While some fans were underwhelmed with Thewlis' take on the character at first, the actor surely proved the skeptics wrong.
When Netflix finally released the first trailer for Neil Gaiman's comic series adaptation, a lot of fans of the original were not just confused, but plain disappointed in the realistic approach 'The Sandman's creative team has chosen for the portrayal of John Dee.
One of the most important characters in the series was actually depicted quite differently in the comics: John Dee in Gaiman's canon had a truly menacing appearance – skull-like face, the whole Big Bad Wolf shebang, – effectively scaring people mindless. In the Netflix series, however, Thewlis looks like an ordinary man, even harmless – at least in the beginning. No wonder that 'The Sandman' fans were underwhelmed.
Well, now that they got an opportunity to watch Thewlis perform, and brilliantly at that, they certainly changed their mind, praising Thewlis' take on the character on Reddit.
Thewlis gave his all in the series episode 5, "24/7". While in the comic series John Dee is basically an unhinged lunatic, Thewlis' treatment gives us more nuanced villain. Villain nonetheless, but strangely charismatic; not loveable per se, but someone we can feel something besides fear and disgust for. Strange humanity in Thewlis' John Dee makes the events of episode 5 all the more disturbing and creepy.
It feels like he's truly believes that he's actually helping all these poor people in the diner, stripping their world of lies and letting them do what they actually want for once. The original John Dee felt like much more of a sadist, playing with his victims for fun. This John Dee, created by Thewlis, is absolutely terrifying partly due to how ordinary he looks. How many Johns are there in our neighborhoods, walking the same streets, sharing the same subway car?
"I liked that John is different to Dr. Destiny in the comics, much more nuanced and easy to sympathize, which made dream sparing him much more logical and powerful. Even his goal is from a philosophical perspective than just power hungry, he just wanted to live in a world where people can be true to each other." – /sephelutis
That version of the character that we saw thanks to David Thewlis in the Netflix adaptation of 'The Sandman', in fact, differs from the comics' version of the character by 180 degrees. Fans on Reddit agree that Thewlis' take on John Dee actually adds more substance to the story and the character's development over the course of it, despite it being the complete opposite of the comics version.
"This part of the comics and the audiobook scared me stupid. I literally hid under my covers as I listened the first time. The things Dee did to those poor people... anyway, this episode was everything I wanted it to be. Still raw and dark with, IMO, the right amount of gore." – /Jocey2792
Many people couldn't help but compare the second DC character Thewlis played to his first one – 'Wonder Woman's Ares. Well, understandably that comparison wasn't in Ares' favor: seeing now just how much Thewlis is able to add to a character, fans on Reddit are once again disappointed with all the wasted potential of 'Wonder Woman's main villain.
Episode 5 is almost unanimously recognized by fans of the original comics as the best episode of the TV series, but of course, it is not without some flaws – including those directly related to David Thewlis' character portrayal. For example, some viewers did not understand the motivation behind the episode's climax, when John Dee's victims start to mutilate themselves. Why do they do that exactly? We haven't got an explicit explanation for that particular moment, but, as always, fans on Reddit do have some very plausible theories.
"I think Dee took away all their lies, even those they'd been telling themselves. They could not live with themselves anymore once they'd seen their true selves." – /SharrasFlame