Warning: SPOILERS for The Sandman Season 1, Episode 4 – “A Hope In Hell”By making Lucifer Morningstar (Gwendoline Christie) face Dream of the Endless (Tom Sturridge) in Hell, The Sandman created a clever reference to Game of Thrones. Netflix’s The Sandman season 1 adapts the first two collections of Neil Gaiman’s beloved DC Comics graphic novels, Preludes and Nocturnes and The Doll’s House. Morpheus’ face-off with Lucifer happens in The Sandman episode 4, “A Hope in Hell,” which makes a crucial change to the comics that pays off with an ingenious callback to Game of Thrones, where Gwendoline Christie played the noble knight, Brienne of Tarth.
In The Sandman episode 4, Dream and Matthew the Raven (Patton Oswalt) descended into Hell in order to retrieve the Sandman’s helmet, which had become the possession of a demon named Choronzon (Munya Chawawa). Morpheus was forced to contest the ownership of his helmet after Choronzon refused to surrender it. The demon and the dream king decided to resolve the dispute by playing The Oldest Game, a supernatural battle of wits. However, Dream had to agree to the terms that if he lost, he would remain Choronzon’s slave in Hell for eternity. Choronzon further swerved the Sandman by choosing Lucifer Morningstar to be his champion, which is a significant change from The Sandman comics where Choronzon played The Oldest Game against Dream of the Endless himself. This switch benefited Netflix’s The Sandman by making Gwendoline Christie’s Lucifer a more active antagonist in the show, whereas the Devil was merely a fearsome observer in the comic.
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When Lucifer began playing The Oldest Game, his opening attack on Dream was to declare, “I am a dire wolf!” Because Gwendoline Christie is Lucifer, it turns into an unmistakable and delicious reference to Game of Thrones, which featured the dire wolf as the sigil and pets of the beloved Stark siblings. However, Christie’s Lucifer declaring himself a dire wolf isn’t an invention of Netflix’s The Sandman; it was also Choronzon’s opening gambit in The Sandman comic when he, not Lucifer, played The Oldest Game against Dream. The Sandman issue #4 referencing a dire wolf was published in 1989, predating George R.R. Martin publishing A Game of Thrones in 1996 and A Clash of Kings, which introduced Brienne of Tarth, in 1998. Little could Martin have dreamed that the actress who would play Brienne on HBO’s global blockbuster series would go on to play Lucifer Morningstar in The Sandman, which would then switch the characters Dream battles in Hell to make a Game of Thrones callback possible.
Brienne of Tarth debuted in Game of Thrones season 2, and she remained a beloved character who survived until the end of the series. Originally pledged to Renly Baratheon (Gethin Anthony), Brienne ended up serving the Starks of Winterfell to protect Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Arya Stark (Maisie Williams). Brienne also fell in love with Jamie Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), a relationship that ended badly for the tall, female knight. Brienne was one of most principled and pure-hearted characters in Game of Thrones, which is why it’s so fascinating that Gwendoline Christie is now playing Lucifer Morningstar in The Sandman. While also proud, the Devil is an immensely dangerous adversary who Dream fears because Lucifer is perhaps the most powerful being in creation, besides God Himself.
One thing Brienne and Lucifer have in common is that neither can let go of being insulted. For the Devil in The Sandman, being publicly humiliated by Dream of the Endless in front of the assembled legion of Hell’s demons provoked Lucifer to swear revenge on the king of dreams. Obviously, Gwendoline Christie was cast as Lucifer because she had distinguished herself as Brienne of Tarth in Game of Thrones, and it’s a chance for Christie to play a much different, villainous role. Lucifer declaring herself a dire wolf in The Oldest Game turned out to be a happy coincidence The Sandman wisely took full advantage of.
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The Sandman Season 1 is streaming on Netflix.