Sherlock has finally returned.

One of the last things audiences saw in the season 3 finale of the British Broadcasting Channel series was the face of villain James Moriarty asking “Miss me?” I’m not sure I missed Moriarty — although Andrew Scott absolutely nails the role — but I definitely missed Sherlock, the series.

Aside from a winter special which aired January 1, 2016, U.S. viewers have been deprived of new episodes since February 2014. Those of us who have been sherlocked-in since the first witty episode have been desperately awaiting season four’s release.

But that is potentially the beauty of Sherlock. The fourth season of the show premiered January 1, and I couldn’t wait. Often times I’ve lost interest in shows with complete seasons on Netflix before I’ve even finished, but waiting three years for Sherlock didn’t phase me.

It was excruciating to wait, but I never lost interest. When I heard the fourth season was airing this January, I didn’t think “about time” or “what took them so long?” All I could think was “yes!”

Why does it take so long for BBC to release a new season? Why can a show hold viewer interest that long?

I have a few ideas.

Let’s start with why it takes so long for new episodes. First, the show stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes — my first exposure to the actor — and Martin Freeman as his faithful sidekick, John Watson.

Both of these actors have not only been involved with the “Hobbit” movie franchise and “The Imitation Game” since February 2014, but they are also now part of the Marvel Superhero Cineverse.

The point is they are busy guys, and with each episode of Sherlock clocking in at 1.5 hours, the episodes take a while to film.

Plus Cumberbatch, who does most of the speaking — and does a lot of it — needs time to work memorizing dialogue into his schedule.

Another reason new episodes take so long to be released is the obvious attention to detail given to each one — which leads me to why the show can hold a viewer’s attention for three years.

We already know the cast is great. It doesn’t get much better than Cumberbatch and Freeman — as far as Brits go — and as I said before, Andrew Scott is a truly terrifying Moriarty.

But more importantly, what makes Sherlock such a great show is the producers’ apparent need for perfection. Every shot, every snippet of dialogue, item placed just a little too noticeably on a table was done very deliberately.

The keeps watchers guessing, it takes them on twists and references them back to things they didn’t even see on a first viewing. The show itself is just as clever as Sherlock, which creates the entire tone of the viewing experience.

And now it is back, and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve waited a long time to see what season four will hold, and when the three-episode season is over, I’m sure I’ll wait eagerly for new episodes in 2020.

Sherlock seasons one through three are available on Netflix, and new episodes can be streamed for free at www.pbs.org.

— Chance Hoener is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be emailed at choener@morningsun.net or follow him on Twitter @ReporterChance.