What happens when the Lord of Dreams enters the pits of avarice we call Hell? A showdown between two immortal beings, each powerful in their own right, is the correct answer. Meanwhile, John Burgess seeks the Ruby, an artifact of Morpheus that he stole from his recently-departed mother. The fourth episode of Netflix’s The Sandman, titled “A Hope in Hell”, continues the visual sumptuousness of the series so far but in an entirely sinister way.
Spoilers ahead, so don’t read if you haven’t watched the fourth episode of Netflix’s The Sandman.
To say that I’ve been looking forward to watching this episode is an understatement. Once I heard that Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth for those who are fans of HBO’s Game of Thrones) was cast as Lucifer Morningstar, I was enraptured with the idea of seeing how she would bring this character to life. The TV show Lucifer, which first aired on Fox before becoming a Netflix show (seriously check it out if you haven’t already), was built using the same character from The Sandman series, with Tom Ellis bringing vivacious life to the character. Christie plays a more subdued, cerebral Lucifer, haughty and reserved but still utterly contemptuous of everyone around her, even Morpheus. The Ruler of Hell does not suffer anyone to challenge her and Christie carries herself with an immense chip on her shoulder, which feels fitting given the backstory of the character.
There is a wonderful little moment for fans of the comic book series with the appearance of Nada. We see for the first time the anthropomorphic characteristic of Dream when he takes on the appearance of Kai’ckul (played by Ernest Kingsley, Jr.) when he speaks with Nada. Since Dream of the Endless is not a physical being, he can tailor his appearance to match what others would expect to see. The full backstory of Nada and Kai’ckul is one of the more tragic stories from The Sandman comics, which I would encourage anyone reading this review to dive headfirst in to. For me, it’s a nice little tip of the hat to the idea that Dream, like his siblings in the Endless, are not really people, despite taking on human characteristics.
When Morpheus brings the Duke of Hell Choronzon to Lucifer’s chambers, Morpheus demands the return of his Helm. Choronzon refuses to give up what he sees as his rightful property. When Morpheus challenges the Duke of Hell to a contest, Choronzon nominates Lucifer to stand as his champion. There’s a brief moment where Morpheus’ face goes through a few different emotions. It’s not outright stated in the episode that this was a plan on Lucifer’s part to entrap Dream within her realm but given the warnings Morpheus told Matthew earlier in the episode, I wouldn’t put it past Lucifer to concoct a scheme like this.
The battle between the two is not a physical confrontation but rather a game of brinksmanship between the two nearly-omnipotent beings. Each one takes turns proclaiming themselves to be a different personification, with the consequence being a physical wound as each counter is made. Lucifer, being the aggressive being that she is, consistently goes for ever-increasingly destructive options, while Morpheus in turn begins to use more life-affirming options. It culminates in Morpheus saying that he is Hope, knowing full well that there is nothing in all the universes that can ever fully kill Hope. Upon reclaiming his Helm, there is a final bit of repartee between Lucifer and Morpheus. Lucifer threatens to keep Morpheus in Hell, claiming that dreams have no power in her realm. Morpheus counters that Hell would have no power over its minions if there was not the dream of Heaven, something that cuts Lucifer deeply, even though all we see is a small lip quiver.
Back in the physical world, John Burgess stumbles into the middle of a street before a good Samaritan named Rosemary stops and offers to give him a ride. As the two begin chatting, we see Rosemary begin to understand that she has brought a dangerous, unbalanced man into her car. The tension of these scenes ratchets up every time we cut back to it and I was fairly certain that Rosemary was not going to make it out of things alive. But John surprised me. Once he obtained his Ruby (and it very much is his Ruby as we see Morpheus suffer injury when he attempts to reclaim it), he let Rosemary go and gave her the amulet of protection that Ethel gave to him last episode. Given the fact that the Ruby has the power to make dreams come true, the amulet is no longer necessary to keep him safe.
I really enjoyed this episode. The visuals of Hell were captivating in a dreary, sinister way. There’s a horrific beauty to this depiction of Hell that I found both disconcerting and oddly fascinating. The lead performances of Christie, Sturridge, and Thewlis continue to be the best part of the show. I’m looking forward to seeing how the story unfolds over the next few episodes.
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