The secret to creating a good sequel is a mystery that has stumped more than a few filmmakers and studios over the years. Hollywood’s history is peppered with follow-up films that couldn’t match their predecessors’ success, but every now and then, a film finds all the right clues.
And occasionally — as is the case with Enola Holmes 2 — they even make it look, well… elementary.
Directed by Harry Bradbeer from a script by Jack Thorne, Enola Holmes 2 brings back Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things) as the titular, aspiring detective who often finds herself in the shadow of her famous brother, Sherlock, played again by Man of Steel star Henry Cavill. The film finds Enola struggling to get her fledgling detective agency off the ground while immersed in a missing-person case with ties to the highest levels of government and industry.
The first Enola Holmes did a wonderful job of introducing Brown as the title character, whose clever, perceptive nature was only matched by her social awkwardness and knack for getting into trouble. Brown made the role her own, handling both the action and the humor with ease, and showing great chemistry with not only Cavill but also the film’s audience, thanks to Enola’s affinity for breaking the fourth wall and bringing viewers into her tale.
All of that continues — and continues to grow — in Enola Holmes 2, which feels like a natural extension of the first film, from the story itself to Enola’s relationship with the surrounding characters and the audience. There’s a comfort level in the franchise now that makes Enola feel like an old friend you’re checking in on, and she has a heck of a story to tell you.
Sherlock and Enola
The prevailing themes in 2020’s Enola Holmes centered on her desire to assert her independence, and Enola Holmes 2 has Brown’s character now struggling to ask for and accept assistance. It’s a thematic script-flip for the character, but it’s handled smartly and manages to avoid diminishing what Enola’s accomplished as an independent woman in a frustratingly patriarchal world.
That’s a delicate line to walk, but Brown and the film’s creative team find the narrative balance required to do so.
Their efforts are supported by a nuanced performance from Cavill, whose version of Sherlock gets significantly more screen time and character development this time around, but never overshadows Brown and her portrayal of Enola. Cavill’s Sherlock is just as intellectually distant and socially awkward as Enola, but he’s smart enough to realize that by being a man, the same attributes that earn him admiration and respect work against his sister.
Cavill’s Sherlock isn’t an overtly emotional character, instead, his sentiments and loyalties are explored through his interaction with Enola. It’s a clever way to instill warmth and heart in a character known for being relatively cold, and it’s handled with an appropriately soft touch by Cavill and the film’s creative team.
The game is afoot
Given the Holmes-ian foundation of the film — as filtered through author Nancy Springer’s Enola Holmes novels, which were adapted for the movies — it’s a little surprising that the weakest element of Enola Holmes 2 is its central mystery.
Enola’s adventure sweeps her into a vast conspiracy involving a missing woman, a matchstick factory, and the British government, but the connection between all the parties involved remains somewhat opaque even after the third act’s big, revelatory scene. Although Enola pulls back the curtain and reveals the villains, the narrative never quite delivers the sort of “A-ha!” moment we’ve come to expect from tales set in and around the world of Sherlock Holmes. It’s a bit disappointing, certainly, but the film’s great performances — which also include a villainous inspector played by David Thewlis and returning characters played by Susie Wokoma and Helena Bonham Carter — lift Enola Holmes 2 whenever the narrative gets bogged down in its own mystery.
Fun, funny, and impressively clever, Enola Holmes 2 is the rare sequel that not only does well by its predecessor but expands on the franchise’s world in meaningful ways. The film’s finale sets the stage for more stories to come for Enola — and Sherlock, for that matter — and gives its fans plenty of reasons to look forward to joining them.
Directed by Harry Bradbeer, Enola Holmes 2 premieres November 4 on Netflix.