Though the U.K. has already gotten the chance to see the new episodes of the acclaimed and obsessed-over BBC show Sherlock, the episodes start to hit American TV Sunday night. So if you're going to settle in to watch the first episode—"The Empty Hearse"—for the first time Sunday, or if you're preparing for your second (third or fourth) viewings, here's a preparation guide.
Re-watch "The Reichenbach Fall"
The brilliance of Sherlock episodes is that for the most part they stand alone as what are essentially mini-movies—each episode is about an hour and a half long. That said, whether you're a die-hard fan or a newbie it's imperative that you watch the final episode of season two, "The Reichenbach Fall," before settling in for "The Empty Hearse."
Specifically, you are going to want to watch (and re-watch and re-watch) the last fifteen minutes. It's hardly a spoiler anymore to reveal that Sherlock took a suicidal plunge to save his friends from an attack planned by consulting criminal Jim Moriarty, who had just put a gun in his own mouth and fired. (Got that?) Much of the first episode deals with Sherlock's return to the living—or at least return to the living in London at least—and the show tackles the question of how exactly Sherlock did it with bits of humor, fan service, and (we think) honest explanation. (Big "we think" on that last one. See: this tweet.) Before Sunday, you're probably going to want to brush up on your how Sherlock survived theories. And remember chances are he didn't survive via TARDIS, though don't rule that out. You might also want to pay close attention to the circumstances surrounding Moriarty's death. Just saying.
Know your trivia
Quick: What are the names of Benedict Cumberbatch's parents? Who is Martin Freeman's significant other? Why does this matter? Well, all those people have roles in the newest season of the show. Freeman's partner, Amanda Abbington, plays John Watson's betrothed, while Cumberbatch's parents, actors Timothy Carlton and Wanda Ventham, play Sherlock's parents. Though really Abbington's role as Mary is far more significant than the parts played by the Cumberbatch parents, the clever (and winking) bits of casting are just examples of how much fun the show seems to be having this season.
It's clear that Sherlock is now being made mostly out of love. Cumberbatch and Freeman both have thriving film careers and certainly don't need the show. Creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss (the latter of whom plays Mycroft, Sherlock's brother) know what a phenomenon the show is. While the show has always been conscious of the real-world media landscape—Sherlock texts! John has a blog! Everyone thinks they are a couple!—the first two episodes go out of their way to make reference to the chatter that now goes hand in hand with the show. It's mostly delightful, but can also be worrisome. We found ourselves, at times, thinking, is the show getting too self-involved? Then, by the astounding third episode of the season all of those fears disappeared.
Listen to the music
David Arnold and Michael Price's score for the show is as essential as Cumberbatch and Freeman's performances, and you can listen to music from seasons one and two on Spotify. If you can't get away with watching earlier episodes at work, why not listen to the sounds of Sherlock to get in the mood.
Moffat has publicly said that seasons four and five of the show are plotted out, so you will get more Sherlock once this season's three episodes are over. Just when they will come is unclear—Cumberbatch and Freeman both have projects lined up. Still! More Sherlock is on its way.
Stare into the eyes of the new Entertainment Weekly cover
Oh goodness. Those blues.
Venture into your mind palace
You have one, right? All good Sherlock fans must.