It's been a week since the hugely anticipated TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman comic book series went live on Netflix, and we can't stop thinking about it. Rich, diverse characters, sprawling themes, epic fantasy world building, horror overtones and beautiful storytelling – this show has a bit of everything for everyone.
What's it about? It follows Morpheus, The Lord of Dreams, as he emerges from a decades-long imprisonment and embarks on a journey to restore his power and tend to his realm. Along the way we meet characters and creatures affected by Dream's absence, and it's their stories, dreams and hopes that form the core of the show.
There is so much to enjoy here, and the tone is much darker and more grown up than your usual comic book adaptation. There's the Endless – Dream and his siblings are personifications of human ideas and aspects, each with their distinct personalities and governing their own realms. There's Lucifer Morningstar and a trip to Hell. There are waking nightmares, a centuries-spanning friendship, a horrific night in a diner, and a talking raven.
If you've finished bingeing season one and need more shows on a similar vein, we've rustled up a list of TV shows to whet your appetite.
And if you haven't caught up with The Sandman yet and want to know what all the fuss is about, step into the Dreaming and stream all 10 episodes on Netflix (opens in new tab).
His Dark Materials – BBC iPlayer, HBO Max
Philip Pullman's fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials is brought to life in this gorgeous adaptation. The show concerns the orphan Lyra, a mysterious particle called Dust, and the ominous Magisterium that wants to suppress it. Lyra embarks on an adventure that crosses worlds (literally) while battling kidnappers, family secrets and the powerful clerical order alike.
The world building is as exquisite as The Sandman, although it's rooted in a reality that's just a shade removed from ours, imbued with magical elements. There are talking polar bears, wise witches, airships and, most effective of all, daemons – external manifestations of a person's soul that take on the form of a talking animal.
It's a lavish and captivating show that doesn't shy away from confronting themes of science vs religion, and there's a dark tension underpinning all the characters' motivations and actions. The fantasy elements are, simply, magical.
The first two seasons of His Dark Materials can be streamed on BBC iPlayer and HBO Max (opens in new tab), and the third and final season is due to arrive at the end of 2022.
The Umbrella Academy – Netflix
Come for the super-powered but dysfunctional sibling dynamics, stay for the excellent needle drops.
The Umbrella Academy, an adaptation of the comic book series written by Gerard Way, focuses on seven estranged adopted siblings with unique superpowers who reunite to solve their recently-deceased father's death and prevent an impending apocalypse.
It's a tantalising premise, made more entertaining by the clashing personalities of the siblings – all with their own quirks, resentments, secrets and extraordinary abilities that are far more interesting than those of your average superhero. The show tackles themes both big and small, with a colourful palette and pop-culture savvy tone, a quick and quippy script, and characters who are empathetic and also just plain fun to hang out with. Even when they're too busy squabbling with each other to save the world.
It's fun, it's violent, it's got a wicked soundtrack. And there's time travel, too.
You can watch all three seasons on Netflix (opens in new tab) now.
Constantine – Amazon Prime Video
If you loved Jenna Coleman's superb portrayal of Johanna Constantine in The Sandman and want more, there's always the 2014 series Constantine.
Not to be confused with the 2005 Keanu Reeves film (which is excellent if not comics-accurate), this short-lived TV show was a more faithful rendition of the trenchcoat-wearing, scouse-accented occult detective of the Hellblazer comics.
There are demons, monsters, angels and ghosts – all of which John Constantine goes around casting out and saving humans from, while trying to save his own damned soul. The early episodes take on a 'monster-of-the-week' format that can get a little generic but the show does come into its own and matures into its darker tone toward the end. The highlight is Matt Ryan's pitch-perfect portrayal of John Constantine, who is an immensely interesting and likeable anti-hero: charming, cynical, compassionate and complicated.
Happily, there's talks of reviving the show under a different showrunner – J. J. Abrams. Let's hope it happens, as this fan favourite character deserves it.
Constantine lasted one season with 13 episodes, and you can buy them all on Amazon Prime Video (opens in new tab).
The Fades – BBC iPlayer
We don't want to get into the habit of recommending shows that have been cancelled, but The Fades – an original BBC Three horror drama from 2011 – might just be the greatest TV show to ever be prematurely cancelled. It's only six episodes. It even won a BAFTA Award for the Best Drama Series in 2012.
The show wears its horror influences on its sleeve right from the start. The Fades is about Paul, a shy, geeky teenage boy who has terrifying visions of spirits of dead people – called Fades – and is plunged into a nightmare scenario when one of these Fades crosses over into our real world.
It's incredibly creepy. The dread, the horror, the stakes – all palpable and will be forever imprinted in your mind. The show takes itself seriously and the innovative story is high concept (an original, compared with all the adaptations on this list), but it has relatable characters that you hope are going to be okay.
The cast is wildly talented and full of now-famous stars, including Iain De Caestecker (Marvel's Agents of SHIELD), Natalie Dormer (Game Of Thrones) and Oscar-winner Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out, Black Panther, Nope) on fine form as Paul's best friend Mac.
You can watch The Fades on BBC iPlayer now.
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