Sherlock Holmes will return from the dead next season to tackle his most formidable job yet — that of best man.
The news was revealed in a rough-cut clip for the first-ever Sherlock panel at Comic-Con in San Diego on Thursday. Although executive producer Sue Vertue implored fans to not reveal the particulars of the scene, it's no secret that Sherlock's (Benedict Cumberbatch) pal John Watson (Martin Freeman) will tie the knot. "Hot off the presses from 110 years ago... John does get married," co-creator Steven Moffat confirmed, referring to Watson's marriage in the original Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. "The secret was out before you were born."
The scene previewed is from Season 3's second episode, "The Sign of Three," which is written by Stephen Thompson and reveals a somewhat cheekier tone than before. "There's slightly more humor, it's slightly more real," Moffat said. "It's a very unusual episode, but I think it's everything you'd hoped it would be."
Naturally, a third season of Sherlock wouldn't work if its titular protagonist were dead, as Watson had presumed when he saw his partner commit suicide by leaping off the roof of a building in last season's dizzying finale. Just how Sherlock faked his death will be revealed in the premiere, "The Empty Hearse," written by co-creator Mark Gatiss. "It's a rational explanation," Moffat said. "When you see the answer, you'll see that yes, we did know in advance. We had to plot it out."
How Sherlock perpetrated the hoax, however, is secondary to the story of how Watson will react, two years later, to the news that his best friend is alive. "That moment is quite electrifying," Gatiss said. Moffat added, "It goes on and on. ... It's a long, complicated emotional journey and extremely funny."
Check out more scoop and highlights from the Comic-Con panel:
Personality swap! Apparently, Freeman, who usually plays the more casual Watson, is quite "sardonic" in real life, while Cumberbatch is the goofier of the two. "He's really quite puppyish and bumbling," Gatiss said. This was evidenced in a pre-taped video in which the Freeman sent a heartfelt message to the fans for missing the panel, and Cumberbatch took the opportunity to pretend to reveal how Sherlock lived, only to have the video and audio quality distort his rather lively explanation (involving stuffed monkeys and a helicopter!). Check out the video on EW.
Third time's the charm: Moffat infamously declared that three words — rat, wedding and bow (as in take a bow) — hinted at plots for each of the three episodes. Therefore, somehow Sherlock's return from the dead will also involve a rat ("Maybe in a biscuit tin," Gatiss said), and Episode 2's wedding is self-explanatory. The "bow" however, is less apparent, and Moffat, who wrote the third episode, told TVGuide.com that the episode's title will be revealed in a week, at the conclusion of the Season 2 reruns in the UK. We Yanks will have to stay tuned to the Internet to find out.
Powers of observation: The creators insist that how Sherlock faked his death can be inferred from watching the scene, and that no additional information is needed since there really are only a few ways one could survive jumping from a building.
Moriarty's back... sort of: Yes, Andrew Scott is back as the nemesis Moriarty, but don't get too excited. The character is really and truly dead. Scott was asked back because apparently, his fee is cheaper than using a mannequin. They're joking. We think. Moffat also shot down speculation that Moriarty, who shot himself in the head just before Sherlock jumped from the building, is still alive. "What if they fake-suicided each other? What a waste of a scene!" he scoffed.
Sherlock's women: Although Sherlock's great love Irene Adler (Lara Pulver) is currently out of the picture, Moffat concedes that our hero probably won't be getting a traditional love interest. "For Sherlock, sex happens up here," he said, pointing to his head. "But he'd probably poison his girlfriend just to see if it worked." As for forensic pathologist Molly Hooper (Louise Brealy), whom he turned to for help in last season's finale, Moffat said, "There is a very small number of people he trusts, that the likes. If you watch the scenes, she always wins. She makes him apologize, she humanizes him. Wait till you see what she does next time! [But] I don't think they'll end up dating. Two sociopaths in one relationship?"
Season 4: Although the series won't return until 2014, fans are already clamoring for the promise of more. Vertue confirmed that the actors are commissioned for a fourth season, if everything works out. No stories have been planned yet, but the creators revealed their favorite Doyle stories, which may or may not play out on screen later. Gatiss, who also plays Sherlock's brother Mycroft, admitted to liking "The Red-Headed League," partially because he's also a ginger. Moffat cited "The Speckled Band" for its storytelling, which he admits, "makes no sense at all."
Sherlock returns to Masterpiece on PBS in 2014.