“Sherlock” fans are a devoted bunch, what with having to wait more than a year for each new season and then only receiving three episodes. Still, the infrequency of the BBC mysteries won't prevent devotees from consuming every little teaser from the creators or rumor online that comes up between now and Season 4 in 2016.
As 2014 draws to a close, here's what “Sherlock” fans can expect in the immediate future.
In 2015, the BBC will air a single episode of the hit detective series as a kind of Christmas special. It won’t be a full three-episode season due in large part to the cast’s busy schedules. Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock Holmes) just signed on to play Doctor Strange in Marvel’s upcoming film and he’s just settling into the Oscar buzz surrounding his role in “The Imitation Game.” Martin Freeman (Dr. Watson) is enjoying the healthy box-office debut for “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” in which he returns as Bilbo Baggins.
According to Variety, the stand-alone special will deal with the immense cliff-hanger from Season 3. [SPOILER ALERT] When fans last left Sherlock, he had returned to London after being confronted with every screen in the city mysteriously flashing an image of Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott) with a message reading: “Miss me?”
Asked if this meant the villain Moriarty would be back for one more insane crime spree, series co-creator Mark Gatiss told Radio Times “Well, it’s very hard to put a lid on Andrew Scott ...”
Earlier this year, the BBC revealed its first image from the set of the special showing Cumberbatch and Freeman in Victorian clothing. It’s unclear why the characters are in this blast-from-the-past attire, but fans have been speculating. Although the series is based on the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the show’s creators have said they are not married to any particular story structure when it comes to their modern adaptation.
“It should be clear by now that while, of course, Doyle is our absolute god, we have gone quite a long way away as well," Gatiss told Radio Times. "We’ve introduced Sherlock and Mycroft’s parents [for instance]. I don’t think they’ve ever been seen in any adaptation -- so there are lots of surprises to come.”
Series co-creator Steven Moffat spoke with Entertainment Weekly earlier this year to tease fans about Season 4.
“We have a plan to top [Season 3]. And I do think our plan is devastating. We’ve practically reduced our cast to tears telling them the plan,” he said. “We’re probably more excited that we’ve ever been about Sherlock.”
Gatiss chimed in during the same EW interview to talk about a completely new area that the show will explore.
“We’re going to try to take it somewhere we’ve never been before — and I don’t mean outer space,” he dished. “It will be a challenging place to go. We always start with a re-introduction that builds toward a darker climax — we might just be going darker. We got a very, very good set of ideas.”
Perhaps that means they are taking a less campy approach to Season 4 and giving these characters more high-stakes danger than ever before.
A Bundle of Joy
Fans also will recall that Season 3 ended with Watson and his new wife, Mary Morstan (Amanda Abbington), a former assassin, expecting their first child. So, either Watson will begin the Christmas special as a new father, or the special will pick up where things left off at the onset of the Moriarty controversy.
"On the one hand, they’d probably be reckless because they’re both quite psychopathic," Abbington told Vulture. "But I think an assassin and an army doctor who loves trouble, I mean, that kid has got nothing to worry about. Screwed up mentally, of course, but if there’s any bullying on the playground, we’re covered."
One of the most prevalent theories about the future of the show seems to include the death of Watson’s wife. The character was brought in and played a major role in Season 3. However, her counterpart in Conan Doyle’s source material doesn’t die of old age. Many are speculating that Gatiss' and Moffat’s talk of the show being “devastating” and “dark” might be a reference to the loss of a great character. However, Mary can’t be considered doomed yet; after all, the creators have repeatedly shown that the source material is not their road map but rather just a set of traffic cones to weave through. Still, even the cast doesn’t seem to believe Mary is long for this world.
“While we play fast and loose with the original stories, we generally follow the trajectory of what Conan Doyle did," Freeman told the Telegraph earlier this year. “So [John] gets married, and then Mary dies – so at some point presumably she’ll die.”