For some PBS viewers, the return of BBC’s “Sherlock” this weekend is more important than the new season of “Downton Abbey.”
They will be waiting to find out how Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) lived after his suicidal fall from St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London at the end of last season’s “The Reichenbach Fall.” He left his friend, Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman), an Afghanistan war veteran, numb with disbelief and despair.
In anticipation of the series, PBS broadcast “Unlocking Sherlock,” a one-hour special by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, the two men behind the contemporary “Sherlock.” The special, available on PBS.org, is a fascinating look at more than a century’s worth of Sherlock Holmes adaptations – television and screen.
One of the pleasures of this series is the snappy dialogue and rich character development. Sibling rivalry is taken to a whole new level between Mycroft Holmes (Gatiss) and Sherlock – and then there are their parents.
Another pleasure is the in-jokes.
For example, in the original Holmes, Lestrade is only given a first initial: G. In “Sherlock,” his name is Greg, which Sherlock can’t remember, calling him Gavan or Graham.
In the two years since the first episode in 2010, the “Sherlock” leads have become movie stars.
As “The Empty Hearse,” the first of the new three-episode series of “Sherlock,” deals with the aftermath of Sherlock’s “suicide,” it’s hardly a spoiler to say Sherlock survived.
His “death” now two years in the past, life has moved on for his friends, though in some cases only incrementally.
The apartment at 221B Baker street is still intact since the landlady, Mrs. Hudson (Una Stubbs), couldn’t bear breaking it up. Sherlock’s enigmatic and brilliant brother, Mycroft, is still deviously working for the British government.
Watson has a job, a new apartment, a girlfriend and a moustache, but is still emotionally numb. What he really wants, as he says in “Many Happy Returns” to Sherlock, is “you can stop being dead.”
That his wish comes true is only the beginning of the story.