Okay, but let’s talk about the symbolic value of the new promotional photo.
Sherlock & John are physically separated, perhaps symbolic of their three-year separation, or of their emotional separation after their reunion. The lighting and the angle makes John the focus of the image, while Sherlock appears in an almost ghostly light, and is the secondary focus. John is looking away from him, and appears absorbed in his own though (and not particularly happy ones, judging by his expression), while Sherlock’s focus is on John. What might that mean? That series 3 will focus more on John, perhaps, or that we will get a glimpse into John’s time without Sherlock during which Sherlock was, in some sense, a ‘ghost’ (the theme of which brings to mind the lines ‘You’re not haunted by the war, Dr. Watson. You miss it.’)
Let’s go deeper. John is holding a mug. Where else have we seen John sitting alone with a mug before? Ah, yes.
Tea is an excellent example of cultural coding, i.e. a simple object or gesture that takes on a deeper meaning in a cultural context. In Britain, a country notorious for being poor at dealing with emotional situations and having an ‘each man for himself’ attitude, the first thing someone will do when someone comes to their house in distress is offer them tea. It’s a gesture of ‘I care about you, and I will go out of my way to cheer you up’. Being a hot drink, it’s also one that people take a while to consume, providing an opening for conversation. Tea shared is a mark of friendship. So what does it mean in context of this shot, in which John has ordered his tea, had it made my a stranger, and is looking at an empty seat (much like in A Study in Pink, when he made and consumed tea alone)? An absence of friendship. An absence of Sherlock.
Look at the plates, too. Every place contains an empty plate except for John’s. People have come, eaten their fill and gone, and John is left without a plate, perhaps a metaphor for emptiness and a lack of satisfaction.
Perhaps this is symbolic of John’s time without Sherlock, or perhaps (I fear), it’s symbolic of Sherlock’s return. I wrote recently on how I think their relationship will develop in series 3, and whether I’m correct or not, it’s not going to be a smooth road. John has been hurt, he will feel betrayed, and there is a lot of repair work to be done.
I don’t think this photo bears much good will on the hearts of Sherlockians.