The Netflix film Enola Holmes, which is based on The Enola Holmes Mysteries novels by Nancy Springer, explores the idea of Sherlock Holmes having a sister far better than Sherlock season 4 did. While Sherlock’s only sibling was his older brother Mycroft in the original Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (which included four novels and 56 short stories), Enola Holmes and Sherlock are two adaptations that added a younger sister to the Holmes family, but with two very different interpretations.
In Sherlock, Eurus Holmes (Sian Brooke), who is one year younger than her brother Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch), was the antagonist of the episode “The Final Problem.” Locked up in the high-security prison Sherrinford since her childhood, Eurus was considered a dangerous “era-defining genius” who used her intellect to “reprogram” people and manipulate them to do her will. While Enola’s (Millie Bobby Brown) proto-feminist ideals may have been considered dangerous to the patriarchal landscape of Victorian England, Enola Holmes is the complete opposite of Eurus, and instead uses her intellect to solve missing persons cases. While both Enola and Eurus share some similarities, such as the fact that their identities are defined by the meaning of their names, Enola is a better exemplification of the Holmes’ legacy in comparison to Eurus.
Unlike Eurus, whose genius was abstracted to such a high level that she basically just had superpowers, Enola lives up to her reputation as a Holmes and properly demonstrates her deductive skills. Enola solves her mother Eudoria’s (Helena Bonham Carter) anagrams, finds the location of her mother’s secret lab, and solves the mystery of who was trying to kill Viscount Tewksbury (Louis Partridge) before Sherlock - all in ways that the audience can follow along with. Enola cleverly evades her brothers and the suspicion of others by disguising herself as a widow and men from the working class, people in society who blend into the background (similar to Sherlock in the original stories), and even manages to turn corsets into a tactical advantage rather than a hindrance. While the audience is told that Eurus is a manipulative genius in Sherlock, her ability to reprogram people is never properly explained or demonstrated to the audience, which makes the great feats she accomplishes (such as convincing the Prison Governor to give her free rein of Sherrinford) seem more like magic than skill.
Since Sherlock Holmes is such an iconic character, the audience has built-in expectations for any adaptation associated with the detective, such as an intriguing mystery and an antisocial leading character. Enola Holmes delivers both. Along with his brother Mycroft, Sherlock’s brain is wired to approach things logically and he doesn’t care much for social graces. Enola maintains this family trait while making it her own, socially distancing herself from others because her mother taught her to rely on herself, and deviating from a woman’s traditional role in Victorian England through her unorthodox education, uncouth dressing habits, and free thinking ideals. While Sherlock and Enola share an innocent misunderstanding about attachments and normal social behavior, Eurus’ social deviancy is taken too far and she’s depicted more as a psychopath with violent tendencies.
The character of Enola also had the benefit of existing in an overall stronger story with deeper meaning. In Sherlock, Eurus takes over Sherrinford and devises a series of mind games to emotionally torment her brothers and Watson (Martin Freeman), which Sherlock only goes along with in order to save a little girl who is trapped alone on a plane in midair. A plot twist, however, reveals that Eurus was the little girl Sherlock was speaking to on the phone. She feels perpetually stuck by herself on that metaphorical plane and only ever wanted a friend - specifically her brother Sherlock. Since Eurus spent the majority of the episode violently killing innocent people, as well as emotionally traumatizing Sherlock, the twist that Eurus is lonely renders confusion rather than sympathy for her character.
Enola Holmes is a story about a female detective subjugated by the time period and society she lives in. Not only is Enola challenging traditional Victorian values, but she’s challenging the detective genre as a whole, since the Sherlock Holmes stories Enola Holmes evolved from originally followed the adventures of a male detective. When Enola breaks the fourth wall and states “the future is up to us” directly to the audience, it seems to signal that more Enola Holmes stories are to come that will continue to break the mold.