Warning: This piece contains major spoilers for “Enola Holmes 2.” If you have not yet watched, turn back now!
“Enola Holmes 2” ends by pulling out all the stops. The Sherlock siblings collide when their cases overlap, something Sherlock reveals about halfway through the film, and there is not one but two antagonists who reveal themselves at the end of the movie.
Enola starts out by searching for missing girl Sarah Chapman (Hannah Dodd), whose absence gets reported to her by her “sister” Bessie, who worked with Sarah in the Lyon Match Factory. Enola reports to Sarah’s shift to investigate the factory and learn more about Sarah. After tailing Sarah’s friend Mae (Abbie Hern) who works a night job dancing at the Paragon Theater along with Sarah, nabbing a waltz with William Lyon (Gabriel Tierney) son of Henry Lyon at a fancy ball and several other loose threads, Enola finds out what led Sarah to disappear.
Rather than typhus causing the match girls to fall ill with disease that manifests in mouth swelling, first Sarah (through experimentation) and then Enola realizes that the phosphorus used in matchmaking is the real culprit. The shift in harmless to harmful chemicals that doubled the factory’s profit is marked by the switch from red matches to white.
It all connects back to the Lyon Match Factory.
“We always wanted to make a film that was about something — I always want to make things that are about something, which have some kind of positive message and meaning — and I think that we always wanted to tell a story about Eola going from ‘I’ to ‘we’ away from looking after herself from trying to defend her own position, stand on her two feet, and to learn to work with others and understanding the importance of the group, finding one voice amongst others,” Bradbeer said in an interview with TheWrap. “This journey to sisterhood seemed like it was begging for a story like the match girls factory t to run as as a spine through it, so then we were really interested in the politics of the period, early level early stages of unionism amongst women. They were the first strike by women for women. And so a real historical event inspired and led the plot.”
With the help of her crush Lord Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge), Enola finds Sarah, disguised as Cecily, who attempts to impart her secret knowledge to Tewksbury in the form of stolen documents and records. Tewksbury holds sway with his newfound political influence. A series of clues — such as a tube of lipstick, a date, a poem, a Sweet William flower symbol and a sheet of music lead Enola to find that evidence at the Paragon Theater, where everything comes together after some expected chaos.
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Here is where Sherlock’s case comes into play. He is investigating unaccounted transfers of money going in and out of government funds in banks. His theory is that someone is moving the money around as a form of bribery, extortion or blackmail of government officials. Sherlock starts out by mapping five filings from five different accounts via the Treasury Whitehall into one private bank, with only an account number to trace and no name. Sherlock’s only lead is that the week before the first transfer (there are 27 in all on his map), a man in a taper crown hat broke into the treasury and stole a document.
That man was Sarah’s mysterious suitor, who turns out to be the factory owner’s son William (thus the Sweet William flower). He was in cahoots with Sarah to report the corruption behind the factory. He is the author of the poem Enola discovered in Sarah’s jewelry box at The Paragon, signed with a drawing of a Sweet William flower, not a poppy like Enola originally thought.
Superintendent Grail (David Thewlis), longtime nemesis of the entire Holmes family, turns out to be working for more than just the police, as Enola hints at when she examines the fine material of his shirt. He appears at the theater, threatening to kill Bessie if Sarah doesn’t turn over the stolen proof of poisoned match girls.
“There are two antagonists in anything that I make. One of them is the the actual antagonist the villain, and the other is that the difficult side of — that thing within the protagonists that stopping them from moving forward. So outwardly, the antagonism is a corrupt police officer who’s working for a collection of folk who were is out to stop her at any cost.,” Bradbeer said. “And all of those physical forces are coming at her. That is the antagonist, and in many ways, he is the villain. He is the visible villain. In the same way that Burn Gorman playing the bowler hat man Linthorn was the visible villain in the first, but the really interesting antagonist is the pride that Emp;a feels that stops her from fulfilling all that she needs to do. So it’s those two things together.”
Unfortunately, William Lyon gets murdered in the process of Enola and Sherlock unraveling their respective cases, and Sherlock recognizes that the true guilty party frames the Treasurer Lord McIntyre (Tim McMullan) by leaving behind subtle clues connected to him, like his astrakan wool coat, an unsmoked cigar, etc..
Sherlock solves his case by luring the true person behind the mysterious bank transfers to the theater as well. First Enola suspects it is the Treasurer, which could make sense because the Treasury is what gets robbed, but her instinctive reasoning falls short.
Moriarty, who leads Sherlock in a very clever dance (literally the culprit greets him through a complexly constructed cipher that dances over a map of plotted bank locations) turns out to be Ms. Mira Troy (Sharon Duncan-Brewster), Lord McIntyre’s private secretary. Troy hired Grail to chase down both William’s and Sarah’s stolen documents, but she herself describes him as a “blunt instrument,” for he clumsily tried to accomplish her tasks.
“[That] wasn’t set in the books. That was my fault and it drove [screenwriter] Jack [Thorne] mad because I really wanted this character as part of the canon to kind of pop up and make her presence known in the story and to be revealed as one of the Sherlock canon,” Bradbeer said. “It felt to me like it was a character that we didn’t know a great deal about. It’s a character that only appears in the books a couple of times, but is now fairly well known. It was later on in the process, actually, well, halfway through that I brought her up and then she kept on getting shut down, and eventually we found a way to make a play her part.”
The breadcrumbs don’t end with the unveiling of Mira Troy’s identity in the grand scheme of things either. In a brief but big post-credit scene, Bradbeer left an opening for a third potential film in the “Enola Holmes” franchise. In a standing meeting Enola and her brother Sherlock set for 4 p.m. every Thursday, Enola sends along a potential roommate and new companion for Sherlock — Doctor Watson, portrayed by Himesh Patel (“Station Eleven”).
“Well, we are talking about it,” Bradbeer says of a potential third film. “It would involve Watson. I’m not sure I can say much more than that, but Himesh is an incredibly exciting and wonderful actor and a different kind of vibe to bring into the franchise.”
To be clear, this would not mean a diminished role for Enola, since this is her story, after all.
“We just thought that it was time for Sherlock to maybe have a friend and a foil, and we liked the idea of bringing that character in but only because he’s introduced by Enola for an emotional reason because she’s worried for her brother,” Bradbeer said. “And thinks that he’s, he’s inclined to depression and despond and chaos and he needs just a little bit of friendship.”
Bradbeer feels that Enola and Sherlock also still have much to learn from each other.
“I think that she’s beginning to catch up in the second film, in terms of some of his approaches. He’s helped her learn to be a little bit more instinctive, and she’s having to learn to be a little more incisive and calculating,” he said. “So they’re swapping skills, if you like. She makes certain instinctive interpretations about who Sarah is, whether she would or would not have killed someone. She makes some long guesses, which turn out to be right. He is always very careful and reserved and only bases his choices on cold fact.”
“They learn from each other and now we have a more of a correlation between them. They’re more on an equal level by the end of the second film. I think there’s probably room for a lot, plenty more dispute, debate on how to approach things,” Bradbeer said of a potential “Enola Holmes 3.” “I think they’re both ready to continue the battle of wills and wits. It will be interesting to see what would happen if Sherlock himself makes an instinctive deduction, and whether his instincts take him in the wrong road. There are lots of ways in which this subtle chemical reaction can shift and create more explosions.”