Missing The Sandman? Here are 6 dark fantasies to tide you over

Tom Sturridge's Dream stares into the camera as he traverses a path in the Hell Dimension in Netflix's The Sandman TV show
(Image credit: Netflix)

You would hope that everything seems to be in place for The Sandman, Neil Gaiman's long, long awaited adaptation of his adored comic book series, to win a second season on Netflix

So far, the series has racked up viewing hours of more than 360 million, including a full week of over 127 million. That's a bigger launchpad than Anatomy Of A Scandal, The Lincoln Lawyer and Heartstopper, but while the future of the latter two shows is secure with new seasons locked in, The Sandman is still in purgatory. 

Gaiman has been upfront about the possibility that the show will be one and done and has implored people to watch it. With a budget of $15 million per episode, it's understandable why Netflix are waiting and seeing, but, with those viewing figures, you'd hope that luck is on the show's side. 

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The Sandman begins in 1916, with a secret society, led by a magician named Roderick Burgess, deciding to do the much-tried and never-succeeded task of obtaining immortality by imprisoning Death himself. Sadly, Burgess mistakenly binds Death's brother Dream instead, and fearing retribution, Burgess keeps Dream imprisoned. Eventually, Dream escapes, and, finding himself in the modern world, sets about avenging those who captured him and rebuilding the kingdom of dreams. 

Now, even if The Sandman is granted a second run and production begin immediately, it won't be with us until at least the autumn of 2023, probably longer than that. So you'll be needing something to tide you over.

With that in mind, we've racked our brains come up with six dark and sprawling fantasies, the kind with epic world-building, complex characters and a new world to dive into. 

So, until we see The Sandman again...

American Gods

New TV shows American Gods season 3

(Image credit: Starz)

An extremely obvious pick, but it's the only place to start. 

Neil Gaiman's 2001 novel was taken to television in 2017 by Starz and Hannibal showrunner Bryan Fuller with Ricky Whittle, Emily Browning, Ian McShane and Gillian Anderson in starring roles. 

Whittle plays Shadow Moon, an ex-con who is offered a job as a bodyguard by mysterious stranger Mr. Wednesday.  However, it soon emerges that Mr. Wednesday is, in fact, an ancient deity travelling across the country rounding up all the old gods in anticipation of an epic battle against a new and powerful force intent on taking control of their world. 

Cruelly cut down in 2021 after three seasons, the show deserved a seven season run. But maybe with renewed interest in Gaiman's work, it will return. Who knows? 

Where can I stream it?

Starz (US), Prime Video (UK, AU)

His Dark Materials

watch his dark material season 2 online

(Image credit: HBO/Warner Media)

Lighter and broader than The Sandman, His Dark Materials is as much a young adult show as it is high fantasy, but the breadth of the world and the storytelling is just as good. 

Based on Philip Pullman’s groundbreaking series of books, Pullman's story was done an immense disservice when it was first taken to the big screen back in 2007. In spite of a star-studded cast that included Daniel Craig, Nicole Kidman and Ian McKellen, the movie was decidedly meh. Now though, a team-up between HBO and the BBC has set that right. 

The story follows Lyra, an orphan who has grown up around the scholars at Jordan College in Oxford. The world she lives in is governed by the Magisterium, a strict religious and political body. After her friend mysteriously disappears, she finds herself entangled in a sinister plot involving stolen children and a quest to understand a mysterious phenomenon called Dust, something the Magisterium is desperate to suppress. 

With James McAvoy, Ruth Wilson, and Lin-Manuel Miranda among the cast, this series captures the wonder and splendor of Pullman’s trilogy of books superbly. A third and final series is due later this year.

Where can I stream it?

HBO Max (US), BBC iPlayer (UK), BiNGE (AU)



(Image credit: HBO)

A true one season wonder, despite a real clamor for more, Damon Lindelof's critically-acclaimed sequel to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' graphic novel felt like real event television. 

Watchmen, almost universally acknowledged as one of the greatest graphic novels of all time, is set in an alternate 1985 America, where costumed superheroes are part of everyday life. When one of his former comrades is murdered, masked vigilante Rorschach uncovers a plot to kill and discredit all past and present superheroes, forcing him to reconnect with his old colleagues. 

For his take, Lindelof told a new story in the same world with new characters set in the present day. His narrative was largely set in  Tulsa, Oklahoma, where violent, racist uprisings are on the rise as a white supremacist group called the Seventh Kavalry has taken up arms against the Tulsa Police Department. 

To conceal their identities, the police begin to wear masks to prevent the Seventh Kavalry from targeting them in their homes. When an officer is murdered, King's Sister Night, a detective, is brought in to investigate, which begins to reveal plenty of secrets about heroes new and old. 

Starring Jeremy Irons, Don Johnson, Regina King, Johnson, Tim Blake Nelson and Andrew Howard, Lindelof coaxed a compelling and wondrous new narrative from the hallowed ground of this original. A fine, fine achievement. 

Where can I stream it?

HBO Max (US), Virgin Media Go (UK), BiNGE (AU)

Locke & Key

Emilia Jones in Locke and Key season 2

(Image credit: Netflix)

Much like The Sandman, Locke and Key, Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodríguez's hugely acclaimed comic book series was stuck in development hell for years before Netflix finally took a chance on it. 

The story follows three siblings who move to a very old following the murder of their father. In that house, their father's ancestral home, they discover a series of mystical keys that grant the user a different ability, depending on what that key is for. 

Those keys, as you might imagine, get them into all sorts of trouble. 

Creepy, creative and full of unexpected turns, the show was given three seasons to play out and they're all well worth your time. 

Where can I stream it?

Netflix (Worldwide)

The Wheel Of Time

A promotional image for Amazon's The Wheel of Time

(Image credit: Amazon)

Prime Video has just launched The Rings Of Power, its colossal and hugely expensive new take on Lord of The Rings, but last year it offered another fantasy epic, one that's much darker, but superbly put together. 

The Wheel Of Time is an adaptation of Robert Jordan’s vast series of books and stars  Rosamund Pike as Moiraine, who, in a world full of magic, is one of the few who can access it. As the show begins, she is dispatched by her order, the Aes Sedai, to find the “Dragon Reborn,” a prophesied reincarnation of a powerful individual who could either save the world… or destroy it.

Her eyes are set on five young villagers, one of whom she is sure is the one, she just doesn’t know which one. 

Already booked for season two and three on Prime Video, this is epic, sweeping high fantasy with big themes and strong action set-pieces, it shares The Sandman's scope and its power. 

Where can I stream it?

Prime Video (Worldwide)

Penny Dreadful

Penny dreadful

(Image credit: Showtime)

John Logan, writer of 007 hits Spectre and Skyfall, created this gothic drama, which ran for three seasons from 2014 to 2016. 

Starring Eva Green, Josh Hartnett, Timothy Dalton and Harry Treadaway,  Penny Dreadful reimagined some of literature’s most famous characters, including Dr Frankenstein, Dorian Gray and figures from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, all brought together in Victorian London. 

Tremendous fun, intriguing and well-scripted, this has The Sandman's playful nature and flights of fancy and deserved a bigger audience. 

Where can I stream it?

Showtime (US), NOW (UK), Paramount+ (AU)

Tom Goodwyn
Freelance Entertainment Writer

Tom Goodwyn was formerly TechRadar's Senior Entertainment Editor. He's now a freelancer writing about TV shows, documentaries and movies across streaming services, theaters and beyond. Based in East London, he loves nothing more than spending all day in a movie theater, well, he did before he had two small children…