The final episode of The Sandman's first season wrapped up numerous story arcs, killed off a major antagonist and showed some real character growth for Morpheus of the Endless. There was a tonne packed into those 46 minutes, so we wouldn't be surprised if you missed some of it.
Why did Dream want to kill Rose? What's all this about a new Corinthian? Who was Fiddler's Green? And what is the deal with Desire, exactly? Let's find out...
Major spoilers for the Netflix series and the comics ahead.
The Sandman ending explained
What was the Corinthian’s plan?
The episode opens with the Corinthian saving Jed and Rose from serial killer Fun Land. The living nightmare is not doing it out of the goodness of his heart, however. He has a plan to get rid of his creator, Morpheus, by exploiting Rose Walker's powers as a dream vortex. Ultimately he wants her to take control of the Dreaming so that he can be free to wander the Earth in perpetuity, and he uses the energy that radiates from her while she sleeps to wield a knife that can physically harm his maker.
Rose is smarter than he expected, though. While she has every reason to mistrust Dream, she's not stupid and can see through the Corinthian's scheme. She forces herself to wake up and he instantly loses his powers, enabling Morpheus to reduce him to sand and a tiny, many-toothed skull.
What's all this about a new Corinthian?
Morpheus says that in time he'll create another version of the Corinthian. That may seem rash given how dangerous this one was, but nightmares serve an important function in the human imagination.
Comic fans will be acutely aware that this is a plot thread that's picked up further down the line, including an entire ongoing spinoff comic titled The Sandman Universe: Nightmare Country by James Tynion IV and Lisandro Estherren. As for the Netflix series? Watch this space.
What happens to the Collectors?
The Collectors are a pack of serial killers who have gathered under the Corinthian's influence. Dream punishes them by removing their ability to see themselves and their crimes as anything other than what they are: squalid, pathetic and deeply harmful. At least one of them, Nimrod, reacts to this by immediately shooting himself in the head, while another, The Good Doctor, turns herself in to the police.
Why does Dream want to kill Rose?
Rose's powers are fundamentally dangerous to the Dreaming and by extension, the human race. Morpheus doesn't want to kill her, but as he says at one point, the last time he failed to deal with a vortex, an entire universe was lost.
Rose is a kind and empathetic person. She doesn't want to die, but she's not willing to sacrifice reality for her own sake. Eventually, she hands herself over to Dream, who suggests that if she isn't willing to move on to whatever comes next that she could reside with him in the Dreaming, perhaps as one of his ravens. Meanwhile, Gilbert - AKA Fiddler's Green - pleas for her life, but to no avail. The vortex must be destroyed.
How did Unity save Rose?
Unity Kincaid is Rose's great-grandmother. As we saw all the way back in episode 1, she fell victim to the sleepy sickness (a plague in the Waking World caused by the Dream Lord's prolonged imprisonment). Had this not happened then she would have grown up to be this generation's vortex, not Rose.
Unity learns all of this from reading a book in Lucienne's library about the life she would have lived if Morpheus had not been kidnapped. She then tracks down her great-granddaughter and asks her to transfer the vortex energies into her. Rose does this by imagining a glass heart which, when passed to her great-grandmother shatters, releasing the power within. Unity dies in the Waking World, dispersing the vortex energy, but lingers long enough to say goodbye to Rose in the Dreaming.
And is Rose one of the Endless? Not quite. Dream refers to her as a "daughter of the Endless", as she is the offspring of Miranda Walker, the daughter of Unity Kincaid and Desire of the Endless.
What happens next to Rose and Jed?
Rose wakes up in the real world to learn that Lyta has given birth to a baby boy. Eventually, Rose and Jed return to live out their lives in New Brunswick with Lyta, the baby (currently unnamed) and Hal, who has sold his house to Chantal and Zelda. Rose writes a book - incredibly quickly! - about her experiences, titled Into The Night.
What was Desire's scheme?
It's revealed about halfway through the season that the architect of Dream's misfortunes is his decadent sibling, Desire. They were somehow responsible for the falling out between Nada and Morpheus - which ended with the human woman being banished to Hell - and for Roderick Burgess's capture of the sandman. The scheme to manipulate a vortex was just another attempt to get one up on their sibling.
The precise nature of this betrayal is a little obscure, but it boils down to forcing Dream to accidentally break one of the complex and mysterious laws that govern the Endless. If Morpheus had killed Rose Walker then he would - in his own words - have spilled "family blood". This would in turn have drawn the attention of the Fates - the three goddesses we met in episode two. These are some of the most powerful beings in the series' cosmology and angering them would be very bad news indeed…
What is Dream building at the end?
Morpheus is revealed to be working on some new nightmares. He has a surprise for Lucienne, however. He's also recreated Gault, the rebel he had previously condemned to nothingness, transforming her into a beautiful flying dream.
What is Lucifer's plan?
As we see at the end of the episode, Lucifer Morningstar has not taken her humiliation well. She's visited by Azazel, one of the co-rulers of Hell, who declares that his armies are ready to assault the Dreaming, should Lucifer order it. Instead, she says that she intends to do "something that I have never done before. Something that will make God absolutely livid and bring Morpheus to his knees."
Now, we can't know for certain what that plan will be for the TV show, but if it's anything like the comics then that involves abdicating the throne and handing over the keys of Hell to Morpheus. This leads to a bitter contest amongst the other immortal beings for who will take long-term control of the realm. Meanwhile, Lucifer is off having the time of her life on Earth. We don't yet know if the series will stick to that plotline, but it seems certain that it will at least draw some elements from it. We'll definitely be seeing Nada again soon, that's for sure.