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Sherlock season 4 will air in the US sooner than you thought

The “climactic” new season will bring New Year's Day intrigue to fans on both sides of the Atlantic.

Aja Romano writes about pop culture, media, and ethics. Before joining Vox in 2016, they were a staff reporter at the Daily Dot. A 2019 fellow of the National Critics Institute, they’re considered an authority on fandom, the internet, and the culture wars.

Brace yourselves, Sherlock fans: At long last, season four of the BBC series has a release date — and for US fans, it’s earlier than expected.

Sherlock will return in The Six Thatchers on January 1, 2017. #Sherlock

Posted by Sherlock on Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The new three-episode season will premiere on January 1, 2017, for both UK and US viewers, a first for the show, which usually airs later in the US. (Last year’s Christmas Day special, Abominable Bride, also synced up.) In season four, new episodes will air on the BBC and as part of PBS’s Masterpiece Theatre on the same day.

Sherlock showrunners Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss have stated that season four might be the show’s climax.” And if the season’s official trailer, first released in July, is any indication, the show promises to deliver plenty of smoldering tension, high drama, and even higher cheekbones as Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman return to their respective roles as Sherlock and John.

In September, the titles for the first two of the three eps were revealed, and just as in previous seasons they are reworkings of the titles of stories from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original Holmesian canon. The first episode, “The Six Thatchers,” is a play on The Six Napoleons,” and is written by Gatiss and directed by Rachel Talalay (Tank Girl).

The second, “The Lying Detective,” is a play on Doyle’s “The Dying Detective.”

Just as they’ve done in previous seasons, Moffat and Gatiss announced three keywords that figure into the upcoming episodes. Season four’s keywords are Thatcher, Smith, and Sherrinford.

The secret of “Thatcher,” long hinted at on Dr. Watson’s tie-in blog, has now been revealed as part of the title of episode one and a likely reference to former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who stars in Watson’s blog post as an art bust doubling as a deadly weapon. Additionally, fans sniffed out early on that “Smith” refers to the villainous Culverton Smith, to be played by veteran actor Toby Jones.

As for the final clue, there’s speculation that “Sherrinford” could be the identity of a new character — namely, a third Holmes brother.

Despite the potential family reunion, Sherlock season four promises to be much darker than previous outings. Rumors are rampant about what’s ahead, and not all of them are good. For example: Season four might be the show’s last; Amanda Abbington’s character, John’s wife Mary, might die; and Mary’s potential death might be a red herring to divert us from the season’s real spoiler.

Given all this drama, it’s no wonder the BBC decided not to make US fans wait to share in the madness.