The Sandman: Playing House   Books Included 
August 17, 2022 8:45 AM - Season 1, Episode 8 - Subscribe

Everyone looks for Jed. Dream and Rose find him in a dream, where Gault is training him to be a superhero. Lyta reunites with Hector in another dream and wakes up pregnant. The Corinthian "rescues" Jed from his bad foster parents.

Adapted from issues 12 (“Playing House”) and 15 (“Into the Night”) from the collection The Doll’s House. #13 was the Hob Gadling story that was the second half of "The Sound of Her Wings", while #14 will come up next.
posted by Etrigan (25 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've been trying to watch the show for itself and not constantly referencing the comics but it's hard! And disorienting; the TV show has changed the story quite a bit. I think mostly for the better.

Jed in the TV show is interesting and has a lot of agency; the actor Eddie Karanja playing him is just great.. I love his fantasy world and the role Gault plays in it. Gault's a great character, calling Morpheus out on his judgmental bullshit. But then Morpheus also explaining that nightmares have a positive purpose for humanity, even if they are psychically negative.

I don't really get the Lyta / Hector story. It's fine and I assume going somewhere, but...

Barbie's dream world is fantastic. ❤️ Martin Tenbones.
posted by Nelson at 11:03 AM on August 17 [4 favorites]

I like the contrast of what Gault's actually doing, vs. the characterization of her by Dream when he found out that she's missing.
The Lyta/Hector story's setting stuff up for much further down the road, assuming that the story lasts that long.
posted by Spike Glee at 12:09 PM on August 17 [6 favorites]

I understand why they wrapped them into one character and flipped around the motivations, but I've got to admit I'm sad that they axed Glob and Brute. I liked their doomed patter! and I'm just now realizing that Monsters Inc. completely cribbed their leads from those two.
posted by phooky at 2:23 PM on August 17 [2 favorites]

One of the things I always liked about The Doll's House was that Glob and Brute weren't doing a bad thing -- clearly, the Dreaming needed a new Dream. Sure, it was one that would look more favorably on them than the previous Dream, but at least they were putting in the work. Gault's actions and motivations were essentially the same; she's just prettier.
posted by Etrigan at 2:31 PM on August 17 [2 favorites]

The entire Lyta/Hector Hall thing is the weakest part of the series for me. I understand why they absolutely have to get that particular ball rolling given the role of that particular state of affairs in the overall story, but it really did feel a bit jammed in there.

Gaiman's mentioned on Tumblr he inherited the characters from Infinity Inc and had to do something interesting with. The intra-DC stuff is always a bit of a nusiace in establishing the tone of the Sandman Universe - brooding, philosophical, but hey! Here's some dudes from the 50s in tights, enjoy! And he can't even use the more interesting parts of the original characters due to rights issues. So they just...plod along.

I did like that they gave Jed a bit more to do besides being bait, and switched Hector's role as false Sandman. I love me a sympathetic nightmare, and Gault was lovely. I enjoyed that particular suite of changes, and the actor portraying Jed's doing a great job.
posted by Jilder at 5:19 PM on August 17 [3 favorites]

I'm wavering on whether the actor playing Lyta is just incredibly bland, the writers didn't give her anything interesting to do, or a combo of both. I agree with Jilder on all counts -- it's a necessary thread -- but I also feel that they could have strengthened both Lyta's role and Despair's with some hint that Despair is meddling in this situation along with (or even unbeknownst to) Desire.

See, I am firmly in the Despair-is-unexamined-fatphobia camp. Disappointing. I have analogous problems with Shadwell's misogyny in Good Omens; neither lands well for me. Giving Despair something to do other than huddle in a chair in Desire's realm wouldn't fix this, but it'd be... less bad.
posted by humbug at 5:32 PM on August 17 [6 favorites]

humbug: Oh, it's examined. I feel I namedrop the man all the damn time, but Gaiman's also on record stating that he'd have done her design differently today. One of the reasons she wears clothes is to distance her from the fatphobic previous incarnations, and to afford her performer a whole lot more dignity on set. I just wish they'd come up with a better alternate than "covid working mum halfway through lockdown".
posted by Jilder at 5:48 PM on August 17 [6 favorites]

Good, I'm glad to know that, at least. Thank you. I'm just smarting from a Gaiman post on Tumblr earlier today, where he addresses the issue of representation (on which, I agree, the show absolutely gets a pass) but completely dodges the impact of Despair's appearance and passivity.

And, you know, if he'd wanted to redesign her... he just torched a pretty good chance to.

Anyway, lemme add to all the love for Eddie Karanja. Incredibly charismatic as "The Sandman," and he and Holbrook play off each other just great.
posted by humbug at 6:00 PM on August 17

Gaiman's also on record stating that he'd have done her design differently today

Well, he definitely fucked up this chance. The manifestation of suicide and grief and loss is Sarah From HR, Who Everyone Says Has A Pretty Face. That’s the worst mental picture he can form?
posted by Etrigan at 6:02 PM on August 17 [6 favorites]

I am not saying the original design of Despair was not problematic, because it was, but I also always saw her as more of a Sumo wrestler. She was large, but that was part of her power and part of her strength. It wasn't "she's fat so she's miserable" although ... yeah, it's hard to remove that from Despair, honestly. But I also saw Despair as ... she's who she is and she accepts herself and her duty and that's her power. Yeah, maybe it's not great that this overweight woman is called Despair but here we are ...

I really don't love the new Despair just looking like a normal sad woman, honestly, but I think there's not too much that can be done here. This can't be solved without making the character entirely different. I personally like the idea of Despair being your worst reflection, but I know that's hard to do as one character.
posted by edencosmic at 6:39 PM on August 17 [2 favorites]

This can't be solved without making the character entirely different.

Which they did with most of the characters in this very episode. Hector Hall was never Silver Scarab or a dream-Sandman in this world, but Jeb was. (Also, Jeb and Rose and Unity are Black in this version.) Lyta probably isn't Wonder Woman's daughter. Brute and Glob became Gault.

Gaiman was able to make lots of characters very different for various reasons. He even did so on this one. He just did it really badly.
posted by Etrigan at 6:53 PM on August 17 [5 favorites]

Isn't Despair basically Sadness from Inside Out?
posted by SPrintF at 7:59 PM on August 17 [6 favorites]

I had the same thought, this version of Despair certainly is. I’m not sure what I would have Despair look like, but if anything of all the Endless she should be the one with no fixed appearance, looking to each observer like their own least flattering and self-hating image. It’d be interesting to see how the Endless would present. Most of them except Delirium and Destruction would look exactly the same, I suppose.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 11:15 PM on August 17 [3 favorites]

I think I'd like Despair to look like an ICU nurse in fraying PPE. A schoolteacher, if the design can be kept from total stereotype. A climate scientist. An aid worker. A therapist.

Someone who walks with despair every goddamn day... and keeps going. It's not like there's any shortage of such people, of late.

If THIS Despair were played by a fat person, I'd be cheering my head off.
posted by humbug at 4:49 AM on August 18 [6 favorites]

I was hoping their representation of Despair would focus more on the anguish aspect, the emotionally intense experience of despair. I mean her symbol is a hook that rends flesh. At least we did get one little face gouging scene in the show.
posted by Nelson at 7:51 AM on August 18 [1 favorite]

Jon Mitchell: I suggested something similar in the thread on the previous episode.
posted by Saxon Kane at 12:19 PM on August 18 [1 favorite]

I had the same thought, this version of Despair certainly is. I’m not sure what I would have Despair look like, but if anything of all the Endless she should be the one with no fixed appearance, looking to each observer like their own least flattering and self-hating image. It’d be interesting to see how the Endless would present.

We saw how Dream presents himself to Nada, at least. I appreciate the occasional version of this, but it would be exhausting and confusing for any character to do it constantly.
posted by Etrigan at 2:06 PM on August 18 [1 favorite]

I’m only slightly disappointed we didn’t get to see giant-flaming-head Martian version of Dream.
posted by Ishbadiddle at 8:38 AM on August 19 [3 favorites]

Wow. Poor Gaunt. Just wants to be nice and helpful and heroic and not a nightmare. It's nice that nightmares have a purpose of sorts, I suppose, but geez, dude, people CAN change (then again, that's the point of the entire series, even Dream himself can...eventually). Better to be ...evaporated for a billion years or whatever it was? God, what's with Dream and the million year punishments (i.e Nada)? He's so nice at times with say, Rose and the Jed situation, and other times, oy.

Every time The Corinthian shows up, EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. NOT looking forward to the next episode.

I do like the dreams of the housemates--Barbie has more depth than you'd think, explains the twins, etc.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:55 AM on September 13 [1 favorite]

Re Despair - Damned if you do, damned if you don't, right? If Gaiman had redesigned Despair and cast someone thinner, that would have been viewed as denying an actress of size from obtaining a good role. To be fair, Despair has been in the series for less than 5 minutes. Lots of places to go with the character.

My fear is Gaiman will be in a similar pickle with Wanda. Some things definitely need to be updated about the way she is treated, but every change is a potential minefield. I don't envy him.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 8:57 AM on September 19 [2 favorites]

I really enjoyed how they showed Barbie's dream. I don't know if the series will make it as far as A Game of You, would that be season 2 or 3, so it was good to at least see a bit of it.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:17 AM on November 25

Gaiman has said that they’re currently casting Wanda, so it looks like S2 will be Season of Mists and A Game Of You.
posted by Etrigan at 12:55 PM on November 25

That works but I hope they'll be able to include some of the single-issue stories as well. If S3 would be Brief Lives and World's End then I think Orpheus should be introduced in S2. Probably good to have Midsummer Night's Dream in there to remind us of the Shakespeare connection and Dream of a Thousand Cats just because I really want to see its adaptation.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:20 PM on November 25

Dream of a Thousand Cats just because I really want to see its adaptation.

I have some good news!

I'd love to see Orpheus, too.
posted by Nelson at 2:02 PM on November 25

Oh wow, that is good news! I haven't finished the first season and thought it would just end with The Doll's House. At this pace they could wrap up the whole series in 4-5 seasons.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:09 PM on November 25

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