Sherlock Holmes poses with his friends John and Mary Watson – and their baby.

“Miss me?” Sherlock returns for Season 4 on Sunday, Jan. 1

“There’s an east wind coming all the same, such a wind as never blew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us may wither before its blast. But it’s God’s own wind none the less and a cleaner, better stronger land will lie in the sunshine when the storm has cleared.”
–Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “His Last Bow”

As the premiere of Sherlock’s “darkest season yet” creeps up on us this Sunday, a dedicated Sherlockian reflects on the BBC production’s relationship with the Canon: the original 60 stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Tune in at 8 p.m. on New Year’s Day (Sunday, Jan. 1) for the premiere of Masterpiece Mystery! Sherlock, Season 4 with “The Six Thatchers.” An encore of this 90-minute episode begins at 9:36 p.m.

Then, tune in at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 8 for an up-to-the-minute encore of “The Six Thatchers,” followed at 8 p.m. by “The Lying Detective.” The finale of Season 4, aptly titled “The Final Problem,” airs at 6:30 p.m. – just before the series premiere of Victoria; how’s that for an evening of great TV? – on Sunday, Jan. 15.

And don’t forget: you can watch Sherlock from the very beginning starting 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 27 with “A Study in Pink.”

onica Schmidt, in deerstalker capMonica Schmidt, of Swisher, Iowa, leads the Younger Stamfords, an official scion society of the Baker Street Irregulars; she is a member of the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes, invested as The Church of St. Monica. She is also a member of The Hounds of the Baskerville (sic) in Chicago, the oldest Sherlockian group in the Midwest.

(We asked her if we should give her a fun pseudonym, and she responded by quoting Holmes from “The Blue Carbuncle”: “It is always awkward doing business with an alias.”)

When we first chatted with Schmidt last July, the trailer for Season 4 had just been released. (See our previous post.) Nevertheless, she had already figured out the potential names and references of the episodes – a full two months before they were publicly announced.

Read all three short stories linked to Season 4 episodes online at WikiSource:
The Adventure of the Six Napoleons | The Adventure of the Dying Detective | The Final Problem

Executive producers Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat “are huge fans of the Canon and have very obviously read a lot of the writings about the writings,” says Schmidt. As an example, she cites the name Sherrinford, one of the three clues held up by the cast at Comic-Con.

“Sherrinford was the one of the names Doyle toyed with giving our hero detective before settling on Sherlock,” she says. “In the William S. Barring-Gould ‘biography’ of Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street), Sherrinford was Holmes’s and Mycroft’s older brother.”

Schmidt believes that the Season 4 trailer definitely gives the impression that we are about to run into very deep waters, particularly with the Mycroft/Sherlock dynamic.

Let’s watch:

As Season 3 (“His Last Vow”) ends, Sherlock shoots Charles Magnussen point blank, having realized there is no way to exact justice on the master blackmailer.

Now, Sherlock must pay the steep price of being banished from the UK – while brother Mycroft cleans up the mess.  As Sherlock’s plane takes off, the image of the late (?) Jim Moriarty appears across TV screens across the UK stating “Did you miss me?”  Mycroft puts in the order to turn the plane around so his younger brother can investigate.

As we saw when Sherlock returned from the dead at the beginning of Season 3, the producers have any number of ways to mislead viewers with teaser footage. Yes, the trailer reveals Moriarty walking on the beach; yes, we see creepy nurses and a scared, scruffy Sherlock.

“The pool shot could be a visual reference to the pool where Moriarty held Holmes and Watson hostage in Season 1,” says Schmidt. “There is a theory that the gunman from that scene will turn out to be Mary Watson; an Easter egg in the Sherlock coloring book” – yes, there is one – “appears to indicate that Mary was present in that scene.”

But are these scenes based in reality, or are they somehow part of his famed mind palace?

“We will almost certainly see more internal exploration of Sherlock’s own demons: drugs, his apparent lack of empathy, and his misogyny,” says Schmidt.

The period-set special episode “The Abominable Bride,” in the immediate aftermath of “His Last Vow,” dovetails perfectly with the end of Season 3 and the events that are likely to occur in Season 4.

To Canon Holmes – the Holmes we know exclusively from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s work – “everything was an abstract puzzle,” says Schmidt. “BBC Sherlock sees things similarly, but is even more emotionally detached. Thus the theory that he is a ‘sociopath,’ without empathy – which he is NOT.”

Read one psychologist’s take on this perhaps incorrect diagnosis. 

Toby Jones as Sherlock's Culverton SmithAnd then there’s Culverton Smith, a character known as pure evil, appalling even the supposedly sociopathic Holmes. He’s not charming like Moriarty, or chillingly amoral like Magnussen.

Indeed, Toby Jones may seem avuncular and funny, but his character’s terrible teeth are one clue as to the absolute rot inside.

It all leads up to one hell of a confrontation in “The Final Problem.” And how could it not? Holmes’ death(?) at Reichenbach Falls is one of the most famous in literature.

Truly, “the roads we walk have demons beneath.”

One thought on ““Miss me?” Sherlock returns for Season 4 on Sunday, Jan. 1”

  1. There was way too much gunplay and hand-to-hand fighting in this episode. If I wanted to see an run-of-the-mill action movie aimed at 15-year-old males I will go to the local movieplex. I expect more from PBS, particularly when interpreting Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, which are fine-tuned thought adventures, not noisy fist fights.

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