After months of waiting, Sherlock has finally begun filming its highly anticipated fourth season. Though the premiere likely won’t air until early 2017, fans are gradually starting to learn more details about what fans can expect from the show’s next round of episodes. Here’s everything that we know about Sherlock season 4 so far.
1. The returning cast
Aside from the return of Cumberbatch and Freeman, fans can also look forward to seeing Amanda Abbington reprise her role as Mary Watson, Louise Brealey as Molly Hooper, and Jonathan Aris as Anderson. Rupert Graves will also return as DI Lestrade, while Una Stubbs will be back as Mrs. Hudson.
Update 7/15/16: The show as released a first look image at Season 4, seen below. In the picture, Cumberbatch’s Sherlock crouches alongside a dog on the streets of London.
Update 12/2/16: The show has released another teaser, seen below.
— Sherlock (@Sherlock221B) November 30, 2016
Update 12/12/16: A dark new trailer has been released, below:
2. The villain
The BBC has confirmed that Toby Jones will play the villain in Sherlock season 4. The actor, who played a scientist on the freshman season of Fox’s Wayward Pines, will reportedly join the mystery drama in the second episode of its upcoming three-part season.
No details about the character have been revealed yet, but Sherlock co-showrunner and executive producer Steven Moffat said, “Delighted to have Toby Jones on board, bringing to life one of [Sir Arthur Conan] Doyle’’s finest villains.”
3. There will be a baby on board
There’s going to be a little one on Baker Street this time around. The BBC confirmed the news with a statement that read: “Series four begins with the nation’s favorite detective, the mercurial Sherlock Holmes, back once more on British soil, as Doctor Watson and his wife, Mary, prepare for their biggest ever challenge — becoming parents for the first time.”
Update 11/25/16: The first photo of Watson with his new baby has been released, seen below:
4. Ghosts will figure heavily into this next season
Moffat recently hinted at the story for the upcoming Season 4 in a public statement, teasing that figures from the past will again make their presence known. As he put it: “Sherlock series four —— here we go again! Whatever else we do, wherever we all go, all roads lead back to Baker Street, and it always feels like coming home. Ghosts of the past are rising in the lives of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson and terror and tragedy are looming.”
As fans have already started speculating, the synopsis seems to hint strongly at the possible reappearance of Moriarty, who seemingly died last season. The showrunners have not explicitly mentioned his name, but “the ghosts of the past” line certainly seems to suggest a return, whether physically or in some supernatural form.
5. A female director will helm an episode
Rachel Talalay, who most recently directed installments of Doctor Who and The Flash, will helm one of the three 90-minute episodes of the upcoming season. That will make her the first woman to ever direct an episode of the series (which has only aired 10 episodes since debuting in 2010).
6. It will have a darker tone
Moffatt promises “laughter, tears, shocks, surprises and extraordinary cases,” but this season will also get darker than past ones, as he teased last March. “[Season 4] is going to be… I suppose you’d say… consequences. It’s consequences,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “Chickens come to roost. It’s dark in some ways—obviously it’s great fun and a Sherlock Holmes romp and all that—but there’s a sense of… things… coming back to bite you. It’s not a safe, sensible way to live. It’s hilarious and exhilarating some days, but some days it’s going to be bloody frightening.”
Moffat also said that Season 4 “will be more of an emotional upheaval” for fans. “We’re certainly going to put them through the mill,” he explained, adding, “Hopefully enjoyable and fun, all the things Sherlock must always be. It will be tough at times. Maybe that’s the word? A tougher series.”
Update 7/25/16: At Comic-Con, Cumberbatch and co-creator Mark Gatiss reiterated that this season will be the darkest thing the showrunners have ever written for the show – or as the former put it, “a real emotional roller coaster.”
Update 8/1/16: Gatiss revealed a behind-the-scenes photo on Twitter, seen below, capturing Sherlock, his brother and Watson in what looks like an important meeting.
— Mark Gatiss (@Markgatiss) July 29, 2016
7. The story will reach a major turning point this season
Moffat’s public statement also suggested that the show’s fourth season could be its most eventful yet, saying, “This is the story we’ve been telling from the beginning and it’s about to reach its climax.” Though some fans have taken that to mean this could be its last season, the showrunner has not confirmed whether that’s the case or whether this will simply be “the climax” for one particular storyline.
However, Deadline reports the showrunners have previously stated they could see the series continuing for a long while and that Season 4 of Sherlock won’t necessarily be the end. Fans will have to stay tuned to find out for sure.
Update 7/25/16: At Comic-Con, both Moffat and Gatis clarified that they’ve never said Season 4 would be the last and that they didn’t mean to imply that’s the case. As for the story, the co-created dropped big hints about what to expect when they dropped the name, Sherrinford. As Deadline points out, Sherrinford was the name that Arthur Conan Doyle initially thought of for his iconic character before settling on Sherlock. It was also proposed by noted Sherlock Holmes scholar William S Baring-Gould and other enthusiasts as the name for a hypothetical older Holmes brother, who is away managing the family lands. It looks like moving forward into next season, Sherlock could be incorporating that idea in some form.
Update 10/4/16: Cumberbatch has also hinted at Season 4 marking the possible end of Sherlock, telling GQ UK:
It might be the end of an era. It 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. We never say never on the show. I’d love to revisit it, I’d love to keep revisiting it, I stand by that, but in the immediate future we all have things that we want to crack on with and we’ve made something very complete as it is, so I think we’ll just wait and see.
PBS has issued another look at the upcoming season in the poster, below:
An exact premiere date is still TBD, although it’s speculated that Season 4 will kick off on January 1, 2017. [Update 10/26/16]: It’s been confirmed that Season 4 of Sherlock will premiere on January 1, 2017.