In 2014, the opening episode of Sherlock series three ended with a surprise glimpse of new villain Charles Augustus Magnussen, a week before we were expecting to be introduced to him.
Two years later, Sherlock creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat have repeated the trick, but this time in a far more subtle way…
Toby Jones’s “diabolical and disgusting” villain Culverton Smith was due to make his debut in The Lying Detective, episode two of the new fourth series, but eagle-eyed viewers watching the first instalment on New Year’s Day may have spotted his face in the most unlikely of places – a poster on a bus shelter.
In a scene in which John again crosses paths with the woman he may or may not have been having an affair with (it’s kept relatively ambiguous), in the background we can see an ad featuring Jones’s smiling face, with the slogan ‘He’s back’ in the top right hand corner.
It appears to be advertising something with a title that begins with the word ‘business’, possibly a book but more likely a TV show as below it is the word ‘series’. Either way, it looks as if it has something to do with crime as it also reads ‘It’s murder in the…’, with that key word in red.
In the original Sherlock Holmes story The Dying Detective, Smith is an expert in tropical diseases who resorts to poison in his attempt to get revenge on Holmes, but here it looks as if he could be either a murder mystery writer or – in just the kind of self-referential twist Gatiss and Moffat love – a TV detective…
Sherlock: The Lying Detective is on Sunday 8th January on BBC1