The Sandman: 24/7   Books Included 
August 11, 2022 6:43 PM - Season 1, Episode 5 - Subscribe

John Dee, now in possession of the ruby, takes refuge in a local diner. There, he uses the ruby’s power to prevent the patrons and staff (and the wider world, by implication) from being able to lie, with horrifying results.
posted by gauche (38 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
So good. Comics!Dee was a kind of one-dimensional villain. He is a far more interesting character here. Thewlis turns in the best performance of the show here (shortly to be passed on the inside track by Kirby Howell-Baptiste, but I’m getting ahead of myself).
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:17 PM on August 11, 2022 [7 favorites]

I am new to the Sandman - never read any of it - but this episode (and the next one) are some fantastic television. I liked the way the camera work grew more and more alienating as the whole experience got deranged.
posted by janell at 8:48 PM on August 11, 2022 [5 favorites]

This was the most fraught story in the early books (and probably, on its own, the most likely story in the entire series to go horribly awry when filmed). But they really nailed it. Making John more human made the story much better right along with him.

Knowing that this particular issue/episode was handled well makes me much, much less worried about the rest of the series.
posted by Etrigan at 9:36 PM on August 11, 2022 [10 favorites]

That has got to be at least the fourth worst job interview I have ever seen.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 10:17 PM on August 11, 2022 [38 favorites]

Also, when John forced Bette to admit that he wasn’t really handsome I felt a wave of indignation from a million Harry Potter fan fic writers wash over the land.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 10:19 PM on August 11, 2022 [10 favorites]

Ensemble stepped up and nailed it. I did have to look away as the blood started to spill, but I wasn't sure I'd be able to watch any of this episode -- I skip this issue on any reread of the comics -- so I think that's a win for the production team.

Glad to see Lourdes "Pollution (Good Omens)" Faberes again.

Round of applause for composer David Buckley, please. He is just brilliant at creepifying up a scene, or abruptly taking a regular scene in a creepy direction, without the music taking over. (Also, did anyone place the bit of opera in Dee's head as he walked in? I... damn it, it's familiar, but I didn't.) Curiously, he's not quite as good at non-creepy music -- the music for the initial Abel-Gregory scene struck me as super on-the-nose.
posted by humbug at 5:15 AM on August 12, 2022 [3 favorites]

I was throwing pillows during this episode, I disliked it so much. I like the show overall and have very fond memories of reading the comics when I were a lass, so I'll stick with it, but good lord. The diner scenes went on. And on. And on. So repetitive. So much time spent with people I didn't care about. And then the gruesome deaths that had me hiding under a blanket.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:13 AM on August 12, 2022 [7 favorites]

I have really mixed feelings about this episode. First, I think it was well done and if I'd seen it years ago I'd have been 100% here for it. I think it captured the material well and I like where they went with John Dee and Thewlis was perfect.

When I was a 20-something and 30-something, I was totally here for media that pushed the envelope and "went there" - the ice picks, the nail, the stuff that makes people uncomfortable. Gimme something hard to watch. If it makes you squirm, it's doing its job, right?

At this point in my life - for many reasons - I'm really looking for media that doesn't revel in that anymore. I think they could've adapted this in a way that got the point across without being so hard to watch - and in a way that didn't make my family uncomfortable.

Horror movies with near-comedic gore don't bother me, don't bother my family. But abuse and things like (paraphrasing) "when you're asleep downstairs I go upstairs and fuck your son" -- may be true to the comics, but it's just not necessary, IMO. They could've made the episode equally effective without some of the particularly nasty touches.

The scenes where people are basically turned inside out by the amulet - gross but no biggie. But several things in this episode were really hard to watch, and unpleasantly so IMO.

Reminds me of the Watchmen movie - violence and abuse on a comic page hits a lot different than being adapted to the screen. Given life and expanded out of a few panels to several on-screen minutes, the impact and brutality is magnified.

Taken alone - if this was only being done in The Sandman - I don't know if I'd feel very strongly about it. But it feels like it's become too pervasive in media and I love that they've been diverse with casting and not shied away from depicting a broader range of sexuality (without the need for tons of nudity). I just wish they'd also not felt a need to dig into the brutality so much. In 2022, we've had enough, IMO.

Let's show a little mercy on viewers and if ugliness is necessary to the plot and development, see if you can't get by with inferring it as much as possible off-screen or dialing it back a little.
posted by jzb at 11:16 AM on August 12, 2022 [18 favorites]

Well put, jzb. In comics I can just skim the brutal scenes, but I can't do that on my TV.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:21 PM on August 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

It's been a few decades since I've read the episode in question, so I'm trying to remember if it was more egregiously "ew" in places than this adaptation was. It definitely nailed all the "AAAAAAAAAAA" squirminess mood I remember from reading the issue, though.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:53 PM on August 12, 2022

Read the synopsis, then I remembered how much I dislike horror in general and skipped the whole middle part of this episode.
posted by Coaticass at 1:45 PM on August 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

I honestly wonder whether Gaiman would have written the issue on which this is based, as well as an upcoming issue/episode, today. Even then, the comics never really returned to this level of gore and body horror.

Cleft stick, I think, for him and the other writers? I suppose it would have been possible to write a completely new story about what John Dee did with the ruby. I'm not sure what the fan reaction would have been -- at minimum, they'd have had to knock the new story all the way out of the park to have it be accepted.

But as is, yes, it's not hard to see this episode turning people off the show.
posted by humbug at 3:09 PM on August 12, 2022 [3 favorites]

the comics never really returned to this level of gore and body's not hard to see this episode turning people off the show.

Pretty sure hitting this issue in Preludes and Nocturnes was what knocked a lot of people right out of the series. I seem to recall its being common Usenet advice to start with v. 2 for that reason.
posted by praemunire at 3:23 PM on August 12, 2022 [6 favorites]

This was my least favorite of the comics and i recall it being really a bottle-story, so we skipped it entirely. Other than leaving a few plot dead ends, it doesn't affect the rest of the season.

Unfortunately the Cereal Convention was my second least favorite, and it does affect the main quest storyline, so we suffered through the last few episodes for what seems like 70 or 100 years.
posted by autopilot at 3:25 PM on August 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

Pretty sure hitting this issue in Preludes and Nocturnes was what knocked a lot of people right out of the series. I seem to recall its being common Usenet advice to start with v. 2 for that reason.

The original graphic novels started with The Doll's House, so the first story I read was "The Sound of Her Wings". For me, the DC stuff in Preludes and Nocturnes was a real turn off, but the worst Sandman was yet to come with "Calliope" and "Façade" in Dream Country.

I thought this episode was good and it fixed the parts of "24 Hours" that I didn't like: the smug tone, Doctor Destiny, and the corpsefucking monologue. Doctor Destiny was the biggest problem because I didn't know who he was or why I should care, but the Netflix version tied him to the overall story and David Thewlis gave an impressively human performance and that made him feel more dangerous than some skeleton in a coat. As for the having sex with a dead dude story, it is kind of silly and was done better in Clerks anyway. Glad it was left out.
posted by betweenthebars at 7:43 PM on August 12, 2022 [5 favorites]

I always recommend people start with v.2 because the Sam Kieth art in Preludes & Noctures is very cartoony and not a good indication of the overall tone of the comic.

I've enjoyed the show so far, but this was the first episode in the adaptation I loved. Thewlis is excellent, the tone is dark, and the dream sequence was exactly the sort of David Lynchian dream sequence I wanted from the show.

But it bugs me that they changed John Dee's motivation.

In the comics, his dream is of power, of becoming a god. In the show, he wants to build a world where everyone tells the Truth. These are completely different, and yet the outcome - a diner full of dead bodies - is the same.

I get why the writers changed it: all the villians have complex motivations now. It's more literary. It's more "realistic".

Except we've just had four years of Trump, who wanted power for the sake of power. Now his followers tell lies to get that power back, and their lies get people killed.

The comic wasn't just a gore fest. It was an exploration of how dangerous dreams of power can be. It's a theme Gaiman came back to in Thermidor. As Orwell wrote in 1984:

“Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.”
posted by davidwitteveen at 8:32 PM on August 12, 2022 [4 favorites]

I enjoyed this episode quite a bit and was very impressed with how well it was done. I like that it was character studies of people we'll never see again.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:45 PM on August 12, 2022 [6 favorites]

I'm spitballing here, davidwitteveen, but... I think it comes down to a difference of opinion between Dee and Morpheus about what the complement (not to say opposite, quite) of Truth actually is. Dee is convinced it's self-delusion, and he's absolutely telling on himself -- in the previous episode he says to Rosemary that things he's done were "morally ambiguous," and just, dude, try again, nobody's buying that. So Dee walks into that diner intending to prove that everyone is just as self-deluded as he is, and just as ugly and rotted underneath.

It's important that he has to use the ruby to do this. The diner customers are on a continuum -- I'd put Judy on the super-not-great end for hitting Donna, and the kid with the job interview on the mostly-harmless end -- but they're not John Dee, any of them.

Morpheus insists that the complement of Truth is dreams, stories, and (crucially) the wish to be different, to be better, to strive. Strip that away, and... yeah. I think we both know where that ends up.
posted by humbug at 6:58 AM on August 13, 2022 [7 favorites]

We were dreading this episode and kind of put off watching it until we felt semi-prepared.

I think it was really well handled. I like the changes to John Dee; the whole unhealthy obsession with truth made him a much more interesting character. I appreciate that the violence was a small part of the runtime of the story, and misogyny and homophobia were no longer part of that violence, but I think they did the story justice by not removing it entirely. It made for a couple of hard-to-watch moments but not like some other movies I could name where that kind of thing was totally unexpected.

I've read elsewhere that people were disappointed Rosemary wasn't killed. I liked that change, personally.

It's still not my favorite part of Sandman (the comics or the show) by any means, but it does stand out.
posted by Foosnark at 5:00 PM on August 13, 2022 [1 favorite]

Phew, I'm glad the Preludes & Nocturnes run is over. There's good stuff in it and it's been fun to watch Gaiman take a second crack and cleaning up and improving his stories. But like folks say up-thread it's a rough start in the comic books and while the TV shows are good, I am anticipating it will only get better as the source material improves.

I remember 24 Hours vividly from reading it and like jzb did, liked it for its edginess. And also now in my middle age I'm much less comfortable with depravity and violence. I reread the book again recently and it's still good, the pacing and repetition works much well in the comic book medium. Also it's much more depraved than they did on TV, a toning down that I think was necessary. But the big change here is Thewlis acting a much more interesting John Dee.

I winced a bit at the hit-us-over-the-head moralism, the whole speech at the end about the necessity of hopes and dreams for humans to be sane and have a chance at happiness. This addition feels clumsy to me in the TV show but it's OK and does serve as a nice unifying theme for the stories in these first episodes.

This 2017 fan film of 24 Hour Diner is interesting for what a more literal treatment of the comic would look like. If you can look through the talent show level execution it's really a pretty well written and filmed adaptation.
posted by Nelson at 6:53 PM on August 13, 2022 [3 favorites]

I honestly wonder whether Gaiman would have written the issue on which this is based, as well as an upcoming issue/episode, today. Even then, the comics never really returned to this level of gore and body horror.

Gaiman claims these days that this was intentional - by going this far early in the run, it's clear that the story is capable of going that dark. 24 Hours is part of the possibility space.

I appreciated that this adaptation has more thematic weight in the series - in the comics, it is, effectively, a torture story, but here it's a story about an unwell man using magic to try to get the world to conform to his delusions, so some of the specifics are the same but it's in the service of a statement on what dreams are and why they deserve to be a fundamental force of this universe.
posted by Merus at 4:42 AM on August 14, 2022 [9 favorites]

I've read elsewhere that people were disappointed Rosemary wasn't killed.

Yeah, that is par for the course for any adaptation. Few people care to study aesthetics or to admit that different media have different requirements (or even that the world in which different versions appeared is different). They cannot defend their views in artistic success so they hang everything on the peg of “17 things the movie got WRONG!!!!!”

Blade Runner is a terribly unfaithful adaptation of its source material and would not be much improved by having more electric sheep onscreen. Nevertheless, it succeeds as a film.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:02 AM on August 15, 2022 [3 favorites]

Yeah, certain comic fans rate the "Watchmen" movie highly because it slavishly followed the book frame-by-frame, ignoring that the end result was a near-unwatchable mess.

I think this version of "24 Hours" ismuch better than the original. A lot of that is the result of some careful excising of stuff that I suspect Gaiman wrote in an attempt to artificially up the edginess quotient. Dee leaving Rosemary alive is a better choice, though, thematically. Comic book Dee killed her even though he liked her, and was grateful to her, purely because he was a capital "V" comic book Villain. TV John Dee is working according to a framework that he's adapted in response to an insane upbringing: truth at all costs. He likes Rosemary not because she was kind to him, but because most everything about her suggested honesty and frankness.

When she attempts to deceive him, he's angered not because she deceived him specifically. We later see him get just as insistently prickly about people deceiving themselves, or other third parties. Nope, he's just offended by deceit as such. Or at least that's what he tells himself.

And then, when confronted, she immediately accounts for her deception very, very honestly. She was afraid. And John can understand that, when he can be troubled to think about it all. So he let's her go, and gives her the protective amulet...again, not primarily to keep her safe. To prevent this honest person from ever having cause to become dishonest.

Makes perfect sense that he let' her go, immediately prior to causing indiscriminate slaughter to a bunch of people he doesn't know. Statistically, they're probably not much like Rosemary.
posted by Ipsifendus at 6:55 AM on August 15, 2022 [15 favorites]

Yeah, certain comic fans rate the "Watchmen" movie highly because it slavishly followed the book frame-by-frame, ignoring that the end result was a near-unwatchable mess

The Watchmen movie opened with a battle between The Comedian and his assailant, where the comic depicted The Comedian being utterly dominated and defenseless.

Then again, it had the choice of two different Bob Dylan songs it could have used for its opening credits and picked "The Times They Are A-Changin'" instead, so it did not follow the comic slavishly and also was an unwatchable mess.
posted by Gelatin at 7:31 AM on August 15, 2022 [3 favorites]

Plus, no alien squid.
posted by Etrigan at 8:24 AM on August 15, 2022 [5 favorites]

Blade Runner is a terribly unfaithful adaptation of its source material and would not be much improved by having more electric sheep onscreen.

Or long sequences of a dude struggling up a mountain.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:26 AM on August 15, 2022 [5 favorites]

Wouldve been great if we saw the effect of the ruby on the wider world as John got more depraved,; that's what was so terrifying about the original story.
posted by lalochezia at 6:22 PM on August 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

lalochezia: I agree. From the news reports in the background it sounded like there was widespread havoc and destruction, but next episode no one in the Waking World seems to remember it.
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:27 AM on August 16, 2022 [2 favorites]

If you listen to the news, you can hear the havoc. The tip off is early on when the newscaster talks about the pandas mating and remarks on "Can you blame them since there are only 2,000 pandas in existence?" Or something to that effect.
posted by miss-lapin at 12:33 PM on August 16, 2022 [2 favorites]

Daisy Head, who played Judy, is also in Shadow and Bone and could not be more different in it. She is excellent in both and this gave me a greater appreciation for her.
posted by rednikki at 7:06 PM on August 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

I am watching the show without having read the books (with my sister who has read them and wants me to read them after the show), so I had no clue what was about to happen. I definitely had to look away multiple times because self-mutilation and eye injuries are particularly horrifying to me... so FUN episode to watch!

I actually thought at one point John was making them act out Bette's stories since she mentioned she used real people in fictional settings.

Personally I was glad Rosemary survived, though it was despite herself. Why did she wait for him at the storage unit? I was screaming "DRIVE AWAY YOU FOOL" at the screen.
posted by Julnyes at 7:48 AM on August 23, 2022 [5 favorites]

I was dreading watching this episode for all the reasons already mentioned. Preludes and Doll's House pale in comparison to what comes later, and "24 Hours" is just needlessly gross and disturbing (although I understand Neil's intention to go dark early) with DC references that are meaningless to me.

Really though, I think this is the best episode of the series so far. The changes in Dee's character makes the whole thing more morally ambiguous. Dialing back the body horror and depravity makes a huge difference. The actors are all excellent, particularly Bette. Despite them being one-offs, I became invested in the characters quickly.

I actually thought at one point John was making them act out Bette's stories since she mentioned she used real people in fictional settings.

One thing explored in the original is that Bette's stories all have happy endings (I think she mentions that briefly in the TV episode, but it goes by quickly). She wants the best for people (like the whole thing of fixing up Gary and Kate) and so she imagines stories in which these people she barely knows have happy lives. I think it goes to the whole idea of how important dreams are -- it is only when reality sneaks in that Bette suffers.

Personally I was glad Rosemary survived, though it was despite herself. Why did she wait for him at the storage unit? I was screaming "DRIVE AWAY YOU FOOL" at the screen.

I seem to recall that Rosemary is a nurse (am I imagining that?). Her instinct is to help people in need and, dangerous or not, she recognizes Dee as a person in need.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 6:32 AM on August 25, 2022 [4 favorites]

(Going from memory of the comics which, to be honest, I haven't read for a while). One change that worked particularly well for me was the way Dee just altered one thing, removing the capacity to lie, and just watched as everything slowly got worse and worse. In the comics, from what I recall, he was more active, making them do different things to pass the time, whereas here he just let them descend into hells of their own making, at least until he decided that all they really wanted was the suffering, which he gave them. This hands off approach made for a much more 'creeping dread' effect which worked well for TV.
posted by Sparx at 2:32 PM on August 28, 2022 [8 favorites]

This hands off approach

posted by zamboni at 7:51 PM on August 30, 2022 [3 favorites]

"If you take away their hope, this is the truth of mankind."

I...was not wanting to watch this episode, and certainly parts of it I did not want to watch, but once Dream comes in...and John Dee made it human, as it were. So it wasn't AS bad as I was expecting, though I certainly did not enjoy the slaughter.

Oh dear god, when that guy said he liked to fuck Bette's kid...*shudder*

I'm presuming John hates lying because of his mother?
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:08 PM on September 5, 2022

We loathed this episode. In a graphic novel you can read a story like this in five minutes, take as long as you want with the horror and discomfort, or skip it as you like. A 45 minute video? Fuck to the noth power. Hot garbage on a shingle. Was so entirely let down by this as opposed to the promise of the previous three episodes which were 1) okay, 2) pretty decent, 3) nice, nice. This was taking the fourth bite of a decent meatball sub and finding your mouth full of shit.

I don't know if I want to delve more into specifics about why it was so bad other than change of format, but I do want to say something nice for the actors, who did really well for the utter crap they were given to say.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:25 PM on September 9, 2022 [2 favorites]

I really wasn't a fan of this episode. Not particularly a horror fan and this one was really too tense and too gory for my taste.
posted by octothorpe at 6:46 AM on September 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

It was interesting to see in this episode how neatly the "humanity is saved -- and perhaps even human -- thanks to the power of stories" fits into the conservative worldview. The core conservative philosophy is that mankind is naturally violent and dangerous, and civilization is only possible with both the physical control of an authoritative state, and cultural control through structures like patriotism and religion. As Dream spells it out at the end, the power of stories fits right in: stories, dreams, fantasies, even small talk, are what allow these people to construct the functional illusion of their diner community, even though the reality underneath is that everyone, absent such artifices, is terrible. The fact that it is pro-story (a good thing!) doesn't change the fact that it also buys into the conservative view that absent that cultural construct, people would be quite bad.

The end also made clear how deeply Christian Dream is, at least in Netflix's rendition -- that's three times so far he has won by sacrificing himself, by repeatedly using his own death to illustrate the power of hope, dream, etc, and thereby win the battle. Putting aside whether this is representative of the books, taken on its own terms it's a skillful fusion of "stories are what make us human," conservative authoritarianism, and Christian sacrificial love.
posted by chortly at 3:09 PM on September 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

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