I’m not entirely sure what algorithms Netflix runs in order to determine what gets greenlit for more and what get canned quickly. Hell, we had to be in limbo for what seemed like forever finding out of if “Sandman” was going to get a second season, while for some inexplicable reason “Warrior Nun” seemed to get a season 2 launched before the end credits rolled. All of which brings us to “Enola Holmes 2,” a rather mediocre sequel to a mediocre predecessor. Granted, the now series does seem to have a bit of franchise qualities built into it, but whether those qualities are necessary to be explored is a different discussion entirely.
“Enola Holmes 2” has plenty of charm, with Millie Bobby Brown once again shedding her “Stranger Things” typecast and demonstrating that she can, in fact, be a strong and likable lead. But much like the first one, there isn’t enough here to be remembered, and like the first one becomes largely forgettable rather quickly after it concludes. Strong performances aren’t enough to fill the narrative gaps in the “Enola Holmes” series, with the sequel in particular not being nearly as clever or as interesting as it thinks it is and leaving viewers with little to remember.
Directed by Harry Bardbeer (“Klling Eve,” “Fleabag“) with a screenplay by Jack Thorne (“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child“) “Enola Holmes 2” picks up shortly after the first one, with Enola opening up her own detective agency and being largely overlooked by just about everybody. Her previous case (which I cannot for the life of me remember despite the film opening with a quick fourth wall break recap) is being credited to her brother, Sherlock, and nothing seems to be going right. That is, until, a young girl named Bessie requests her help in finding her missing sister, Sarah. Of course, a foul plot is afoot, one that goes far beyond a missing girl and of course, intersects with Sherlock Holmes’ current case. The game is on, and it will take all of the deductive skills of both siblings to uncover the mystery that surrounds them.
In all fairness, I might be a little too harsh on “Enola Holmes 2.” There is certainly a lot to enjoy, and it’s hard not to be sucked in by the magnetic charm of Brown in the role. For all my complaints about Netlfix’ choices of what to move forward with and what to abandon, Brown is enough to warrant as many of these as she’s willing to do. The basis of “Enola Holmes 2” screams Young Adult series, but despite its narrative shortcomings, Brown is having an absolute blast as the cheeky, clever, young lead detective. And for its narrative missteps, it smartly choose to be more contained this time around. “Enola Holmes” crumbled under an overcomplicated plot that was far too difficult to follow for its basic framework, and the sequel opts to keeps things rather simplified this time around. It still stretches a little too thin by the time things all come to a head, but “Enola Holmes 2” is much more focused and less sprawling.
It is really Brown’s performance that keeps everything afloat in “Enola Holmes 2,” and she pairs surprisingly well with Henry Cavill as Sherlock. Their banter works, and they bounce off each other rather nicely. The sequel seems to recognize that their strengths lie in their leads, taking more opportunities to pair them together this time around. For Cavill’s part, he has all the charisma to play a convincing Sherlock, but there’s a suspension of disbelief with his inability to hide his hulking shoulders and gigantic frame. No amount of suits and petticoats can hide the fact that Cavil is basically a walking superhero, and it’s hard to imagine the world’s greatest detective also being the world’s strongest man of the Victorian era. Brown and Cavil together, however, is enough to make up for it in part, and “Enola Holmes 2” really does try to play to its strengths.
In addition to the strong lead performances, “Enola Holmes 2” does sport some rather stellar production and costume design and cinematography. The Victorian era set pieces and costumes are all well crafted from Michael Carlin (production) and Consolata Boyle (costume) and Giles Nuttgen’s cinematography all work to transport you in the period piece with which the film takes place. There’s a lot of craft here, with Netflix sparing no expense on extravagance and lavish designs. The Ball scene in particular sports some truly stunning design and costuming, beautifully capturing the lifestyles of wealthy along with some playful tongue in cheek criticisms of the patriarchal traditions of the whole affair. Watching Brown’s Enola try to figure out how to communicate via fan gestures is pretty funny, and it’s where “Enola Holmes 2” does its best work.
Truthfully, most can look past the shortcomings of a forgettable story and adventure, one that injects fictional characters into real life events but doesn’t really stick with you after it completes. You don’t really want more Enola Holmes. What you really want is more Brown being able to turn up her adorable levels to 1000 and clearly have a blast doing so. And rightfully so, because she is truly the only secret weapon here. And given the viewership of the sequel that lead to the increased viewership of its predecessor (64 million hours streamed for the sequel and an additional 9 million ours for the first one) I don’t think we’ve seen the last of the young adult series. “Enola Holmes 2” does have quite a bit going for it to win over fans, and if you were a fan of the first one you’ll certainly enjoy this one well enough.
But if you’re overall indifferent, “Enola Holmes 2” won’t particularly do enough to change your mind. Outside of its strong performances, there just isn’t enough meat on the bones to be as compelling or interesting as it wants to be, falling short narratively and hard to remember once it concludes. I’m pretty sure I still have some joy in my heart and I’m not totally dead inside, but this simply doesn’t engage me the way it wants to and never really feels as clever as it strives to be. Most of the reveals are pretty easily telegraphed, and the mystery (though less complicated this time around) don’t really feel all that shrouded or hard to uncover the longer the film goes on. This is a Brown showcase first, detective mystery second.
And if that’s what you’re here for, then you’ll probably overlook most of the things that held the film back for myself. The film doubles down on the strengths of its predecessors, relying heavily on the charm of Brown and Cavill to tell a rather forgettable detective mystery. And for that, we most certainly haven’t seen the last of her or her adventures. The well of Sherlock Holmes and any iterations or spinoffs is endless, and while it may be largely unnecessary, “Enola Holmes 2” taps into enough of why these stories have endured for so long. Even mediocre ones seem to have their place, and even though it doesn’t resonate with me, Netflix has a hit franchise on their hands.
So it seems, my dear Watson, the game is afoot, and will continue to be through Enola Holmes.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
“Enola Holmes 2” is currently streaming on Netflix. You can watch the trailer below.