Review: The contrast between two Holmes sisters, Eurus and Enola

Students compare the two additional sisters of Sherlock Holmes after the release of Netflix's new film 'Enola Holmes'

Netflix's latest film "Enola Holmes" is a celebrated adaption of the original book series that introduces a new sister to the life of the well-known fictional detective Sherlock Holmes — and some ASU students agree.

The book series, "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the late 19th century, only mention Sherlock and his older brother, Mycroft Holmes, with no mention of a third Holmes sibling. The first Holmes sister on TV was Eurus Holmes, who was introduced in the fourth season of the British TV series "Sherlock," which ran from 2010 to 2017.

The second one is the titular lead of the movie "Enola Holmes," which was released on Sept. 23, 2020. The character is based on a series of books authored by Nancy Springer. The movie centers around the first book in the series of six, "The Case of the Missing Marquess."

While some purists criticize the introduction of new characters, the first sister introduced, Eurus, slightly missed the mark, but the new film adaptation that centers around Enola shows a more independent and well-structured lead. 

Eurus in "Sherlock"

In the alternative timeline of "Sherlock," which is the present day, a character like Eurus, played by Siân Brooke, is reflective of how we think as a society.

Jade Stanton, a sophomore majoring in physics, said "Sherlock" is “in modern times, and we add in this third Holmes character (Eurus) who is even smarter than the other two. It’s interesting that there’s a lot of complexity there.”

Eurus is a high-functioning super villain who kills Sherlock's best friend as a child, then makes up an elaborate riddle to torment Sherlock about it.

Decades later, they meet again, and it turns out she has been plotting with his adversary Jim Moriarty. This time, it is to trap him and his current best friend, John Watson, in an intricate death game designed to break him.

Thomas Abel, a senior majoring in finance, said Eurus was mostly “used as a way of explaining all the loose ends in the show.”

The beginning of the show was about logical deduction, according to Abel, but they kept adding increasingly genius characters that didn’t work with the theme of the show.

“I think Eurus was the most extreme version of that,” he said. “She wasn’t cool because she could think in a different way. She just knew everything and could reprogram people just by talking to them. It didn’t make any sense, and I didn’t think it was fitting for the show.”

Of all the antagonists on the show, Moriarty and Eurus were the most impressive because of their apparent omniscience. They both seemed to know all but which way the dice would roll, which, as Abel said, is not congruent with the intent of the show. 

But Eurus’s arc was disappointingly short, especially compared with Moriarty's. She was only fully present in the last episode, "The Final Problem." Even then, Moriarty loomed in the background.

“You can only pretend he’s alive and reveal he’s dead so many times before it loses its touch,” Stanton said about Moriarty's storyline in "Sherlock."

Besides being long-drawn, Moriarty’s presence toward the end of the show also seemed gratuitous.

Noah Delgado, a senior majoring in journalism and theatre at ASU, said Moriarty "came in and recorded some messages for her. But what was the point, other than being a taunt in her saw-trap game?”

The portrayal of Eurus in "Sherlock" made it seem unplanned, Delgado said.

“We didn’t spend any time with any hints of her character," he said. "So, it kind of just came out of nowhere.”

Enola in "Enola Holmes"

In contrast, Enola, played by Millie Bobby Brown, is a well-structured character. The movie explores her background thoroughly, although, admittedly, by taking the "easy" way to do it: first-person narration.

On watching "Enola Holmes," viewers said they were surprised at how often the main character breaks the fourth wall throughout the movie.

“She was a little quirky and off-putting at first,” Stanton said. “But I feel like a lot of aspects of her identity are like how women are nowadays, where things that she did were considered 'out there.' But she was like, ‘I just want to be my own person and be happy,’ and I get that. I think that resonates with a lot of people nowadays.”

Enola is in the original Holmes timeline while displaying characteristics similar to modern women, making her a revolutionary character.

She has led an isolated life in the countryside, being trained by her mother, Eudoria Holmes, played by Helena Bonham Carter, in chiefly "non-feminine" skills: chemistry, tennis and jujutsu. She is called to take her life into her own hands when her mother disappears, leaving some clues and hidden instructions behind.

“She and her mom both were revolutionary because they had ideas that people have now,” Stanton said. “At least most people have those ideas.”

Her mother Eudoria only appears in brief flashbacks for the most part, which is disappointing to viewers since the trailer suggests she plays a greater role. Although, the movie ends on a note that suggests there might be a sequel, possibly featuring the other books by Springer.

Sherlock and Mycroft only stay in the background of this movie while Enola has a wholesome adventure of her own. She is also independent of her mother's work, who is shown as a suffragist (and there is evidence that Eudoria is part of an armed revolutionary movement). It is highly likely that the two movements are tied as far as Eudoria is involved, but she does not explicitly confirm it.

Therefore, Enola embraces her mother's departure for greater causes, cherishes the values on which she was raised but follows her own path to assert them.

“As a fan of Sherlock Holmes who has been used to the dynamics of Sherlock and Mycroft as siblings, to introduce a sister is always a risky move,” Delgado said. “Especially when that sister was not created by the original author.”

The way that the show "Sherlock" and the movie "Enola Holmes" chose to go about characterizing these new sisters reveal differences in female representation.

“They have to be their own person, which I felt Eurus never was,” he said. “Which is why I’m excited to watch 'Enola Holmes.' Because she’s the central character, she has to be her own person.”


Reach the reporter at abhilasha.mandal@asu.edu and follow @AbhilashaMandal on Twitter.

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