At the end of season six, Castle’s executive producer Andrew W. Marlowe said the new season would explore Castle’s mythology. It was pretty well drummed out in the interview after interview that the seventh season would focus on the title character’s history. They saved it for the finale, apparently.
“Hollander’s Woods” (written by Andrew W. Marlowe and Terri Miller) explores what drove Richard Castle to become a writer of the macabre. The creepy trip down memory lane is sparked when the latest murder victim resembles a thirty year-old murder that Castle saw when he was 11-years-old.
The interview with the truck driver who ran over the latest victim who ran in front of him gives the description of a masked figure. That starts the ball rolling as Castle comes to realization that what he saw in the woods that day was indeed true.
He was spending time at a friend’s place near a wooded area called “Hollander’s Woods” when he wonder off into the forest. He spotted the masked figure leaning over something. When he was spotted by the killer, Castle was threatened. That night, he wrote about he saw and led to who is he is today.
Back to present day—their victim’s father tells Castle and Beckett his daughter was trying her friend who was trying to escape from an abusive boyfriend. The girl had no family to speak of, so if she went missing no one would notice.
This helps establish a pattern—the killer targets people that won’t be missed.
Another clue leads them to the home of a 72-year-old woman who owned the car the current victim was tailing. But the old lady is dead and things go from bad to worse when someone shoots at them with a shotgun.
The hold lady’s son has been living in the home with a dead body for years. But they quickly learns he has mental issues. And is most likely not their prime suspect.
After they learn a migrant worker went missing around the time Castle says he saw the body. He flashes back to when he started writing. This prompts a discussion with Alexis who is unsure of what she wants to do with her life.
The other story flowing through this episode is Beckett’s career path. As she eagerly awaits her captain’s exam results, she’s hauled down to One PP for a performance review (by the way, this scene is purely plot device). These guys in the room are political power players who think Beckett is perfect to run for the New York State Senate. After ripping her apart and she defends herself, they tell her she aced her exam and now has a decision to make.
Beckett and Castle meet up on their “swings” where they talk about the future. She is unsure of which road to take but Castle tells her whatever she decides, he’ll back her play. Beckett tells Castle she always envisioned herself following in her mother’s footsteps: fighting for justice.
A call from the boys reveals their prime suspect can’t be connected to the missing migrant worker but it does lead them to his psychiatrist. More of Castle’s memories are triggered and he believes the doctor is behind the killings. But no one believes him, including Beckett.
Back at the loft, Beckett apologizes and tells Castle she believes him. She dug into the doctor’s financials and found he owns farmland but they don’t have enough information to get a warrant. Castle is going to have to go in alone and find the evidence and then call it in.
In the barn, Castle finds the killer’s lair and momentoes from his victims. But the doctor is there and tries to take Castle out. But Beckett is able to get her gun to Castle. He quickly finishes the doctor off.
That night, Castle is about to receive a lifetime achievement award for his writing. He ponders what he would be today if he did wander into the woods. Beckett tells him they are who they are in the face of the people like the doctor. They both became who they are because they want justice in the world.
At the party, the precinct is there—along with cameos from the writers of the show—where he thanks everyone, but especially Beckett. As they ponder what the future holds for everyone there, the phone rings. It is back to work.
If this episode felt like a series finale, you are not mistaken. This episode was written with the show’s future in doubt.
Overall, this was the best episode of the season. When left to telling a straight story without a clear idea of what the future held for the series, Marlowe and Miller did a stellar job. Amazing what happens you are not trying to set forward a new vision to the series and just let the story pieces fall into their proper places.