As the seconds tick by until the end of 2013, a very special date is coming ever nearer. A time when friends and family alike will come together and bask in the joy of the occasion that we've all been waiting for.
That's right: the third season of Sherlock will premiere just one a month from now in the United States, and in less than a fortnight if you live in the UK. After a two-year hiatus during which its stars went to outer space and Middle-earth, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss' modern update of Arthur Conan Doyle's detective stories has three more 90-minute episodes featuring the further adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and John Watson (Martin Freeman).
The BBC has recently been building up hype for Sherlock season three with trailers and teasers, and has now released an interview with Moffat and Gatiss discussing what viewers can expect when the show returns. Moffat begins by giving a brief summary of the season's direction:
"If there is a unifying idea to series three, it's: Sherlock returns to London and life has moved on. He doesn't ever think it will but life has moved on without him. There's a continuing idea that runs through it all, that real life sort of flows around him. One of the advantages of bringing Sherlock into the modern day [is that] in a way it's less about the time travel, it's more about him seeing our world and trying to deal with it... I think there are more moments of Sherlock Holmes vs. real life than there have been before."
This was somewhat humorously highlighted in a recent trailer for the show, in which Mycroft states that John has got on with his life, to which Sherlock replied dismissively, "What life? I've been away." It's perhaps understandable considering that John's brief post-war, pre-Sherlock existence in the show's pilot looked pretty dull and gloomy, but he hasn't just been pining for the last two years, as Gatiss reminds us:
"A lot of the beginnings of our conversations are sort of, 'What would Sherlock do in this situation?' [For example] how would he handle being John's best man, which is what happens in episode two... We knew we wanted to bring in Mrs. Watson."
"Mrs. Watson" is played by Freeman's real-life partner Amanda Abbington, who most recently starred in TV drama Mr. Selfridge.
Mary isn't the only new face to join Sherlock's cast of characters this season, however; with Moriarty gone, notorious blackmailer Charles Augustus Magnussen (Lars Mikkelsen) steps in as the season's new major villain. Described by Sherlock in Doyle's stories as "the worst man in London," Gatiss says that Magnussen is a worthy new adversary for the detective and his blogger:
"It's a great new way to go because he is a man to whom power is second nature. He's not a 'baddie' in his own mind, so it's a fascinating new place to go. It's very different to Moriarty."
Moffat adds that Mikkelsen's character will not only fill the space left behind by Moriarty, but that he is also a kind of counterpart to Irene Adler. The season two episode "A Scandal in Belgravia" got to the heart of Sherlock's romantic attachments (or lack thereof) and examined whether or not he could ever fall in love, whereas Magnussen is a rarity for the exact opposite reason:
"[Sherlock] doesn't hate many people, but he hates Charles Augustus Milverton in the original story. He talks about him with an intensity of disgust and loathing that I don't think is echoed anywhere else in the stories."
Sherlock season three will open with an episode aptly titled "The Empty Hearse;" episode two is called "The Sign of Three" and the final episode of the season will be "His Last Vow." The BBC recently released full synopses for each episode and it looks like Sherlock and John are in for some great new adventures (and misadventures), though many questions still remain. Chiefly, how did Sherlock survive that devastating fall at the end of the last season, and how exactly will he convince John to trust him again?
A lucky handful of people have already seen "The Empty Hearse" at a special preview screening last week, but were strictly forbidden from posting spoilers online. According to Den of Geek, Gatiss promised anyone who did so a spell in his "strangely luxurious and well-equipped torture chamber," so it looks like the rest of us will have to wait until next year to find out. Roll on January.
Sherlock will return January 1, 2014 on BBC and January 19, 2014 on PBS.