The producers of popular BBC modern detective show Sherlock have so far been very good at keeping details about the show's long-awaited third season under wraps. Sherlock - which stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, respectively - recently started filming again in London, Bristol and Cardiff, and the few details we've heard so far have almost all come from show creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss.
As he did for season 2 of the show, Gatiss revealed three "teaser" words for the next three episode: "rat, wedding, bow." This has caused months of speculation from fans as to what season 3 might include, and the more recent announcement that the first episode of the season would be titled "The Empty Hearse" (named after Arthur Conan Doyle's story, "The Adventure of the Empty House") has also generated a great deal of discussion - particularly around how Holmes plans to make his return, and whether we'll see James Moriarty's right-hand man, Sebastian Moran, in an antagonist role.
Now it's time to get ready for a lot more speculation. According to the Radio Times, Moffat and Gatiss have today revealed that the title of the second episode will be "The Sign of Three", though they declined to offer any specific plot details about the episode, which will be filmed back-to-back with "The Empty Hearse" this spring. The script for the episode was written by Steven Thompson, who also penned season 2's shocking finale, "The Reichenbach Fall".
The name of the episode carries particular significance for fans who follow both the books and the show, as it references Doyle's short story, "The Sign of the Four", in which Watson meets the love of life, Mary Morstan, to whom he eventually proposes marriage. Aside from the two sleuths, Morstan is the main character in "The Sign of the Four" - a young woman from a wealthy background who begs Sherlock to investigate the disappearance of her father.
This latest news, in addition to the second episode's teaser word "wedding" and the casting of Martin Freeman's real-life partner Amanda Abbington in a role that will "significantly impact" on Holmes and Watson's lives, seems to confirm that the romance with Morstan will be central to the season 3 story arc, and that we may even see Watson married before the season is finished. The character is certainly pretty smitten when he first meets Morstan in "The Sign of the Four":
"Her expression was sweet and amiable and her large blue eyes were singularly spiritual and sympathetic. In an experience of women that extends over many nations and three separate continents, I have never looked upon a face which gave a clearer promise of a refined and sensitive nature...
"I sat and mused, until such dangerous thoughts came into my head that I hurried away to my desk and plunged furiously into the latest treatise on pathology. What was I, an army surgeon with a weak leg and a weaker banking account, that I should dare to think of such things?"
Before we take too much for granted, however, it's important to remember that Mark Gatiss has described this season's teaser words as "misleading", and not one single episode of the series so far has followed the plot of the original stories exactly, with several of them only using the source material as a very loose guide. As with other episodes like "A Scandal in Belgravia", the story upon which the show's script is based is a little too short to feasibly fill 90 minutes of screen time without a degree of embellishment, so it's best to be prepared for any number of surprises and plot twists.
Sherlock season three will air some time in winter 2013/2014.
Source: Radio Times