After nearly two years (and two Hobbit movies), Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are set to return for Sherlock season 3 on January 1st 2014 (January 19th 2014 on PBS). For months, we’ve been speculating about which stories Steven Moffat and writer Mark Gatiss would modernize for the next three-part series – after the show runner teased their plan with the words “Rat,” “Wedding,” and “Bow.” In season 2 Moffat pulled a similar stunt, as each of the words corresponded to a classic Sherlock Holmes story – “Woman,” “Hound,” and “Fall” eventually lined up with “A Scandal in Bohemia,” “The Hounds of Baskerville,” and “The Final Problem.” For season 3, fans pulled out a myriad of possibilities from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s collected works – with “The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire,” “The Noble Bachelor,” and “His Last Bow,” becoming instant fan-favorite possibilities, respectively.

Of course, Moffat and Gatiss have been known to combine elements from multiple classic stories in each episode of Sherlock, so there’s still no way of knowing exactly what to expect when the show returns. Nevertheless, we have new details on season 3 that might offer some clues – including an interview with both Cumberbatch and Freeman as well as official teaser synopses for each of the upcoming season’s episodes.

In the interview, conducted by The Independent, Cumberbatch offers a pretty generic (albeit sincere) answer about the challenges of playing Sherlock Holmes – as well as teases that if he faked his own death, he’d spend his time off moonlighting as a journalist (to be on the other side of press questions and cameras). However, Freeman gave a much more revealing look at what to expect from his character, John Watson, at the time of the season 3 premier. You can watch the interview – HERE – (which also includes comments from Freeman’s on and off-screen partner, Amanda Abbington) or simply read the actor’s comments below:

“Well, as far as he’s concerned it’s been two years since he lost his best friend. His best friend died in front of his eyes and he’s had to move on or just be depressed […] I think a part of him still does carry a bit of that depression or a bit of that sadness that you do when you lose someone. When we lose someone close to us, I don’t think we every quite get over it and John, I think, will always have the residue of sadness but he’s fallen in love and he’s moved on.”

As seen in the most recent trailer for Sherlock season 3, Holmes has been away from London for two full years – following his faked death at the end of the season 2 finale showdown with Jim Moriarty in “The Reichenbach Fall.” As discussed on the most recent Screen Rant Underground podcast, Moffat claims that while there are many theories on the Internet regarding how Holmes faked his death, no one has successfully guessed the entire plan (maybe Doctor Who lent a hand). Presumably, the season 3 premiere, “The Empty Hearse,” will provide a definitive breakdown of the trick, follow Sherlock as he reacclimatizes to London life, and explore Watson’s post-Holmes life, but according to a recently revealed synopsis, the episode will also see the pair attempting to foil a dangerous terrorist.

Check out the full season 3, episode 1 synopsis for “The Empty Hearse” below:

“In episode one of this new series, two years after the devastating effects of The Reichenbach Fall, Dr John Watson has got on with his life. New horizons, romance and a comforting domestic future beckon. But, with London under threat of a huge terrorist attack, Sherlock Holmes is about to rise from the grave with all the theatricality that comes so naturally to him. It’s what his best friend wanted more than anything, but for John Watson it might well be a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’! If Sherlock thinks everything will be just as he left it though, he’s in for a very big surprise.”

Fortunately, BBC didn’t stop there and unveiled the synopses for the other two season 3 episodes, “The Sign of Three” and “His Last Vow.” Check them out, respectively, below:

“In episode two of this new series, Sherlock faces his biggest challenge of all – delivering a Best Man’s speech on John’s wedding day! But all isn’t quite as it seems. Mortal danger stalks the reception – and someone might not make it to the happy couple’s first dance. Sherlock must thank the bridesmaids, solve the case and stop a killer!”

“In the final episode of this new series, written by Steven Moffat, a case of stolen letters leads Sherlock Holmes into a long conflict with Charles Augustus Magnussen, the Napoleon of blackmail, and the one man he truly hates. But how do you tackle a foe who knows the personal weakness of every person of importance in the Western world?”

It’s unclear at this point how directly “Rat,” “Wedding,” and “Bow” are tied to what we’ll see in the final televised episodes. The wedding setting in episode two is obvious but it’s certainly possible that Moffat and Gatiss also intends to weave-in elements from the aforementioned storyline “The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor” and the title certainly hints at a connection to “The Sign of the Four.” Similarly, given the third synopsis indicates that Charles Augustus Magnussen deals in secrets, it would make sense that “Bow” does in fact correlate with “The Last Bow” – which was a third-person tale of espionage. That said, other possibilities remain.

Lastly, “Rat” was the most divisive of Moffat’s teaser words and, based on the BBC synopsis for episode 1, it doesn’t sound like “The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire” is going to be the main story point. We know that Gatiss intends to borrow aspects of “The Adventure of the Empty House” for the episode but, for now, the “Rat” connection remains a mystery. Since Moffat previously asserted that word teases are just that, “teases” (not titles or significant references), it’s possible that we may not know the true meaning of “Rat” until the season 3 premiere airs.

Maybe our readers can suss-out any connections we might have missed. Elementary, right?

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for more Sherlock coverage as well as future movie, TV, and gaming news.

Sherlock will return January 1, 2014 on BBC and January 19, 2014 on PBS.

Sources: BBC and The Independent