The most obvious clue, and the most baffling, is the water 6in deep over the floor of Holmers's residence (through a more macabre take from some fans is that it's actually blood). Is it a real flood scene or just symbolic? Water rising symbolically suggests foreboding—and the tagline for the teaser trailer is 'It's not a game any more'. The writer may be implying that Sherlock is a little out of his depth. If the upstairs room at Baker Street really is awash, the streets must be flooded 10ft-deep. Is Moriarty planning to drown London? Either way, it points to the most ominous series yet.
In classical art, the presence of a skull is a 'memento mori'—a none-too-subtle reminder that death is never far away. There's a big, obvious one here, another in a cloche in the back corner of the room and, tucked away on a bookshelf, a smaller one. But it's this eerie skull that seems curiously prominent.
In an early Sherlock episode, The Great Game, Holmes sprays a smiley face in yellow paint on the wall at 221b Baker Street, before taking pot-shots at it with a revolver. That yellow paint also cropped up in the Blind Banker. And in both those stories, Moriarty is lurking. Worth a smile, surely.
In the first new episode, we understand that busts of Margaret Thatcher are to be vandalized. Is that why there is a prominently placed bust on the mantelpiece here? There also appears (not visible here) to be a piece of paper with the word 'bust' on it. Some eagle-eyed Sherlock fans have pointed out that the plot of The Six Thatchers has already been hinted at by the show's creators. To accompany the first series, the BBC published a blog purportedly written by Dr. Watson, which included a post entitled 'The Six Thatchers', about a case solved by Sherlock. Watson's notes describe how busts of the Iron Lady are being destroyed, and explain how the mystery unfolds—and who the villain is. In the blog story, the busts are satirical versions of Lady Thatcher that were made by an art student who gave them devil-like horns. No doubt writer Mark Gatiss believes Mrs. T was the Devil Incarnate…
The slipper is another nod to original tale The Musgrave Ritual, which reveals Holmes's favourite hiding-place for his pipe tobacco—in the toe of a Persian slipper. But Sherlock has given up smoking…so why would he still need the slipper? What else is he hiding?
Nothing so cryptic here. In the original Holmes adventure The Musgrave Ritual, Dr. Watson comments that he often found his friend's 'unanswered correspondence transfixed by a jack-knife into the very centre of his wooden mantelpiece'. But could this perhaps be a clue that the third and final episode in this new series will take its storyline from The Musgrave Ritual? We know the first is to be The Six Thatchers, while the second is title The Lying Detective (thought to be based on the original Conan Doyle story The Dying Detective, in which Sherlock pretends he is gravely ill)—but the third title is yet to be revealed.
Arch-villain Moriarty was seen blowing out his brains at the end of the second series, but that didn't stop him sabotaging every television set in the country and broadcasting his own message: 'Did you miss me?' The title of the song in the sheet music on the floor is Miss Me—an unmistakable nod. So, we wonder, did master manipulator Moriarty really die?
Shakespeare's history play Henry V is one of Sherlock's favourites. Indeed, it is the source of his saying 'the game's afoot'. But there is another possible link to the Bard. It is widely suspected that the Shakespearean actor and pin-up Tom Hiddleton (who played Henry V in the BBC's Hollow Crown series earlier this year) will make an appearance in the new Sherlock. Fans will know that Sherlock and Mycroft apparently have an elder brother, called Sherrinford. But he has never (as yet!) appeared on screen. Yet he might be due for a New Year's Day appearance. For Mycroft cryptically said in the last series: 'I'm not given to outbursts of brotherly compassion…you know what happened to the other one.' Amanda Abbington, who plays Mrs. Watson, recently tweeted a photo of her, Tom and Gatiss, captioned 'blud'—slang for brother.
The stuffed bat is surrounded by mounted beetles. It's a Victorian oddity. But why mix mammals and insects? Perhaps the creepy-crawlies are the lesser villains Sherlock snares with ease, while the vampire bat is the real prize—his nemesis, Moriarty. Or is it a reference to Conan Doyle tale The Sussex Vampire? In this story, a jealous teenage boy attempts to murder his baby brother.
Note that this bone china teacup is identical to the one Holmes handed to Moriarty when the two mortal enemies sat down in the Great Detective's London lair to swap insults. Notice, too, that the cup is still afloat…