Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes Franchise Just Got Some Great News, Even If It's Not What We Expected

Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes
(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

While Robert Downey Jr. is obviously best known for playing Tony Stark/Iron Man, the actor also squeezed in some time as Sherlock Holmes in between his early outings in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s been over a decade since his last appearance as the Arthur Conan Doyle-created character, and while we’ve learned things here and there about Sherlock Holmes 3 over the years, we’re still no closer to getting that threequel. Well, news has come in that the franchise is pivoting in a new direction, with the future of this Sherlock Holmes continuity resting in the streaming realm.

According to sources who spoke with Variety, two Sherlock Holmes spinoff shows are in early development at HBO Max. Robert Downey Jr. and Susan Downey are executive producing with Amanda Burrell from Team Downey, and Lionel Wigram of Wigram Productions is also attached as an executive producer. Both of these shows would each focus on a new character who was supposed to be introduced in Sherlock Holmes 3. However, at this stage, it’s unclear if Robert Downey Jr. will actually reprise Sherlock in either project, or if we’ll simply be exploring other corners of this universe without him around.

Back in 2019, it was announced that Rocketman’s Dexter Fletcher was taking over directing duties on Sherlock Holmes 3 from Guy Ritchie, who helmed 2009’s Sherlock Holmes and 2011’s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. The plan was to release the threequel on December 22, 2021, with Jude Law returning to reprise Dr. John Watson alongside Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes, but then the COVID-19 pandemic derailed the project. With this latest news, it sounds like Sherlock Holmes 3 isn’t happening anymore, and now the plan is to expand this world in a small screen setting for folks who have an HBO Max subscription.

Naturally it would be great if Robert Downey Jr. ends up reprising Sherlock Holmes in both of these HBO Max shows, whether it be in a supporting capacity or just as a cameo, but evidently the future of this franchise rests with new characters. In the final minutes of A Game of Shadows, we learned that like his literary counterpart, Downey’s Sherlock survived his plunge into Reichenbach Falls, while Jared Harris’s Professor James Moriarty was presumed dead. While Jude Law’s Watson received a clue indicating his friend is still alive, we still haven’t seen these two reunite, and it’s hard to say if that’ll happen in either of these spinoff shows. In any case, hopefully there’s more Sherlock Holmes involvement in these shows outside of the detective simply being referenced by others.

This marks the latest instance of HBO Max looking to launch spinoff shows connected to major Warner Bros. cinematic franchises. This most recently occurred with Peacemaker spinning out of the events of The Suicide Squad, and Matt Reeves’ Batman universe is expanding with Colin Farrell’s Penguin show and a series focused on Arkham State Hospital. A Dune prequel series called Dune: The Sisterhood is also still in the works, and it was reported last week that an IT prequel series called Welcome to Derry has entered development.

CinemaBlend will pass along any significant updates on these Sherlock Holmes spinoff series, but in the meantime, there are a lot of shows on HBO Max you can spend your time perusing. Those of you still keeping your eye on cinematic entertainment should look through our 2022 release schedule.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.