Setting up the Next Dream – Review of “The Sandman” Episode Seven “The Doll’s House”

The previous episode of Netflix’s The Sandman, titled “The Sound of Her Wings”, was a breather episode, something to wind down the season after finishing up the story arc of Dream reclaiming his relics. The next episode in the season, “The Doll’s House”, is more of a bridge episode, setting up the pieces that will make up the final half of the season and lead to the finale. There are quite a few different moving parts that are shown here, along with a magnificent musical number.

Spoilers ahead, so don’t read if you haven’t watched “The Doll House”, episode seven of Netflix’s The Sandman.

The set up for the final part of the first season is the introduction of Rose Walker (who had a brief appearance in the episode “24/7”) as a Dream Vortex. While it isn’t fully explained in this episode, a Dream Vortex is a mortal with the ability to manipulate the dreams of those around them, combining them in a way that shatters the walls of the Dreaming, which could prove disastrous. Rose doesn’t quite know what she is yet, but Morpheus and The Corinthian both do (as do the twins Desire and Despair). Morpheus decides to make no direct move against Rose, instead sending his raven Matthew to the waking world to spy on her. This leads to a rather funny scene with Merv the Pumpkin Man (voiced by the brilliant Mark Hamill) and Lucienne trying to explain in the vaguest terms possible what Matthew should look out for.

It’s become increasingly obvious at this point that Desire of the Endless is behind the events of the season thus far. There’s a deliciously evil presence to Desire, which is due in no small part to the performance of Mason Alexander Park. Desire is an envious creature, whereas their twin Despair is the epitome of frumpy and quiet. Desire claims that Dream holds his realm up as superior to the Twins since dreams are just a mix of desire and despair but I don’t hold that this is Desire’s true reasoning. There’s something ugly underneath Desire’s attempts to ensnare Dream in their web. I can’t quite put my finger on what that is at this point, though.

Rose, on the other hand, is a delightful presence in the show, along with her friend Lyta Hall. Kyo Ra brings a pleasant and cheerful energy to the character, particularly during the scenes with Unity Kincaid and during the drag show in Cape Kennedy. Razane Jammal also carries her role well, exhibiting her selflessness in assisting Rose while still obviously reeling from the loss of her husband Hector. Rose is searching for her younger brother Jed, who she has not had any contact with since their parents divorced and passed away. Jed has been in the care of foster parents since then, with Rose growing up with her mother. A trip to England reveals that she is the great-granddaughter of Unity Kincaid, one of the children that were struck down with the sleeping sickness in the first episode of the season. Unity provides a means for Rose to find her brother, as well as the funds to do so.

The titular Doll House is a bread and breakfast establishment run by Hal (played by the incomparable John Cameron Mitchell). I’ve been a fan of Mitchell’s since my early 20s when I first saw Hedwig and the Angry Inch and they did not disappoint here. Hal is the kind of sassy gay man that every person should have in their life, despite the fact that anything you tell them will likely end up as common gossip. The musical number with Mitchell singing in full drag was delightful to watch, adding a bit of lightness to the episode after Rose’s meeting with the social worker went badly.

To round things out, though, we have the reappearance of The Corinthian, who seems to have plans for Rose as well. Things change, though, when a trio of serial killers (Nimrod, The Good Doctor, and Fun Land) decide to get The Corinthian’s attention for their serial killer convention, aka the Cereal Convention (I wish I has making that name up). To do this, they decide to copycat the murders of The Corinthian, namely taking the eyes from the victims. The mundanity of the trio’s conversation while having breakfast strikes me as both disturbing and realistic, since most serial killers aren’t raving lunatics. The convergence of The Corinthian and these three killers can only mean terrible things will happen, which I’m on board for.

The final piece of the puzzle laid out is the reveal that Jed Walker cannot be found within the Dreaming, meaning his dreams have never been recorded. Lucienne reveals that Jed’s last dream involved Gault, a Nightmare like The Corinthian, that has gone missing from the Dreaming (along with another creature known as Fiddler’s Green). As Lucienne and Dream are discussing this, Rose wanders into Dream’s castle during her sleep and asks what the Lord of Dreams knows about her brother. We get a brief flashback to Jed’s childhood, where his abusive foster father throws him in the trunk of his car after Jed tried to run away. A harrowing ending, to say the least, and one that raises more questions than it does answers.

While not an action-packed episode, the pacing of “The Doll’s House” was brisk, moving through each of the set pieces with efficiency and never overstaying its welcome. The board is set up for the remaining episodes of the season, with the introduction of Rose Walker and her peculiar powers over the Dreaming. I’m excited to see where things go moving forward.

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