Millie Bobby Brown has found a very comfortable home for herself at Netflix. She became a breakout star thanks to Stranger Things, the streaming service’s flagship show, and her entire slate of upcoming projects as of this review’s publication are set up to be distributed on the platform. It brings to mind the adage “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” – and Enola Holmes is a key part of her success to date.
Directed by Harry Bradbeer, Enola Holmes was admittedly released at a time when the world was starved for new entertainment – the fall of 2020 – but it legitimately struck a chord with audiences. In addition to adapting a quirky twist on the familiar Sherlock Holmes mythos, delivering a high-stakes mystery and sneaking in a broad-strokes history lesson, it showcases a whole different side of Millie Bobby Brown as a performer. As the titular fourth-wall-breaking character, she beams with charisma (the antithesis to her stoic work as Eleven on Stranger Things), and her energy alone invites you to follow along with her to uncover the truth behind a murder plot and find her missing mother.
Two years later, the young detective is back to further move out of her famous brother’s shadow, and this is a wonderful case (pun intended) where the sequel outshines the original. Unburdened with the trappings of an origin story and offering a more satisfying mystery, Enola Holmes 2 sports a lazy title, but is otherwise a wonderful follow-up.
Things get off to a rough, clichéd start – with Enola Holmes (Millie Bobby Brown) being pursued by police and halting the action with a “Bet you’re wondering how I got here” moment preceding a flashback – but the sequel quickly finds its feet. The titular sleuth has spent her time since the end of the first movie setting up her very own detective agency, but all of her would-be clients wind up rejecting her because of her age, her gender and/or the fact that she’s not Sherlock Holmes (Henry Cavill).
Enola is prepared to shutter her business, but Bessie Chapman (Serrana Su-Ling Bliss) arrives before the door is locked for the last time. Bessie explains that her sister, Sarah (Hannah Dodd), is missing, and she found an old newspaper ad that the protagonist had listed promoting her ability to find people. She takes the case, and when her investigation leads her to the matchstick company where both Sarah and Bessie work, she winds up discovering sinister secrets related to a typhus outbreak among the young, female labor force.
Enola Holmes has a more complex mystery to solve this time around, and the sequel is better because of it.
Call it a storytelling crutch, but Enola’s ability to directly address the audience cuts down on exposition in the first act, and the quirk is a fast-acting reminder of the character’s charm. Once all of the catching-up is complete, what’s left for Enola Holmes 2 is to unfold a terrific standalone plot that furthers the themes of the series and provides opportunities for the protagonist and those in her inner circle to grow.
My biggest gripe with the first Enola Holmes is that that the mystery is a bit too simple – while recognizing that the movie has a younger core demographic – but the sequel operates as though specifically recognizing that audience is now two years older, and it features a more mature and complex story as a result. It packs well-laid twists that will render it an engaging rewatch, and a winding conspiracy that is exciting to see unfurl.
While Millie Bobby Brown is the unquestionable star of Enola Holmes 2, she is surrounded by a wonderful supporting ensemble.
Millie Bobby Brown’s spunky, independent and rebellious investigator rightfully has full possession of the spotlight, and the film sets high emotional and life-threatening stakes for the character, but also impressively intertwined in the narrative is the B-plot led by Henry Cavill’s Sherlock. As Enola searches for Sarah Chapman, he is confounded by a complex scheme that is seeing money being moved around a variety of London’s financial institutions. It leans into very familiar aspects of the detective’s mythos, but finds an approach that successfully constructs a smart and unexpected perspective.
Adeel Akhtar returns as his refreshing comedic relief interpretation Inspector Lestrade, and the duo of Helena Bonham Carter and Susan Wokoma provide joyful chaos returning as Eudoria Holmes and Edith. Amidst all this fun, though, there is also David Thewlis’ frightful Police Superintendent Grail. Henry Bradbeer and screenwriter Jack Thorne provide him a properly menacing introduction that sees his arrival proceeded by the intimidating rapping of a cane, and the characterization and performance live up to the threat… even before a scene where he choke slams the young protagonist into the wall of a holding cell.
Enola Holmes 2 works to keep a lot of balls in the air, and ultimately juggles them with ease.
Between the desire to honor the legacy of Sherlock Holmes, blending comedic and thrilling tones, peppering in Rube Goldberg-esque action sequences, crafting a zig-zagging narrative, fictionalizing a real world-changing event and even adding a dash of romance with the developing relationship between Enola and Lord Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge), Enola Holmes 2 is a movie with a hell of a lot on its shoulders – and yet, it bears the weight. It’s a funny, romantic, dramatic, exciting and intelligent sequel that whole families can enjoy and showcases immense potential for future chapters.
Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.