"Lost Hearts" is an unusual season finale in some ways, but then The Sandman is an unusual show, one that has delighted, baffled, amused, annoyed, and occasionally moved me over the last 10 installments. There's a lot to wrap up in just 46 minutes, but the episode does a pretty good job of tying a bow on the season.
First up: the Corinthian. He's tracked down Jed and Rose and convinced them to rest safely in their hotel room. Of course, he has an ulterior motive for this apparent kindness. With Rose nearby and radiating vortex energy, he is able to bring the collectors' murderous fantasies to life – and also wield a knife that can physically harm his creator.
Dream and the Corinthian fight, but ultimately this battle can only be decided by the sleeping Rose. As the Dreaming and the waking world have continued to merge, so her powers have grown. Ignoring the Corinthian's pleas to usurp Morpheus, she chooses to rebuild the walls of reality instead. This robs the Corinthian of his powers and the sandman is able to finally defeat him, reducing him to a tiny shrunken skull.
Now it's time for the collectors to face judgment for their crimes. Morpheus robs them of their delusions and self-pity, with each of them suddenly realizing to their horror just how pathetic they truly are. Nimrod commits suicide. The Good Doctor turns herself in to the police to face punishment. Others just mill off dejectedly into the night. There won't be another cereal convention.
Back in Cape Kennedy, Lyta is in hospital giving birth to her baby. Rose arrives to find all her housemates there, except for Gilbert who seems to have vanished. Rose's powers continue to grow, however, and while she sleeps everyone is pulled into a maelstrom of energy. Somebody needs to stop her for the greater good – as Dream points out, the last time he "failed in his duty" with a vortex, an entire universe was destroyed. Despite Lyta urging her to confront Morpheus and save herself, Rose realizes that the only way to truly help her friends is to sacrifice herself.
She meets with Dream who offers her an alternative to death. She could stay with him in the Dreaming, perhaps as a raven like Matthew. She seems to be actually considering this when salvation comes from an unexpected place...
Unity Kincaid is asleep. She's dreaming of a vast, endless library and when she's there she meets a strange woman: Lucienne. Unity wants to find a book about the life she would have led if she'd not fallen prey to the sleepy sickness (which, you may recall, only manifested because Dream was kidnapped and held hostage by Roderick Burgess for a century). This book can't exist, but here it is anyway. It confirms that, had Unity lived the life she was meant to, she would have become this generation's vortex, not Rose.
That fact enables her to find Rose in the nick of time and offers an alternative solution to killing her great-granddaughter: Rose can give up her powers. She does this by visualizing a glass heart, filling it with energy and giving it to Unity. The heart shatters and Unity dies peacefully in her bed so that Rose might live.
It's a touching moment, but perhaps more importantly, it gives Dream a vital piece of information. Unity mentions the golden-eyed father of her daughter, Miranda, and Morpheus immediately realizes that it's his sibling, Desire. He travels to their chambers and furiously confronts them. Desire, for their part, smugly acknowledges the truth of their schemes. Intriguingly, this confrontation reveals a fairly strong division within the ranks of the Endless. On the one side, there is Dream, Death, and Destiny, on the other Desire, Despair, and Delirium. Desire concedes, for now, but it's very clear that this conflict is only just beginning.
What a strange and uneven episode. There’s so much going on here that it’s hard to take it all in, even after a couple of viewings. The final confrontation with the Corinthian is well-handled and Boyd Holbrook finds some surprising and sympathetic notes in his character’s undoing. Gilbert’s exit, too, is beautiful – he explodes into a shower of leaves, petals, and vines as he becomes Fiddler’s Green once again. There are also plenty of intriguing hints and setup for season two.
At the same time, I’m not sure that Rose’s housemates ever really got the screen time that they needed to feel like real people and not just odd caricatures. Developments like Chantal and Zelda buying the house from Hal are over and done in the blink of an eye. And the threat of the collectors is tossed away far too quickly. There’s plenty of mileage in the idea of all these killers suddenly manifesting their worst desires in the real world, but it’s wrapped up in a handful of scenes. You’re also never in any doubt that Rose is going to do the right thing and give herself up. It’s a broadly satisfying cap to the season, but it does feel a little rushed. Hopefully the show’s success will lead to a slightly longer episode order for season two. There’s plenty of story to explore, after all.
Analysis: How it compares to the comics
The Corinthian being able to harm Dream is an invention for the series and it adds a touch more drama to the scene which, in the comics, simply involved Morpheus destroying him.
Morpheus hints that he’s going to make a second Corinthian and indeed he does, though not until much later in the run. This version of the living nightmare is far more loyal to the sandman. Perhaps, if the show makes it as far as The Kindly Ones arc, then we’ll likely see Boyd Holbrook back in the role once more.
Fables and reflections
Rose goes home and immediately writes a book about her experiences, titled Into The Night. Fast work! Also, Hal appears to be dating her housemate Carl.
The final scene of the season involves Lucifer and Mazikeen plotting revenge on Dream. They’re joined by Azazel, one of the other rulers of Hell, who was mysteriously absent in episode four. Nice to see that they haven’t gotten rid of the character completely.
Barbie is mad at Ken for dreaming about having sex with somebody else and it’s clear that their relationship isn’t really working out. Should the show get a second season – which seems almost certain – it’s very likely that it will adapt the Season of Mists and A Game Of You arcs, the latter of which picks up with Barbie sometime later.
Lyta’s baby remains nameless, for now, but if the show continues to follow the path of the comic then he will be named Daniel. He is… significant.
The Sandman is now streaming on Netflix. For more streaming options, check out our list of the best Netflix shows available right now.