From the Past, to the Future: ‘Enola Holmes’ and ‘The Great’
The streaming choices reviewed here vary from witty excursions to the past, to a thought-provoking look into the distant future
The streaming choices reviewed here vary from witty excursions to the past, to a thought-provoking look into the distant future. All this with magical names like Sherlock Holmes, Ridley Scott, and Catherine the Great attached to the productions.
Enola Holmes (Netflix)
This exuberant teenage feminist adventure drops on September 23, Wednesday; and it’s a wonderful outing for Millie Bobby Brown fans. Adapted from the Nancy Springer series of detective adventures, it imagines a younger sister to Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes, one irrepressible Enola (and she likes to point out, more often than necessary, that alone spelled backwards). Starting off with life with Mother (played by Helena Bonham-Carter), the game’s afoot when Mother suddenly disappears and the Brothers swoop down to send Enola to a rigid boarding school, while Sherlock unravels the mystery behind the disappearance.
Millie Bobby Brown plays Enola, and Henry Cavill is on board as Sherlock, while Sam Claflin is Mycroft. The plot thickens with a whiff of romance when the young Lord Viscount Tewksbury (Louis Partridge) makes an appearance. And I personally laughed inside; as the search for Mother suddenly took a back seat. It’s how they’ve turned Enola into a version of Fleabag, constantly breaking the 4th wall, that turns this middling mystery into a joyous lark. Cavill doesn’t have much to do, and this is firmly Brown’s show, and she makes the most of it. I wouldn’t be surprised if her young fans will now be conflicted on whether Eleven (Stranger Things) or Enola will now be their favorite MBB role. Charming beyond words, she mugs for the camera, confides with us the viewing audience; and it all works beautifully.
Raised by Wolves (HBO Max)
For what is ostensibly an escapist sci-fi drama series, Raised by Wolves makes its mark by posing rather serious questions about what it takes to be a parent, and what it means to be a family. Produced by Ridley Scott (he directs the first two of ten episodes) and created by Aaron Guzikowski, the series imagines a dystopian future where humanity and civilization are being rebooted on a far-flung planet. Earth is a lost cause thanks to religious differences, and it’s left to androids to act as surrogate parents to a band of infants and children on this planet. As can be expected, it isn’t long before the opposing forces of the party that initiated this “restart” lands on the same planet, and a new type of conflict develops.
With a cast of relative unknowns, Scott has the advantage of working with a clean slate, and it works wonders for the organic growth of the storytelling—no stars that have to be accorded so much prescribed time in front of the cameras or major speech-giving. If ever there was a distinct prestige project HBO Max could call their own and turn into the proverbial calling card, it would be this series. The universe-building is exquisite; and you don’t expect anything less from Scott, whose sci-fi worlds include Blade Runner and Alien. He blends action and drama with the more existential questioning, and the overall result is one that has fans drooling and wishing the original material even had a book they could immerse themselves in—that’s a new one, and Guzikowski should take heed.
The Great (Hulu)
Here’s one that isn’t all that new, as it dropped in May on Hulu, but I haven’t seen many people write about it, and it’s too precious a series to have missed if you like your comedies dark, cutting, and witty. For those who loved Olivia Colman in The Favourite, you’ll be pleased to know that writer Tony McNamara is responsible for this limited series that takes broad historical fiction license in reimagining Russia in the 18th century, and the lives of Catherine the Great and Emperor Peter. Elle Fanning is wonderful as Catherine, and Nicholas Hoult is downright fantastic as Emperor Peter.
Just as in The Favourite, this one takes a devilishly irreverent look at royalty, the titled aristocrats, and affairs of state as run by the privileged, egotistical and mean-spirited. And don’t think this one is a carbon copy of the film. It’s more like Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette mixed with that Yorgos Lanthimos film. At ten episodes, there is the argument that this may go on for far too long, given the intense chemistry between the two stars, but you can’t fault the production values, the script, and the overall feel of the enterprise.
Lead photo from Netflix