John Dee of The Sandman Explained: Dreams Come True

Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for The Sandman.While Netflix’s adaptation of Neil Gaimanit is The sand man follows the same storyline as the comics, the series also changes a few elements in the origins of the main characters, notably John Dee (David Thewlis). In the comics, Gaiman tried to write the endless epic within the confines of the DC Universe. So, when choosing the big bad for his first volume, Preludes and Nocturnes, the writer used a forgotten Justice League villain, John Dee, aka Doctor Destiny. However, for the series, Netflix couldn’t use other DC characters, which led them to adapt the villain’s origin. So who is John Dee in Netflix The sand man? And how did they change the villain for the live-action adaptation?

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Instead of choosing an existing villain and casting it against Morpheus (Tom Sturridge), The sand man delves into John Dee’s connection to the imprisonment of Morpheus. This is because, in the series, John Dee is Roderick Burgess’ unwanted child, os Magus (Charles Dance), the master of the mystical arts who summoned and trapped Morpheus for over a century. John’s mother, Ethel Cripps (Niamh Walsh /Joely Richardson), flees Magus once she finds out she is pregnant – Magus wants to force her to have an abortion. She also steals Dream’s tools from Magus’ vault, a choice that, unfortunately, would forever curse her son.

To escape London and make a living in America, Ethel sells the Pouch of Dream Sand. She also trades Dream’s Helm with a Hell Demon in exchange for a Protection Amulet. The Dreamstone ruby, however, she keeps for herself, lending the jewel to her son on his birthdays, so he can achieve his dreams. Addicted to the power of the Dreamstone, John steals the tool from his mother and alters its properties so that it only ever responds to his dreams. However, the power of Dreamstone is too much for any human mind to handle, and once John loses control, he ends up murdering many people. This is why Ethel decides to lock up her son in a mental institution, where he will remain for thirty years. Worse still, Ethel orders the doctors never to mention the Dreamstone, tricking John into the existence of the artifact.


RELATED: ‘The Sandman’s Dream Tools, Explained: What is the King’s Full Power?

After Morpheus escaped from his prison, the Corinthian (Boyd Holbrook) realizes that his former master will try to get his tools back. Wanting to prevent Morpheus from recovering his lost powers, the Nightmare convinces Ethel that she is in danger. Frightened by the possibility of Morpheus coming to get revenge on her and John for stealing his tools, Ethel goes to visit her son in the mental institution. There, she offers him her amulet of protection, asking him to never pursue the Dreamstone again.

Despite Ethel’s pleas, John uses the Protection Amulet to escape the mental institution and pursue the Ruby. After decades of heavy drugs and lying about the Dreamstone’s existence and powers, John has developed a pathological aversion to any type of lie. Of course, as we all know, lying is part of adult life and an important tool to use in everyday life. Unable to comprehend this, John uses the Dreamstone to remove the lies from the waking world. And this, of course, leads humans to give in to their deepest desires without thinking of the consequences, which in turn leads to much destruction.


Removing all kinds of lies from the world also removes dreams. So John’s childish visions of truths and lies lead to the disappearance of hope, fantasy and wishful thinking. It’s no wonder he becomes one of Morpheus’ greatest enemies, as the King of Dreams’ responsibility is to ensure that the people of the waking world can keep dreaming, so that life is bearable.

by Netflix The sand man retains all of John Dee’s powers and his position as Morpheus’ first great enemy. However, the series erases the villain’s connection to the Justice League, focusing only on his family history. This allows the series to explore the villain’s shattered psyche, turning him into a terrifying villain. And with Thewlis’ brilliant performance bringing John Dee to life, the Netflix series becomes the best adaptation of the story we could have dreamed of.


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