Will 'Sherlock' End After Season 4? No One Can Say for Sure

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in "Sherlock" Season 3. (Photo: BBC/Robert Viglasky/Hartswood Films for MASTERPIECE)
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in "Sherlock" Season 3. (Photo: BBC/Robert Viglasky/Hartswood Films for MASTERPIECE)

A new season of Sherlock is on the horizon, which means the rumor mill about when Benedict Cumberbatch will hang up his deerstalker is back in full force.

Will Season 4 be the end for the great detective? It's possible. But probably not. 

For those of you don't know, Sherlock star Cumberbatch has been all over the press this week, as the promotional schedule for his upcoming Marvel film Doctor Strange kicks into gear. He's been on the cover of both Vanity Fair and British GQ, and done interviews chatting about filming, life in general, and of course, the popular drama's upcoming fourth season. Apparently he's also been hinting that after Season 4 concludes, it may be awhile before we see the famous sleuth again. 

“It might be the end of an era. It feels like the end of an era, to be honest. [Season 4] goes to a place where it will be pretty hard to follow on immediately,” Cumberbatch told British GQ. “We never say never on the show. I’d love to revisit it, I’d love to keep revisiting it, I stand by that, but in the immediate future we all have things that we want to crack on with and we’ve made something very complete as it is, so I think we’ll just wait and see. The idea of never playing him again is really galling."

Let's just be blunt: If you thought that we were going to get another season of Sherlock in 2018, you're going to be disappointed. But that doesn't mean we're never going to see the show again, and everyone who's panicking about this right now needs to take a minute to calm down. 

Generally, we only get a new season of Sherlock every two years.  And that's a best case scenario. The series' cast and production team have always been super busy - Cumberbatch and co-star Martin Freeman are major movie stars now, and co-creator Steven Moffat has been simultaneously running Doctor Who for the past five years. The scheduling intracacies involved in getting all these people together for a three-month Sherlock shoot have always been a nightmare. Sure, that one time we got a one-off special in what could be considered an "off year". But Victorian special The Abominable Bride is an exception, rather than the general rule. 

And not for nothing, but some version of that sky-is-falling, show-is-ending rumor has surfaced at least once during the production of every season of Sherlock since it exploded into global popularity back in 2010. Please find your chill, internet. We really do go through this every year, and there's no evidence that this year’s version of that rumor is any more true than the previous ones were.

Does it seem likely that Sherlock will continue to take long breaks between seasons? Duh. Will those breaks likely get even longer as everyone's schedules get more complicated? Probably. 

It’s even possible that the show really is going to hang it up after Season 4. But, I doubt it.

Why?  Well, for starters, no one's actually said that the show's ending. In fact, most of the cast and creatives go out of their way to talk about how much they love making the show and how they hope it will continue for years to come. Even that quote from Cumberbatch this week, which has caused so much consternation, says that "the idea of never playing [Sherlock] again is galling." When Team Sherlock did a panel at San Diego Comic Con over the summer, Moffat was adamant that he was misquoted as saying Season 4 would be the show's last. In fact, he insisted that what he actually said was that he'd be surprised if the show ended after this season. (Don't believe me? Watch the panel video. Or just read this Telegraph interview. )

None of this means that the show is guaranteed to go on forever, obviously. We don't know how long the powers that be will be able to keep massaging the schedules of everyone involved. But it seems obvious that everyone wants to keep making the show for as long as they can, even if the breaks between seasons start getting bigger. And if it comes down to it - there's certainly nothing wrong with Sherlock evolving into a franchise where we only check back in with this Holmes and Watson once every handful of years, to see how they progress into old age, together.  All those things are still possible. But we're likely going to have to wait for a while, in order to see what happens. 

Which is kind of our current status quo anyway, yeah?