Commentary: ‘The Sandman’ Bonus Episodes Has Implications For Streaming

by Frank Martin

After a long and arduous process, Netflix’s The Sandman was met with a great reception from both critics and fans, but recently, the show surprised viewers even further by dropping an unannounced bonus episode that adapted two more stories from the legendary comic book. As a comics run, The Sandman follows both long-form storytelling as it chronicles Morpheus’s journey and isolated one-shots that can serve as single episodes in-and-of-themselves. The season contained a few of these, but the way in which the show utilized them for this bonus episode can have vast ramifications for the world of streaming.

Typical television operates in seasons. This is mostly following the old format of having a standard air date for each episode, but the world of streaming has changed television a lot. Even though shows still routinely follow the style of production in the form of seasons, the fact that a streamer like Netflix can release an entire season at once has altered the viewing experience. Shows are typically produced in seasons for budget reasons, so that shows can be filmed in the most efficient way possible. But when it comes to standalone episodes, such as the ones featured in The Sandman, it’s certainly possible that filming can take place whenever and the episode can be released on the streaming service isolated of any particular season.

Shows like Black Mirror have already utilized this to some degree, as they have released so-called “seasons” that were just a few episodes long. Also, the animated anthology Love, Death + Robots did something similar when they decided to cut one of their seasons in half and release both chunks of new material separately. In terms of The Sandman, however, bonus episodes that feature isolated stories free from the main plot line can serve to add to the viewing experience. In this regard, there may come a time when shows don’t necessarily have “off seasons” with no new contents. Streamers can merely hold on to these bonus episodes and release them sporadically, thus revolutionizing how TV shows are viewed again.

The Sandman is now streaming on Netflix.

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