The Scariest Moments In The Sandman, Ranked

This post contains spoilers for the first season of "The Sandman," and the first two volumes of the comics, "Preludes and Nocturnes" and "The Doll's House."

Neil Gaiman's beloved comic series "The Sandman" is filled to the brim with disturbing moments, and the first season of the Netflix adaptation has followed suit. Adapting most of the first two volumes, season 1 features plenty of the darkest scenes of the source material and even creates a few new scary scenes of its own. 

The thing that makes "The Sandman" unique is that, although there's plenty of gore, most of the scares come from the existential nature of what we're witnessing. Although this is a universe filled with godlike creatures, it's still a cold and often unforgiving world for the mortals involved. Simply walking into a diner in this universe can get you killed, and you're not even safe when you're asleep. Here are five of the most unsettling moments in the dark fantasy series so far.

5. John Dee gets a ride from Rosemary

It's a little surprising that in the episode where Dream (Tom Sturridge) takes a trip to literal hell, the scariest stuff going on was in the waking world. "A Hope in Hell" features the escaped criminal John Dee (David Thewlis) getting picked up by a good Samaritan named Rosemary (Sarah Niles). Although he seems kind at first, Rosemary slowly pieces together that he's a dangerous, mentally unbalanced person. She grows scared of him but not scared enough, because it's not until she tries to alert a gas station clerk that she realizes how dangerous Dee truly is. He doesn't just murder the gas station clerk; he explodes the guy's body, leaving behind nothing but blood and guts. 

No good deed goes unpunished, it seems: after helping out a confused stranger, Rosemary's found herself in a hostage situation, one that looks pretty hopeless the moment Dee finds out she lied to him at the gas station. It's even scarier for fans of the comics, because Rosemary's comic counterpart doesn't survive the encounter. There, Dee callously shoots her to death the moment she finishes driving him to his destination. Seeing her try to escape the situation here was extra gut-wrenching because it seems like she's hopelessly fighting against fate.

Rosemary may get a happy ending in this adaptation, but the tension throughout the whole car trip is nearly unbearable. And though it's a relief when Dee briefly chooses not to engage in needless acts of violence, this unfortunately turns out to be his final act of kindness on the show. 

4. The collectors meet in public

As scary as it is to watch the Corinthian munch on some freshly carved-out eyeballs, there's something even more unsettling about watching three serial killers calmly talk with each other at a restaurant in the middle of the day. These are three people who are open with each other about loving to hurt and kill people, who feel comfortable and untouchable enough about it to talk about it in a public place. They're not calling attention to themselves, but they're not speaking in whispers either. (Fun Land drinking a Capri Sun is also a nice, terrible touch.)

It's the sort of thing that doesn't make you jump out of your chair, but it is the sort of thing that'll pop into your head the next time you're at a restaurant. What's that table nearby talking about? It could be anything.

From their waiter's perspective, the three characters seem normal. He has no idea that Fun Land has already picked him as a potential mark, or that the woman at the table who goes by the title "The Doctor" will later decide to murder him and carve out his eyes. It just serves to hammer home the idea that you can die horribly at the hands of a total stranger sitting across from you at a restaurant, often for no real reason at all.

3. Fun Land talks to Jed

The second half of the season revels in the idea that sometimes evil exists for reasons that have nothing to do with the meddling of immortal creatures. His real name never revealed, Fun Land (Danny Kirrane) is a violent, shameless pedophile who attends the serial convention that the final half of the season centers around. We're introduced to him in episode 7, "The Doll's House," but the gut punch doesn't really hit until two episodes later, when young innocent Jed strikes up a conversation with him in the hotel lobby. 

The most terrifying thing about Fun Land is the fact that, if we didn't know better, he might seem like a harmless, goofy, trustworthy guy. We could understand why Jed would trust him at first, which makes it horrifyingly easy to imagine how Fun Land lured in his previous victims.

When Fun Land stops pretending to be nice and actually tries to attack Jed at the end of "Collectors," it's terrifying, but nothing beats the understated dread of watching him gain Jed's trust throughout their previous scenes together. This is one of the few cases where the show manages to up the creepiness of the source material; where the Fun Land of the comics clumsily attacks Rose (Vanesu Samunyai), here we get to see the character in action as a smart, competent predator.

2. Dream claims Lyta's baby

Among the many tragedies that unfold through the season is that of Lyta Hall (Razane Jammal), a young widow who's visited by her late husband Hector in her dreams. She starts to build a new life with her husband in the dream realm, and when he gets her pregnant, she stays pregnant even in the waking world. 

Unfortunately, Hector is supposed to be in the realm of the dead. His presence in the dream world starts causing serious damage to Dream's realm, and Dream is forced to come in and take Hector away from Lyta again. There's some solace in the fact that Lyta gets to keep the baby, but that comfort lasts for only a few seconds. "The baby is yours, for now," Dream says. "The child is mine, and I will come for it."

We know enough about Dream at this point to know he's not necessarily saying this out of cruelty, but again there's the sense of a callous god thoughtlessly playing around with a mortal's life. Dream doesn't seem to understand just how devastating this whole experience is for Lyta, and even if he did it doesn't seem like it'd make a difference. For reasons entirely outside of Lyta's control, she now has to live with the knowledge that one day her child will be taken from her, and there's nothing she can do about it. It's a parent's worst fear, and our protagonist inflicts it upon her without any real explanation.

The scariest moments in "The Sandman" aren't the ones filled with gore or demonic creatures; it's the ones that emphasize just powerless we are to the larger forces in the universe. We are all the Endless' play things, and scenes like this one make that painfully clear.

1. John Dee ruins everyone's day

Rosemary may have fared better in the adaptation, but the characters from the famously gruesome issue "24 Hours" weren't so lucky. The episode follows a single day from the perspective of a handful of diner patrons as Dee traps them inside the restaurant and forces them to act on their every impulse, regardless of the social or moral restrictions that would usually hold them back. Things escalate to the point where one of them is stabbed in the neck, and they start to figure out they're being mind controlled. But by that point, it's too late: when Dee forces them all to each kill themselves through increasingly gruesome methods, they're unable to resist.

The final montage features these characters we've grown to care about chopping off their own fingers, slashing their wrists, or stabbing themselves through the eyes, and it's a lot. More scary than the gore is the episode's depiction of having your mind invaded and controlled. A character chopping another character's fingers off would be unsettling, but to watch a character calmly chop off their own fingers? It's on a whole other level. One wonders if these characters are still aware on some level of what's really happening to them during this montage, but maybe it's best not to think about it.

Perhaps the scariest aspect is the randomness of it all. These characters were all tortured and killed simply because they walked into a seemingly harmless family-friendly diner at the wrong time. In the "Sandman" universe, just like our own, your life can be taken from you in an instant, sometimes for no good reason at all.