Two years is a long time to wait for another season of the BBC's modern update of Arthur Conan Doyle's detective stories, Sherlock. Luckily, stars Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch found time in between their other commitments to film three more episodes of the show earlier this year, and season 3 of Sherlock will return to our televisions in January 2014.
There's been a recent flurry of marketing to promote the new episodes, which will air in the UK less than a month from now, including a trailer that was shown immediately after the end of the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special. That kind of placement suggests that the BBC really is pushing Sherlock as its flagship drama show, as does the reveal of the premiere date via a publicity stunt involving a real hearse parked on Baker Street with the date spelled out in funeral flowers.
In case the promise of Watson with a mustache and Anderson joining the Sherlock Holmes fan club wasn't intriguing enough, however, the BBC has released a massive batch of new stills from Sherlock's third season, via BuzzFeed. In addition to the two main players, the stills also feature supporting cast members like co-creator Mark Gatiss as Mycroft Holmes, Una Stubbs as 221B Baker Street's landlady (not housekeeper) Mrs. Hudson, Rupert Graves as DI Lestrade and Louise Brealey as morgue attendant Molly Hooper - as well as a couple of new faces.
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Based on these pictures and the trailers, it's possible to piece together part of the narrative for "The Empty Hearse." It seems that Sherlock will come out as a person with a pulse to John during some kind of romantic evening meal with John's new love interest Mary Morstan (Amanda Abbington). Knowing his timing, he probably managed to interrupt a marriage proposal; the teaser word for the second episode of this season was "wedding," after all.
Having said that, John isn't the only character who has seemingly found love during Sherlock's absence. Molly is pictured standing close to a new gentleman, who hopefully won't turn out to be an insane master criminal like her last boyfriend. At the end of season 2 it was hinted that Molly may have helped Sherlock to fake his own death, a mystery that remains unsolved by the show's not-insubstantial fandom.
Sherlock himself is looking pretty healthy despite spending two years as a dead man. He seems to actually be wearing the deerstalker voluntarily, and stands in front of the press with something approaching amiable tolerance. The official synopsis for "The Empty Hearse" revealed that Sherlock returns in response to an impending terrorist attack on London, but based on the fact that he apparently ends up on the floor of the restaurant, the reunion between him and his blogger may not go down smoothly.
Sherlock returns to BBC One on January 1st, 2014, and to PBS on January 19th.