Fans of BBC's Sherlock have been waiting a very long time for new episodes. The Season 3 finale aired way back in February of 2014, and the closest that the show has come to another set of adventures for Sherlock Holmes and John Watson was a trippy standalone caper in early 2016. Luckily, Season 4 is finally in the foreseeable future with a premiere date in early 2017, and the explosive first look is definitely reason to get excited. Still, we shouldn't expect that Season 4 will be as relatively lighthearted as earlier seasons. In fact, Mary Morstan actress Amanda Abbington has declared that Sherlock co-creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss have surpassed themselves in taking Sherlock in some very serious directions. Here's what she has to say about Season 4:
It's the darkest that Steven and Mark have written...If we can pull this off, it will be amazing.
Amanda Abbington revealed that Season 4 will be the darkest of Sherlock to date at the show's panel at the San Diego Comic-Con (via Vulture). Sherlock has been getting progressively darker over the years, but even Sherlock's fake death and return were treated with a certain degree of levity. The end of Season 3 did see him nearly shipped off to his likely death until the cyber specter of Moriarty turned up, and his drug-induced trip in the standalone earlier this year wasn't exactly a barrel of laughs. Abbington's promise that Season 4 is going to be darker than ever means that we should probably spent the rest of hiatus preparing ourselves for a rough ride.
The actress wasn't any more forthcoming about what we might get in Season 4. Fortunately, a few of the folks behind the scenes shared some clues about what's next for Sherlock and John. Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss, and producer Sue Vertue each dropped a single word of a hint. "Smith," "Thatcher," and "Sherrinford" will all somehow be involved with Season 4 at some point or other. The three words don't give a whole lot to go on, but they're better than nothing.
Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a few Smiths into his Sherlock Holmes stories. One of the most notable was a character who never actually appeared alive. Rather, Willoughby Smith was the victim that kicked off Holmes' investigation in the 1904 short story "The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez." It's possible that "Golden Pince-Nez" will be the next of Doyle's tales to be adapted for a modern audience. It was a pretty great mystery that could work as well in the 21st century as it did in the early 20th century; perhaps Willoughby Smith will kick off an investigation for Sherlock and John. Another possibility would be Miss Violet Smith, who was a living character of the "Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist" story.
"Thatcher" doesn't seem to have a root in Arthur Conan Doyle's stories, but John Watson's blog for Sherlock did include the tale of "The Six Thatchers." The mystery was brief and concluded by the end of the blog post; maybe Season 4 will see the resurfacing of something that happened in the case.
The "Sherrinford" clue is a bit easier to connect to an avenue of Sherlock Holmes lore. "Sherrinford" is the maiden name of Sherlock and Mycroft's mother Rose; we can guess that Season 4 will involve the branch of their family that comes from their mom's side. Sherlock's parents have already appeared in the show, so it wouldn't take too much exposition to kick off a plot involving Mrs. Holmes, née Sherrinford.
Sadly, we won't be able to do much more than continue guesswork about Sherlock Season 4 for the time being. The premiere isn't until early 2017, and Steven Moffat has been notably cryptic about the future of the series. Check out our fall TV premiere schedule to see what you'll be able to catch on the small screen while you wait for the next batch of Sherlock.