The Corinthian's Origin Story Explains His Actions in 'The Sandman'
Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers for The Sandman on Netflix.
The new fantasy-horror Netflix series The Sandman already has the world talking about the difference between the waking world and that of our dreams. Based on the DC comic book series by Neil Gaiman, and with author Neil at its helm, The Sandman chronicles the lives and tales of the Endless. One of the creations in the world of the Endless is the Corinthian (Boyd Holbrook).
In the first episode of The Sandman, it’s unclear exactly who is “good” and “evil,” and what the Corinthian’s motives are. However, it’s clear that he’s against the protagonist of the series, Dream, aka Morpheus, aka the Sandman (Tom Sturridge). So who is the Corinthian and what is his endgame? We do our best to explain how his comic book character is reinterpreted on the screen.
The Corinthian is Morpheus’s embodiment of the Nightmare.
As opposed to Dream, the Corinthian is the Nightmare. However, he is Morpheus’s creation. In the comic books, Morpheus creates the Corinthian in order to show people how terrible the world could be if they give into their darkest desires. The Sandman explains that the Corinthian was “created to be the darkness, and the fear of darkness in every human heart. A black mirror, made to reflect everything about itself that humanity will not confront.”
While The Sandman is fantasy, it relates back to our world in teaching us why nightmares might be valuable, and defining the philosophies of thoughts versus actions. In the series, the Corinthian wants to go rogue and join the waking world, which makes sense considering the fact that he has no morals. But Morpheus does everything in his power to stop the Corinthian.
However, in Episode 1, when Morpheus is in the middle of capturing the Corinthian, Morpheus gets captured by Roderick Burgess with whom he’s imprisoned for over 100 years. In this time, the Corinthian is able to run freely, and in doing so, he creates a cult of serial killers who kill in his name. Because the Corinthian craves chaos and darkness, he helps Roderick to make sure that Morpheus stays in captivity for as long as possible.
In doing so, Morpheus loses control of the dream world, which gives nightmares like the Corinthian more power. He truly turned reality into a waking nightmare. The Corinthian’s signature look — wearing sunglasses over his eye sockets that have rows of teeth instead of eyes — makes him even more of a dark entity.
His goal is to create a world in his image: without eyeballs. His signature killing style becomes ripping out and devouring his victims’ eyes, which he then uses to see their past and potentially future lives. In doing so, he was able to manipulate mortals into killing in his style; these mortals called themselves “collectors.”
Once Morpheus escapes his captivity, however, he knows that he must bring the Corinthian back to the dream world. The two battle it out throughout Season 1 of The Sandman even though the Corinthian doesn’t appear in the comic books until Volume #10. The show creators, Neil Gaiman included, believed that the Corinthian made for a perfect Season 1 adversary to Morpheus.
But this did create some challenges, especially for Boyd, who plays the Corinthian. “I really thought that I would have to do, or I [would feel] some obligation to bring something else to the role that wasn’t on the page, Boyd explained to Polygon. “But Neil Gaiman and Allan Heinberg, our showrunner, really just put me at ease with that. Because rather than a hindrance, it’s more of a weapon,” he said of the comic book source material.
But acting without eyes can be very challenging. “I think it would basically paralyze anybody,” Boyd reflected. “Once the glasses come off and you see the teeth for eyes, I think it would just kind of shell-shock people.” Will the Corinthian ever come back? Well, he does come back in the comic books, so anything is possible.
The Sandman is now available to stream on Netflix.