So far, The Sandman has mostly stuck closely to Dream and the quest to retrieve his objects of power. But with Morpheus out of action and John Dee in control of the ruby, it’s time to take the gloves off. “24/7” shifts focus to a single cafe and six people on the last day of their lives.
Bette (Emma Duncan) dreams of being a writer, but she makes her money serving coffee at an average North American diner. Luckily, she gets inspiration for her stories from the people around her – and there’s a decent crowd in tonight.
There’s Jude (Daisy Head), who seems sad after a bust-up with her girlfriend Donna. And look! Here’s Kate (Lourdes Faberes) and Garry (James Udon), the power couple that run Vanguard across the road. Mark (Laurie Davidson) seems like a nice young man and he’s after a job there – maybe Bette can put in a good word with Kate? Most important of all is Marsh (Steven Brand) the chef. Bette loves him, but he’s been weirdly distant lately.
There’s someone else in tonight, too – a strange-looking man in the corner named John who says that he’s going to change the world. Turns out, he’s not wrong… It starts with telling the truth. John hates lies, so he uses Dream’s ruby to force everyone in the room to be brutally honest. Bette reveals her deep insecurities, Kate and Garry (James Udon) start to bicker over food and Mark is far too blunt with Jude about how he thinks Donna is really feeling.
It doesn’t stop there, however. Marsh reveals that he doesn’t love Bette and only comes over to her house for a free meal and so that he can have sex with her 21-year-old son. Kate opens up to Mark about the problems in her relationship with Garry and the two start openly flirting. Jude and Bette get closer, both emotionally and physically. The ruby starts to bring out buried desires and instincts and soon everyone is hooking up with each other.
Things start to get violent. Garry attacks Mark, who kills him in self-defense. Marsh hacks his own fingers off. Eventually even poor Bette stabs herself in the eyes. It’s not restricted to the cafe, either. We see on the news that violence and mania is spreading out around the world.
Enter Sandman… Morpheus arrives at the diner to confront John (who, perpetual child that he is, sits blithely eating ice cream from a massive tub while watching the barbarity around him). He tries to be reasonable, but Dee is determined to steal Morpheus’s powers once and for all and so the two do battle in the Dreaming.
At first it seems like John is winning – he drains Dream of his energy before crushing the ruby once and for all. That proves to be a mistake, however. In destroying the gem he has simply released the powers within which flow straight back to Morpheus, effectively recharging him. Finally, after a century of imprisonment and the loss of his tools, he is back at full strength. And now he has John Dee – quite literally – in the palm of his hand. He doesn’t kill him, though, or even punish him as he did Alex Burgess. Instead, he merely returns this sad, mad, broken man to incarceration. Tomorrow the rebuilding starts, both for humanity and for the Dreaming.
“24/7” is a tough watch. Unlike Bette’s stories, there are no happy endings here and the only mortal character to make it out alive (not counting Lindy the chef, who was lucky enough to clock off early) is the one who arguably least deserves to: John Dee.
I griped about the show looking a little stagey in the last episode, but here that’s an advantage. With Morpheus absent for a full 40 minutes, it plays out like a particularly unnerving psychodrama – six people coming emotionally and physically undone in a claustrophobic environment that’s straight out of an Edward Hopper painting. It looks great, too, with atmospheric use of light and shadow turning this bright, cheerful diner into a charnel house. Great stuff.
Analysis: How it compares to the comics
“24/7” skilfully compresses The Sandman #6 (24/7) and #7 (Sound and Fury) into a single episode. A few of the character specifics have shifted – Garry in the show is bisexual and a sex addict; in the comic Marsh met Bette’s son in prison – but it’s basically all as it should be.
The most significant change actually happened in episode one: the decision to make John the biological son of Roderick Burgess. That choice adds layers of meaning to their final conflict and to Dream choosing mercy. If he can – at least in part – forgive the offspring of the man who tormented him for so long, then he has truly grown. Perhaps that’s the influence of Matthew and Johanna Constantine rubbing off on him?
Fables and reflections
Remember the Three from episode two? They appear briefly to John here, foretelling his eventual fate. We also get a couple of cameos from Niamh Walsh and Joely Richardson as young and old Ethel Cripps.
Jude talks to her friend Rose (Kyo Ra) on the phone a couple of times. Bear her in mind – we’ll be seeing much more of her soon.
The Sandman is now streaming on Netflix. For more streaming options, check out our list of the best Netflix shows available right now.