I think the most important thing to take away from Doll's House in its entirety is that Rose is pretty awesome. I admit I was worried when we first met her, but she has more than redeemed herself. I'm not sure I've loved her more than this moment:
"I don't understand it, but I believe it."
No whining, no existential crises, just a simple acknowledgment of what's happening. Sure, she's a little confused as to WHY it's happening, but aren't we all?
"AND THEN SHE WOKE UP"
That is one of the classic "twists" that creative writing classes try to prevent. You know the ones: it was all a dream, actually this is purgatory, we've all been trippin' on PCP, etc. But if ever the line "and then she woke up" is appropriate, it's here. It's a credit to Gaiman's restraint that he hasn't used this line until now.
In fact, he's killing two cliches in one stone: not only does the phrase end the previous story, it begins Rose's new story. And waking up is equally hackneyed at the front of a story as at the end. But it feels right here. Beautiful even.
That said, there is another twist that does not really work for me: that Unity is in fact the Vortex, and Rose somehow inherits that status. It's a handy way to keep Rose alive and fulfil Unity's purpose, but the whole creation of the Vortex mystifies me. So Desire had sex with Unity and therefore Unity becomes the Vortex? Til now, I thought it was some random aligning of the cosmos that selected Rose Walker, and I would have been more satisfied if that was the case. The new twist means that not only is Dream a servant, a doll, of humanity, he can't even protect his domain from his less powerful younger sister. And I don't like the implications of that. It weakens him as a character.
Also, at the moment Desire's scheming feels extremely pointless. Creating Morpheus's love for Nada, yes, that makes sense within the context of what we know about Desire. But to what end would Desire have Dream kill one of his own family? By manipulating him to do so, she is not influencing his desires at all; he merely acts to destroy the Vortex out of responsibility to his kingdom.
Separately, now that I'm thinking about it, isn't it possible that Desire's act actually SAVED the Dreaming? When Unity Kincaid came of age to become the vortex, Dream was trapped and wouldn't have been able to do anything about it. His kingdom was in tatters, his powers at an all time low. Unity might actually have destroyed the Dreaming completely. So by moving the Vortex down a couple of generations, didn't Desire inadvertently create a situation where he could act to save his domain? I wouldn't accuse Desire of anything altruistic; she probably didn't know. But oh, the vagaries of chance.
See, didn't I tell you domains are important? Gilbert isn't a who, but a place. He is a domain unto himself, but isn't even master of his own domain. It's such a lovely idea, that places have character and personality. This is one of the ideas that really stuck with me long after I first read Sandman.
"What a wonderful place!"
"Yeah, it was a friend of mine."
Doll's House as a whole sets up many characters and themes that will dominate the series in later issues; pay attention to the denizens of the Doll's House, for they do not emerge unscathed from their proximity to the vortex.
I am going to pay a lot more attention to Desire's actions, because even when I first read the series I did not give them a whole lot of consideration. Of course she's important as a facet of humanity, but I want to pinpoint her importance to the Endless, to this particular universe, apart from being an irritatingly smug thorn in everyone's side.