How much do TV viewers love Benedict Cumberbatch? So much that they will have not-so-patiently waited a full two years to see the next season of a series — PBS "Masterpiece" drama "Sherlock" — that, in two seasons, has netted just six episodes.
The next batch, finally, will premiere in January, and here's a round-up of everything we know so far about what Sherlock (Cumberbatch) and his pal Watson (Martin Freeman) will be up to in Season 3.
1. The long- (long) awaited third season will premiere on PBS on Jan. 19 at 10 p.m., meaning it will air in a block with "Downton Abbey." Says PBS executive Beth Hoppe, "The pairing of 'Downton Abbey' and 'Sherlock' in January offers a blockbuster night of British drama only on PBS stations."
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2. Season 3, like Seasons 1 and 2, will consist of three episodes: "The Empty Hearse," "The Sign of Three" (inspired by the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle story "The Sign of Four"), and "His Last Vow" (inspired by the story "His Last Bow").
3. Season 2 ended with a cliffhanger in which Sherlock appeared to step off the roof of a building to his death, but then later showed up watching Watson at Holmes's gravesite. He faked his own death, but how? Is there a clue in the title of the first episode of Season 3, "The Empty Hearse"? Mark Gatiss, who wrote the Season 3 premiere, has confirmed "The Empty Hearse" is based on Doyle's "The Adventure of the Empty House" Sherlock Holmes story, in which Holmes reappears after surviving a murder attempt by professor Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls. Cumberbatch and Freeman also taped a tongue-in-cheek video where Cumberbatch reveals exactly how Sherlock might have survived his Season 2 tumble … with some strategic editing.
4. Freeman told Radio Times the trick to how Holmes survived the fall won't actually involve any sci-fi trickery. "All the clues were on screen. It's not going to be a cheat," he said. "Everything that we saw on that final episode offers hints as to how he did it."
5. And Cumberbatch joked further about the two-year cliffhanger during his Reddit AMA chat in October. When a fan asked how he has coped with keeping the storyline a secret all this time, he said, "I cry myself to sleep at night. And then wake up laughing."
6. Two years will have passed between the end of Season 2 and the beginning of Season 3, and Holmes has been in hiding the whole time (hence the sad look on pal Watson's face in the above first official photo released from the season). The official description for "The Empty Hearse": "Two years after the devastating events of 'The Reichenbach Fall', John appears to have (gotten) on with his life. New horizons and romance beckon. But, with London under threat of a devastating terrorist attack, Sherlock is about to take John at his word, staging his resurrection with all the theatricality that comes so naturally to him. If Sherlock thinks everything will be just as he left it, though, he's in for a very big surprise."
7. "Masterpiece" executive producer Rebecca Eaton told Entertainment Weekly the Season 3 episodes are the series' best yet. "They are jaw dropping. They are like small movies. Benedict and Martin are so in their Sherlock-Watson groove. They are so comfortable with that relationship it's like being in the room with them."
8. Production on the new season was split into three parts because of the busy schedules of very in-demand Cumberbatch and Freeman, who, in addition to various other movie roles, will co-star in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" in December.
9. Last year, "Sherlock" creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss said these three words were a hint about what fans should expect in Season 3: "rat," "wedding," and "bow." Moffat, to a gathering at the 2012 Edinburgh International Television Festival: "We have three new words — which may be misleading, are not titles, are only teases or possibly clues, but might be deliberately designed to get you into a lather. Who knows?"
10. Major spoiler alert: The "wedding" will reportedly involve Watson and Mary Morstan, who's played by Martin Freeman's real-life girlfriend/mother of his children, actress Amanda Abbington ("Mr. Selfridge").
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11. Season 3 will also introduce a new foe for Sherlock, a villain named Charles Augustus Magnussen, who will be played by Danish actor Lars Mikkelsen, who will be introduced in "His Last Vow." Moffat, who calls Magnussen a "terrifying" character, adding, "I'm not giving away what we've done with him, but I think we've done something good." For possible hints about what evildoing Magnussen will be, uh, doing, read "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton," the Doyle tale that inspired the new baddie.
12. There will likely be a fourth season, and yes, it will also contain just three episodes.
Watch a teaser for the third season of "Sherlock":
"Sherlock" Season 3 premieres on Jan. 19 at 10 p.m. on PBS.
- Arts & Entertainment
- Martin Freeman
- Benedict Cumberbatch
- Sherlock Holmes