Steven Moffat loves his secrecy, whether its the entire way he manages the narrative of Doctor Who where the very crux of the show hinges on huge questions and underwhelming answers, or with the promises of Sherlock Season 4, which sadly still feels years away. Funnily enough, that's because it is.
Sherlock Season 4 won't air until 2017. That's the longest wait fans have had to endure so far, and that's down to Moffat and Gatiss managing multiple shows, while Benedict Cumberbatch has to fill his quota with the devil to be in basically everything. Fans will be given brief satisfaction in 2015's christmas special, when the BBC pushes Sherlock into never before seen territory by setting it in the 19th century!
As for Sherlock and Watson's contemporary adventures in Season 4, we have two years to wait! And what does that mean? Speculation! Most creators would be slightly annoyed by a fervently curious fandom, but oh no, not Steven Moffat! The Sherlock show runner is more than happy to stoke the flames by chucking in promises for Season 4.
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.
Well, of course it's darker. That's just what fiction does now. What is interesting is Moffat's promise of "things coming back to bite you", and while that does sound like standard hype generation, it's worth wondering just what Sherlock Season 4 has in store. Given the way Season 3 ended... there's one thing fans are expecting more than anything else.
But how could he have possibly survived? Here's how. Television! Whatever punctuates Moriarty's return from the supposed grave is subsidiary to his renewed presence in the show. The actual how and why of his survival doesn't bother me all that much. Of course Andrew Scott is being brought back to the show. Moffat knew the "did you miss me" moment with a mere still photo of Moriarty would blow fans' minds, and isn't nearly stupid enough to keep him dead for Sherlock Season 4.
So it seems Moffat is set once more to pretend something completely unsurprising is actually surprising. If that isn't his plan for Season 4, then what story beats could there be that would actually surprise the fan base?
Holmes vs Watson
Okay, I know this borders on the exploitative, and if there were a story arc that actually pitched Sherlock against Watson as had been done with Moriarty, there would be no question as to who would win. What I think would be interesting is a little more animosity between the two leads, at least more than just Watson complaining occasionally at Sherlock's incomprehensibility. How might this come about? Well, Sherlock Season 4 is taking place in a slightly different landscape than before. For one, Sherlock is now a murderer, presumably allowed back in the UK just because Moriarty hacked everyone's iPad.
John Watson has also moved on significantly, with his attempts to settle down with his new wife, Mary, intruded upon by Sherlock's shenanigans. That, and the fact of Mary's mysterious past as whatever A.G.R.A stands for, could combine to create an interesting conflict between Holmes and Watson. What that conflict might be, it's hard to tell at this stage, but it could be the most tumultuous storyline Sherlock has seen yet.
Just take a look at this trailer for the upcoming "Mr Holmes", starring Ian McKellen.
The entire premise hinges on a betrayal of sorts occurring between Holmes and Watson. Interesting and organic ideas like this just go to show that, for Sherlock Season 4, promises of returning villains may not be enough.