The Darkness is Coming: ‘Sherlock’ Series 4 Screening and Trailer

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{Header image by BBC Worldwide and courtesy Fathom Events.}

Note: this article was also published on Tea & Fiction.

Being a Sherlock fan is an act of patience. We get three episodes (admittedly 90 minute long episodes) every two years, not including the mini-episode “Many Happy Returns” in 2013, and for 2016 we just got one special, “The Abominable Bride” (aka TAB).

In addition, the third series – wherein we finally found out how Sherlock faked his death at the end of series 2, sort of – was highly divisive among fans. This was partly due to the changing of the POV from John Watson (Martin Freeman) to Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch), as well as having the focus be more on characterization than the plot. The addition of Mary Morstan (played by Freeman’s real life partner Amanda Abbington) added to this, especially when it was revealed in the last episode of series 3 that she was actually a former (maybe still active?) assassin.

NEW #SherlockPBS photo: Here's your first look at Season 4 – #BenedictCumberbatch and a canine companion!

A post shared by MASTERPIECE PBS (@masterpiecepbs) on

 

In my own reviews, I’ve mentioned how writer and co-creator Steven Moffat seems to have an inability to write story arcs without creating massive plot holes and never seems concerned to answer most of the questions he brings about. In fact, TAB ended up only giving us maybe five minutes of actual plot for the series as a whole (depending on how much of that episode was actually real versus Sherlock’s mind palace), and so fans are still anxiously awaiting answers to many of the questions that series 2 (and 3) brought about.

But the wait is almost over. On January 1, the first of three episodes for series four will be broadcast both on BBC and as part of PBS’s Masterpiece program. Titled “The Six Thatchers”, the plot of the first episode hints of not only finding out how Moriarty seemed to be alive at the end of the last episode of series 3, but also will delve into Mary Watson’s past.

The title is obviously a play on the Doyle story “The Adventures of the Six Napoleons”, following the tradition by Moffat and co-creator Mark Gatiss to twist the names of stories to fit their modernization. The other two episodes are set for January 8 and 15 respectively. While the first titled “The Lying Detective” (named after the story “The Adventure of the Dying Detective”), in a breach from that protocol, the final episode of the fourth series is called “The Final Problem”.

 

The original story was Doyle’s attempt to kill off the character of Sherlock Holmes, and was intended to be his last story until fans clamored for more. This episode will also be broadcast on the big screen in partnership with Fathom Events on January 16 and 18, 7 pm local time, with 15 minutes of exclusive extras. (You can visit Fathom Events’ website for more information about this big screen showing.)

In an interview Benedict Cumberbatch had with GQ UK for Doctor Strange, he stated that series 4, “feels like the end of an era, to be honest. It goes to a place where it will be pretty hard to follow on immediately.” Add in that Amazon UK offering a special boxed set of the series and a steelbook with special art, and one can’t help but think the show as a series is most likely winding up after this one, with maybe the occasional movie like we had with TAB every couple of years.

Whether or not you think the show will be ending, all parties have acknowledged that this series will be very dark in tone. In an article on Collider, Moffat is quoted in a Q&A that, “Hopefully, there are lots of laughs and lots of great personal stuff, but it is explicitly a darker season.”

That darkness has definitely been creeping up in the promotional materials. Whether it’s the violin (with the fourth string broken) announcing the premiere date or the teaser trailer showing John and Sherlock flooded in 221B Baker Street, there’s no question that this series will be devastating to fans. And in a trailer released today, we see even more darkness, as well as some … surprising dialogue from Sherlock.

Whose house is burning down? What’s going on between John and Mary? And most notably, who is Sherlock saying, “I love you” to? We will know some of the answers in just four weeks.

Sherlock series 4 premieres January 1, at 8:30 pm on BBC One for UK residents, and at 9 pm Eastern on PBS for US residents. For more information, visit either BBC One’s official site or PBS Masterpiece’s official site.