The game is afoot (again) in “Enola Holmes 2,” a wonderful showcase for Millie Bobby Brown that this time manages to work the character’s famous brother, Sherlock, more organically into the mix. Throw in fact-based underpinnings about horrid working conditions during the time and you have the makings for a very polished sequel – one that makes the whole thing look elementary, and a whole lot of fun.
“Some of what follows is true,” the on-air script notes at the outset, as Enola (Brown) – Sherlock’s very independent sister – takes up the cause of young girls working in a matchstick factory who are inexplicably falling ill. The point of entry involves one of them going missing, making the teenage detective the logical person to investigate, after the frustration of dealing with adults put off by her youth, one of whom asks, “Might your brother be free?”
Happily, said brother, the renowned Sherlock Holmes (Henry Cavill) at a more youthful and physically fit phase of his life, is on a confounding case of his own, which will eventually collide with the one that Enola is pursuing. The cryptic clues, moreover, suggest the work of a master criminal, giving the sleuth an adversary worth of his intellect.
Again directed by Harry Bradbeer and written by Jack Thorne, this “Enola Holmes” doesn’t deviate from the winning formula derived from the books, and Enola continues to regularly break the fourth wall to share asides and witticisms with the audience, interrupting an early sequence to say, “Perhaps I should explain.”
The not-so-secret ingredient remains Brown (who also produces these films), the “Stranger Things” star who Netflix has wisely realized is a major asset. Indeed, when Enola attends a lavish ball that reunites her with the dashing and wealthy Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge), it’s hard not to think that as busy as her dance card is likely to become, the streaming service should book her as often as her college-bound schedule will allow.
“Enola Holmes 2” contains a considerable amount of action – a bit too much, frankly, given the more cerebral aspects of the character. The film fares better when Enola is using her wits, not her fists, “seeing” events in a kind of animation that nicely illustrates her well-honed powers of perception.
Sherlock Holmes has gone through numerous iterations through the years, evidence of the character’s durability while underscoring how difficult it is to bring much new to Baker Street.
In that sense, the matchstick analogy proves especially apt, since Brown’s exuberant take feels like just the spark that the franchise needed. Either way, the roots of the main character’s name notwithstanding, it’s unlikely Netflix will want to leave Enola alone for long.
“Enola Holmes 2” premieres November 4 on Netflix.