‘Sandman’ Bonus Episode Explained, Dream’s Son in Season 2

SPOILER ALERT: Don’t read if you haven’t seen “A Dream of a Thousand Cats”/”Calliope”, the surprising 11th episode of “The Sandman” season 1.

Netflix’s “The Sandman” was always meant to have 11 episodes in its first season — you just didn’t know until the special final episode, a two-part animated and live-action story titled “A Dream of a Thousand Cats”/”Calliope, fell Friday.

Or, if you’re a die-hard fan who’s been following every bit of “Sandman” news since the TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s beloved graphic novels was first ordered for series in July 2019, you might have been slightly gaslit to remember that there were 11 episodes when the 10-episode season launched two weeks ago.

“Maybe there have been hints before. We sold an 11-episode order a long time ago, and you’ll find if you go back to some of the press, “Sandman” showrunner Allan Heinberg, who co-developed the series with Gaiman and executive producer David Goyer, told Variety. “So I think we were kind of like, ‘Did we let the cat out of the bag?’ before we knew there were cats in the bag, but we tried our best.”

But there were a few times when Gaiman, as he put it, “let the cat out of the building” while making the Tom Sturridge-led show.

“I once posted the cover of the ‘Here Comes a Candle’ book on Twitter,” Gaiman said, referring to a fictional book in his “Sandman” issue “Calliope.” “I answered someone about ‘A Dream of a Thousand Cats’, and I said we had already started casting the cats. But then I kept my mouth shut – until there was a moment when Allan came closest to kicking me under the table he’s ever been in his entire life.”

Gaiman revealed that “during one of the interviews where people were saying, ‘How did you get this great cast?’ I started listing the cast and so on, and I said Derek Jacobi.” (Jacobi plays the villainous author Erasmus Fry in the ‘Calliope’ part of episode 11, but doesn’t appear in the other 10 episodes of season 1 of ‘The Sandman.’) ‘And Allan looked at me,’ said Gaiman,'[and I finished] ‘… Not in it!’”

The sandman. (L to R) Rosie Day as The Tabby Kitten, David Gyasi as The Gray Cat in episode 111 of The Sandman. kr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

To be fair to Gaiman, keeping it a secret was a three-year challenge that started even before “The Sandman” was picked up on Netflix.

“The ‘secret’ 11th episode was conceived by Neil and Allan and myself before we even launched the show to buyers,” said Goyer. Variety. “Anyone familiar with ‘Sandman’ knows that there are all these incredible self-contained issues scattered throughout the original run and we were determined to adapt those. We suggested to everyone the idea of ​​doing an 11th episode that would drop out of the cycle and we would use these episodes to adapt those issues as well as a love letter to the fans.

Goyer continued: “It was unconventional and it felt very in the spirit with Neil’s unconventional run. We had many offers to make “Sandman” among the buyers, but Netflix was the only one who agreed to make the “secret” episode. And honestly, that was one of the main reasons we went for Netflix. We felt like they got it in a way the others didn’t. We told them that we wanted to tackle ‘Dream of a Thousand Cats’ first and that we wanted it to be animated. And you could see the fear rising in the eyes of most buyers. Netflix didn’t flinch.”

Initially, Gaiman says the plan was to wait a year after the first 10 episodes drop because of the chance it could be a two-year wait between seasons of “The Sandman” due to the large-scale, complex elements. But ahead of the series premiere, the team decided to speed up the timeline and drop the surprise two weeks after launch as a special treat for fans, who have already turned up en masse to make the show a hit.

“Episode 11 is our gift to the fans. We had always envisioned a surprise bonus episode for ‘The Sandman’ and it was important to do it in a way that felt like chapters that honor the original source material and the extraordinary vision of Neil Gaiman,” Peter Friedlander, Head of Netflix’s US script content Variety. “From the animation and story to the distinct chapter format, the surprise two-part episode is packed with creativity and innovation, and we’re excited to see fans embrace it and celebrate the series as a whole.”

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The sandman. Tom Sturridge as Dream in episode 111 of The Sandman. kr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

The first half of that gift is titled “A Dream of a Thousand Cats” and is a fully animated adaptation of the song of the same name from Gaiman’s DC Comics “Sandman” series.

“The challenge for ‘Cats’ was, of course, finding the right animation partner,” said Goyer. “We were all fans of [Hisko Hulsing’s] work. We wanted a handmade feel. We wanted something special that really epitomized how wonderfully malleable ‘Sandman’ was. Hisko and his team have turned it into a work of art.”

Hulsing worked with Untold Studios in London for the 3D animation of the cats in the story, as well as Submarine Studios in Amsterdam for the 2D animation, oil paintings and stylization.

“I started by thumbnailing each shot and making a rough drawing of each one. Almost like making an animation film’, said Hulsing. “And we were very honest about the story because I had the script written by Catherine Smyth-McMullen, but I also had all the notes Neil Gaiman gave the artist 30 years ago and I took them very seriously. They were very imaginative and good and intelligent. But sometimes, visually, they were wrong. You have pretty strict rules, like staying in line with the eye line. Animated movies have rules you can break for a reason, but normally you shouldn’t.”

The actors who voice Hulsing’s creations were voiced by some of Gaiman and Heinberg’s famous friends, including Sandra Oh, James McAvoy, David Tennant and Michael Sheen. (McAvoy voices Morpheus, aka Dream, in Audible’s “The Sandman” adaptation, while Sheen voices Lucifer, who is played by Gwendoline Christie in the Netflix series, and Tennant voices Loki. Sheen and Tennant also star in another Gaiman book-to-TV adaptation, Amazon Prime Video’s “Good Omens.”)

“We have an A-list cast for ‘A Dream of a Thousand Cats’ that we probably couldn’t have gotten for a two or three week shoot because they’re so busy,” said Gaiman. “But we can have them record for us. So we can get Michael Sheen and David Tennant and Georgia and Anna. We can get James McAvoy. How crazy is it that James did it for us as a beautiful gesture? Sandra Oh is the biggest one for me, the one I was blown away by… It wasn’t me at all, it was 100% Allan.”

Heinberg added: “It just happened because Sandra had just arrived in London to start ‘Killing Eve’ season 4 and we were having breakfast. And it all came together.”

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The sandman. Melissanthu Mahut as Calliope in episode 111 of The Sandman. kr. Laurence Cendrowicz/Netflix © 2022

In the live-action portion of the episode, titled “Calliope”, Sturridge stars as Dream and guest stars Melissanthi Mahut as Calliope, Arthur Darvill as Richard Madoc and Jacobi as Erasmus Fry.

“‘Calliope’ was harder because it’s such a brutal story – in many ways it’s the other bookend of ’24 Hours’. That’s the thing with ‘Sandman’ – it embraces the best and worst of humanity. Nightmares and pleasure.”

To capture that image of both a dream and a nightmare, episode director Louise Hooper wanted to deviate from Gaiman’s original comic in two important ways: casting a Greek actress to play the Greek goddess, depicted in the graphic novel as a blonde woman, and eliminating the scenes where author Richard Madoc rapes the goddess to use her muse powers for his career.

“I really wanted to have an actress who felt she had that strength and that dignity and that kind of quiet defiance,” Hooper said. “It’s such a modern parable, of course there are echoes of #MeToo, and I didn’t want her to be too tight, that she would feel too naked. I wanted her to have that vulnerability, but that elegance and that power… And Melissanthi met that vision. She wanted the same.”

She continued: “To do a modern retelling, I didn’t want to see the rape scene. I don’t think it helps us in any way to see that on screen. You know what happens, that she is humiliated and abused, and her voice is suppressed, but what I wanted from Melissanthi, and what she wanted too, is to have someone who is equally strong in her strength. So how I shot it, eye lines, her position in the camera with Richard is even. So yes, she is in a terrible situation, but she is a fighter and she will keep her moral compass strong.”

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The sandman. Melissanthu Mahut as Calliope in episode 111 of The Sandman. kr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

In the story of “Calliope”, it is revealed that Dream and Calliope were not only former lovers, but were previously married and have a son together, Orpheus, who befell a mysterious – for now – tragedy. With Calliope freed from prison at the end of the bonus episode “Sandman” with Dream’s help, there’s the big question of what we’ll learn about their past and their son in a possible second season.

Heinberg doesn’t spill anything (although Gaiman’s comics tell the tale, if you’re interested in getting spoiled), but he says he and Gaiman do have an actor in mind for the pivotal role of Dream and Calliope’s son Orpheus.

“I don’t know if I’m allowed to say it, but we talked about someone we care about very much,” Heinberg said. “And we’ve had those conversations and if we get a second season, we’d love to cast that person. We’re thinking about the entire season with this person in mind.”

Hooper, who also directed “The Sandman” Episode 10, the official Season 1 finale, notes that Dream and Calliope’s relationship is “such a huge plot piece that was mentioned” that “she wanted to make sure you feel you had the peace and space to drop and understand all this information without it getting too emotional.”

“And at the end, when she’s transformed into the Greek goddess she should be,” Hooper said, “you see how sweet they are together, and she just lays her head against him… information grow. ”

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