Enola Holmes 2 is one of those movies that I do not understand what it is trying to make or tell in its execution other than the first one was successful and Netflix wants to keep two of its bigger actor relationships. Again, this is by no means a bad movie, but more that it doesn’t really build from what the first one set up or really justify its existence. In fact, it honestly seems to put its titular character on the backburner in service of the supporting cast and her famous older brother: Sherlock Holmes.
Most of the cast from the original is back reprising their original roles. Millie Bobby Brown is once again the titular Enola Holmes and brings the same level of enthusiasm and charm that she originally had. Henry Cavill is never not a delight to watch on screen, and his extended presence as the famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, in the sequel does not reduce that enjoyment. Louis Partridge returns as Lord Tewkesbury and manages the same believable chemistry with Brown’s Enola and manages better repertoire with his interactions with supporting cast that he, admittedly, did not have time for in the original film. Helena Bonham Carter and Susan Wokoma come back as Eudoria Holmes and Edith, respectively, providing support, exposition, and encouragement for Enola. Absent is Sam Claiflin’s Mycroft though his minimal involvement in the first adds to the lack of consequence from his removal. So, yeah, the acting is good across the board including the newcomers. As well, even though it is not quite my forte, the set designs and costumes are not exactly period accurate but continue the aesthetic and atmosphere previously established along with the music, soundtrack, editing, and effects. In short the sequel is on par with the original except for two factors: story and Enola’s character.
Essentially, Enola is not really the protagonist of her own story. Now, that is not necessarily out of line for the genre. In many mystery stories, the “detective” is not always the lead or protagonist of the story. Sometimes they are more a plot device or a sidekick to the true protagonist at the heart of the story. However, even in that model the merits of the investigation and discovery of clues or progression and impact of story are still focused or dependent on the “detective.” In this case, Enola does not really fit that model.
The overall mystery and murders revolve around a government conspiracy that revolves around and reimagines the Matchgirls’ strike of 1888. Basically, rich, old, white, aristocratic British men put profits over lives and were more than happy to permanently silence dissenters in the film. These actions result in murders and missing girls one of which is the inciting incident for Enola’s involvement. Alongside this narrative, there is also embezzlement, fraud, and theft happening at the highest levels of politics and finance that Sherlock is tasked with finding and solving. He is for some time unable to do so in a first for the famed detective of Baker Street. He does find that there is actually a mastermind taunting and goading Holmes at the core of the conspiracy. Indeed, this film introduces the infamous criminal mastermind, Moriarty…as Sherlock Holmes nemesis and rival. Admittedly, the film tries to do something different (though not new) with Moriarty by making the character a Black woman to add some literally stated social commentary on the basis of gender (though not race which is odd), but even that is geared toward Sherlock far more than Enola since Moriarty was leaving clues and taunts for him and not her.
In fact, this sequel tries to make Enola into a younger, female Sherlock by all accounts. Her character does not really leave or build off what was developed in the first film. In the sequel, Enola is desperately trying to jumpstart her detective agency at the cost of everything else. She has not interacted with Tewkesbury since their adventure concluded. She has shunned any help or assistance or companionship in pursuit of her agency and work. She desperately is trying to move out of the long, looming shadow of her brother. Except for the previous sentence, nothing listed prior makes sense for where Enola should be as a character other than the writers really wanted to write a Sherlock story. Because the character of Enola in this film is simply that. She lacks any real development in this film. The mystery she is attempting to solve is really more resolved by Sherlock’s actions and choices. The result of said conspiracy being brought to light is more a victory, rightfully so, for the impoverished matchstick girls. The villain is her brother’s arch nemesis which the film unapologetically makes clear by the film’s conclusion. At the end of the movie, Enola is exactly where she began with the caveat that for no real reason she is okay with it instead of depressed and she is actively courting Tewkesbury. However, her love life was never a problem or in question as her returned affections are known from the beginning of the film and the only obstacle is her own choice not to pursue a romance. Again, an issue that is resolved without issue by film’s end for, once more, no real reason other than the movie is ending, and there should be a romance.
Enola is basically used to develop Sherlock’s character and mythos to the detriment of her own development. She encourages him to be more open and willing to give and receive help. She is, in some small manner, responsible for introducing Sherlock to his most capable and known adversary. She is even made to be responsible for the meeting of Sherlock and his closest comrade and confidante, Dr. John Watson. By this pattern, Enola will somehow be the reason that Sherlock meets Irene Adler in the third film and will create the circumstances by which Sherlock finds himself at Reichenbach Falls in the fourth film with HER name on it. It is not surprising that the sequel has no direct book that it is adapting unlike the first film. And it would seem that the production crew really wanted to tell a Sherlock Holmes story but was limited to the Enola Holmes character and narrative. Unfortunately so because Brown’s talents are a bit wasted in this film when she did such a good job in the first. At least, she has a production credit and probably a bigger check this time around. Might as well build your business if you are not going to get a project that matches your efforts.
Watch, or rewatch, the first Enola Holmes and skip the sequel. You are not missing out on much.