal of Johanna Constantine at Sand Man and want more, there’s always a 2014 series Constantine.
Not to be confused with Keanu Reeves’ 2005 film (which is excellent if not comic-accurate), this short-lived TV show is a more faithful look at the scouse-accented occult detective wearing a raincoat. Hellblazer comic.
There are demons, monsters, angels, and ghosts – all of which John Constantine did to ward off and save humanity, while trying to save his own cursed soul. The early episodes take on a ‘monster-of-the-week’ format which can get a little generic but the show presents itself and matures into a darker tone towards the end. The climax is Matt Ryan’s perfect portrayal of John Constantine, who is an incredibly attractive and likable anti-hero: charming, cynical, compassionate, and complicated.
Thankfully, there is talk of reviving the show under a different showrunner – JJ Abrams. Let’s hope that happens, because this fan-favorite character deserves it.
Constantine lasts a season of 13 episodes, and you can buy everything on Amazon Prime Video (opens in a new tab).
The Fades – BBC iPlayer
We don’t want to get into the habit of recommending events that have been cancelled, but Fading – an original BBC Three horror drama from 2011 – might just be the biggest TV show ever to be canceled prematurely. It’s only six episodes. It even won the BAFTA Award for Best Drama Series in 2012.
The show had a horror influence on its sleeve from the start. Fading is about Paul, a shy and geeky teenage boy who has terrifying visions of the spirits of the dead – called Fades – and is plunged into a nightmarish scenario when one of these Fades crosses over into our real world.
This is so scary. The fear, the horror, the stakes – they are all palpable and will forever be imprinted on your mind. The show takes itself seriously and the groundbreaking story is high-concept (the original, compared to all the adaptations on this list), but it has relatable characters that you hope will do just fine.
The cast is incredibly talented and full of now-famous stars, including Iain De Caestecker (Marvel’s SHIELD Agent), Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones) and Oscar winner Daniel Kaluuya (Go out, black Panther, Not) in great shape as Paul’s best friend, Mac.
You can watch Fading on BBC iPlayer now.
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