Quickfire round: Enola Holmes

Put simply, this film delivered. A necessarily witty, intelligent, and stereotype-busting Enola Holmes, portrayed excellently by Millie Bobby Brown, investigates the disappearance of her mother, all while trying to outrun her two brothers (including, yes, that Sherlock Holmes).

Enola escapes to London dressed as a boy – the costume department did a great job.

Holmes spent much of her life being home-schooled by her mother, who taught her all manner of skills and knowledge which, if you were of the prevailing attitude of the time, girls ought not to know. Then, one day, her mother just disappears. Enola’s two brothers, Sherlock and Mycroft, return to the family home to investigate their mother’s disappearance. Mycroft, who in this adaptation is really a bit of a dick, disapproves of Enola’s education and arranges for her to be sent to a finishing school. The thought of attending such a place pushes Enola over the edge and she runs away in the middle of the night – taking clues of her mother’s whereabouts with her. Enola knows a lot of things – but does she know how to cope in the real world?

I can’t help but see this film as a box-ticking exercise. That’s actually a good thing – let me tell you the boxes it ticks. There’s a strong female lead. The costume design is on point. There’s a slight twist I didn’t see coming. The cinematography is good. There is humour. There is action. The mix of action and humour and violence and education is perfect for the target audience.

It could easily become a franchise.

But what the film doesn’t do is over-deliver. The mystery of her mother’s disappearance fizzles out and isn’t executed to its fullest extent. There could do with being a bit more mystery. I never gasped, I rarely laughed out loud, and I didn’t come away thinking ‘you know what, that was brilliant!’

It’s just a good film. Know that you won’t be disappointed if you watch it, and you won’t be missing out much if you don’t.


Quickfire round: The Politician (Season 2)

Nailing the comedy-drama tone, the second season of this millennial-friendly election campaign story was a great, albeit totally forgettable, watch.

Payton is great politician, but is he a good person?

Payton Hobart is an ambitious (and, following the events of the first season, no longer wealthy) student, whose goal in life is to become President of the United States. He started his political career in high school, running for student body president, which was a great season all in itself and you should totally watch it.

The last episode of season one flashes forwards a few years to Payton’s life at NYU (having ben unable to get into Harvard on his own merits). The campaign manager from his previous election, McAfee Westbrook, applies to intern at the offices of Dede Standish, New York State Senator. She quickly discovers there’s not much work to do – Dede is running unopposed.

Naturally, Season 2 is all about Payton reviving his political aspirations to run against Standish in the upcoming election. In a way, everything is elevated here: it’s no longer school politics, it’s state politics. It’s not kids, it’s adults.

Payton, being the incredibly young candidate that he is, latches on to the environment as his key policy driver. Although this resonates with the state’s young voters, Astrid Sloan, Payton’s former rival turned campaign member, points out that all that matters is the turnout. State elections have a poor turnout – only a few hundred votes are needed to swing it, and young people are notoriously bad at turning up to vote.

The campaign quickly heats up and we see all sorts of absurd revelations and schemes. This is the heart of the show, the back-stabbing, double-crossing characters always keep you guessing about their ulterior motives. There’s much more to the show, though, as it’s really quite weird. Threesomes are a big thing, for some reason. I’m told this is the influence of the show’s creators who also produced Glee and American Horror Story. We also see a side plot involving Payton’s mother running to be Governor of California, which would probably be funnier if she wasn’t played by Gwyneth Paltrow, peddler of questionable pseudoscientific wares.

This was an enjoyable watch and I finished it in a weekend. But I think it’s telling that I had to look up the show on Wikipedia to remind myself exactly what happened in it. As good as it is, it’s not going to leave a mark. It’s great entertainment, but nothing else.


What I thought about: How To Sell Drugs Online (Fast)

A hidden gem that you’ve probably skipped past after finding out it’s a German language show. Stick some subtitles on and consider it again, because the production values are great and it strikes a good balance between comedy and drama.

In all seriousness, this show gets a lot of technical stuff right

What’s it about?
Moritz, a guy who’s nerdy but not nerdy enough to be properly good at nerd stuff (think Steve Jobs), and Lenny, a proper nerd who is really good at coding (think Steve Wozniak) have been best friends for years. Together they plan to become rich by launching a website that allows noobs to buy high-level gear for online games.

Except, they end up selling a totally different type of gear. Why? Moritz’s out-of-his-league girlfriend returns from a year abroad in the US, decides to put their relationship on pause, and starts hanging out with the stereotypical rich kid drug dealer. Naturally, Moritz needs to show her he’s still cool. During a night of wallowing in self pity, red bull, and Pringles, he pivots the e-commerce platform MyTems into MyDrugs and launches it onto the dark net.

What do I like about it?
Look, it’s a comedy drama and as such it can get pretty far-fetched. But the producers put in a decent amount of effort to get the up-to-the-minute culture right in this show. Lenny communicates with his online gaming friends over Discord. Moritz references Pebble Time, arguably the world’s first smart watch, and even its recent acquisition by FitBit.

Also, the show has some random – but fun – cutaways, such as a school teacher cheerily describing the effects of MDMA, and a freeze-frame displaying legitimate information about how to avoid overdosing. Because why not?

What don’t I like about it?
Not a lot. I will happily admit I finished the whole thing in one sitting. I enjoyed a lot of the on-point cultural references and the subject matter (starting an e-commerce business, not the popping pills part) interests me personally.

It is a bit shallow in other places, though. The show’s social commentary (usually berating people’s use of social media and how out online profiles are mostly fake) is one of its weaker elements. And the angsty teenage love triangle is adequate at best.

Worth a watch?
For sure. Maybe don’t drag it to the top of your list, but this show is fun and the production values are great. It’s also a good way to brush up on your German, if you know a little already.

By the way…

  • It’s inspired by a true story of a guy who got busted selling $600k of drugs in Germany.
  • The show has been renewed for a second series, and the final episode definitely allows for a smooth transition.