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Castle - Hollander's Woods - Review: "Ready for Change?"

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“One day you will look back and you will realise that every experience you’ve ever had, every seeming mistake or blind alley was actually a straight line to who you were meant to be.” -Castle

“Hollander’s Woods” delves into the events that shaped who Richard Castle is today, a stickler for the truth, the story and a critically acclaimed mystery writer. His fascination with murder didn’t originate when he was 5 years old and summering in the Hamptons with his mother, it emerged from Hollander’s Woods, where he was staying at, by a friend’s house, while Martha was touring with “Pippin.”

“Castle” is always at its best when the murder investigation has a personal component, a link to one of the core characters, and season’s finale did exactly that, as it dived into another portion of the Richard Castle backstory. It’s a part of his past which he had never talked about to anyone, not even Beckett, as he had started to believe it hadn’t happened, or wished it hadn’t. “Hollander’s Woods” differed from the previous season finales, in the sense that, while poignant and beautifully delivered, the episode did not end on a cliff-hanger that has me cursing at the 4 month hiatus. It could very well have been made into the series finale if it had been needed. I have the feeling they really thought this was going to be the series finale when they wrote and filmed this episode, which makes me even more grateful to be getting an 8th season.

The team is called onto the scene, a little out of their jurisdiction, on Esposito and Ryan’s 10 year manniversary. (LOL) This week’s victim, decorated with clean crosses cut on her cheeks and forehead, run over by a van as she was escaping the woods and fleeing a masked figure, has Castle flashing back Hollander’s Woods, the location where he had made a gruesome discovery when he was only an 11 year old boy.

The scene, at the hospital, which merges Richard Castle’s memories to the trucker’s sightings, was incredibly well acted and edited, and the musical score added just the right amount of creepiness make it perfect. “Beckett, I’ve seen that mask before,” was brilliantly delivered. Nathan brought so much depth to the scene, which could have easily felt ridiculous. A masked man running after a pretty blond through the woods with a knife had a B Horror movie vibe, and if not done right, the episode could have turned cringe worthy, but it didn’t. Everything merged perfectly together to give us a solid hour of television.

The murder they are investigating is connected with the body young Richard Rodgers had spotted in the woods, he is convinced of it, and Beckett chooses to believe it as they continue to work on identifying their Jane Doe. Castle is usually better when it comes to crimes scenes and I was surprised Espo didn’t yell at him (or Perlmutter coming out of nowhere. Gosh, I would have loved that!) to tell him to stop contaminating the room with his prints and DNA, and to put some damn gloves on. Dude, it’s been 7 years, you should know by now.

They identify the victim as Emma, who was trying to locate the car her disappeared friend got into, and who got closer to the killer than Castle ever could to the killer. (Ultimately, too close.) This episode focused on Castle and it touched into his personal demons and regrets about that day. It made sense that he would have felt responsible for the murders that happened after the faithful days in the woods, and it reminded me of his obsession with 3XK. It’s who he is, but he was only a child, as Kate reminded him. Even then, he had tried, for years to identify the victim, to use his connections when he had some, but with nothing to go on, and with nothing turning up, he had given up, or more accurately started to doubt the day had ever happened.

The car, investigated by the victim, and linked to her friend’s disappearance, leads Castle and Beckett, then joined by Lanie, Ryan and Esposito, to the house of 71 year old Mrs. Lewis, dead in front of her television. Her psychotic son, Noah, becomes the episode’s only red herring. After shooting came to and from a wardrobe, (sadly, no lion or witch, though) and discovering an escape route through the floor of the wardrobe, a chase after the suspect irrupted. The episode differed in the sets, and usually setting the show in New York City means apartments buildings and metal fire escapes, not houses and fenced yards, but episode took place in the outskirts of the city and somehow the difference in landscape hit me as Ryan and Espo chased down their suspect. I enjoyed the change in scenery the greens and the blue sky somehow made it more joyful.

When Beckett and Castle go to talk to Noah Lewis’ shrink, Castle recognises the voice, the same voice that talked to him, holding a knife to his neck 30 years ago. Nothing though, points at the psychiatrist being a violent psychopath, and the guys are skeptical. They have nothing to go on, and when Beckett alludes to the fact that maybe it’s not him, Castle gets mad and leaves.

“I know how much this means to you, so whatever you decide, I will back your play.” – Beckett

Castle and Beckett have been solid for a while now, and there may be some tiny bumps in the road, but “Hollander’s Woods” rehashed the strength of their relationship, on both sides. It’s as balanced as it can ever be, both willing to back the other whatever they decide. They’re there for each other, no matter what. And Beckett is still willing to break the rules, the law for her husband. They’re alike in the sense that they both year for the truth, for closure, and she’s there to help him get it.

Kate comes back to the loft and apologises. Though, in my opinion, she has nothing to be apologising for, she was doing her job, and she did believe him, she was simply stating the obvious, and he realises it. Beckett brings him new information on the shrink, and where he could have possibly hid the bodies.

Caslte and Beckett thus go to investigate, with Castle going in while Beckett stays in the car. You have to love the role reversal here. They keep a direct line of communication, through their phones as Castle roams through the creepy, creepy barn, and ultimately comes face to face with his own personal boogeyman.

“The danger with facing your demons is that sometimes, the demons win.”

Castle fights his demons and ultimately wins when Beckett, locked out, hands him her service weapon from under the door. How much trouble will they actually get for this? And in real life, this would definitely play against Kate’s chances of becoming Captain, right?

Do they realise how freakin’ lucky they always are? I’d love the count on how many times they almost died. (Maybe if they didn’t almost die every other week, I’d have been more invested in the fight.) It was incredibly well shot though, I have to give them that.

After defeating his own personal boogeyman, the question remains, would Richard Castle be where he is today, if that faithful day hadn’t occurred 30 years ago. While Kate seems to think they would have found their way despite it, I have to wonder what would be different in this alternate reality.

In parallel to the murder investigation, Beckett is called in for a peer review after taking her Captain’s Exam. While Rick thinks it could be good news, Kate’s cop senses tell her it isn’t. The meeting starts harsh, disciplining how she bends the rules. As they question her actions, her motives, her working relationship with her minor celebrity husband and the relevance of the fictional version of herself, Kate gets to defend her relevance to the NYPD in a very powerful performance from Stana Katic.

“I said you’re wrong. In every case you have referenced, I have not only successfully brought the killer to justice, but I did so with the utmost respect for the law and for the department I represent. And regarding my relationship with Mr. Castle, he is proven to be a brilliant partner, and he’s always had my back. And as for his fictional representation of me, I’m proud to have been his inspiration and I am proud to be his wife. You asked how to I expect to lead. By continuing to fight for what’s right, not for what’s easy. My job is to protect the citizens of New York and I will do it by doing my job better than anyone else and getting results. I don’t cross the line. I put myself on it. And if you have any more questions, you can ask the families of the victims which I have served.” -Beckett

The scene as a whole was impeccably well done. As Kate sat down, she seemed so small, so powerless over the low shots they were shooting at her. It was shot from a birds view, in what was meant to portray the illusion of power the two men had over her. She started talking, started defending herself and as she walked to them, the camera focused on her, her face, and just like that they seemed to lose their power over her. The camera work was great, but can’t top the brilliant monologue execution from the leading lady. It proved powerful and sweet all at once, and with it, Beckett passed her audition, and they announce her, they want to groom her for New York State Senate. Senator Katherine Beckett does have a nice ring to it, now, doesn’t it?

The conversation that ensued between husband and wife warranted the swing set, their swing set, the one that gets to witness the important moments of their relationship. Beckett battles with the idea of actually accepting running for senate, and giving up the life she knows, as a cop, for one as politician. She’s not only worried about herself, but about the attacks on the people around her, on her family, their family, but Castle is there for her and will support her whatever she chooses, and so will I.

“Well whatever you decide. I will back your play.” -Castle

To paraphrase Jenny, I would totally watch that, a political thriller showcasing my favorite characters. It’s what I watch the show for, the characters, the dynamics. The murders have taken the backstage a long time ago and honestly, most episodes lack the murderous twist that would surprise me. Changing the genre, could be the good move, if that’s how they decide to go on with, in the 8th season. They tried and failed (?) with the Attorney General storyline back in season 6, but that was mainly due to the fact that they had to separate Beckett from the rest of the characters to get her to DC. If they wanted to I’m sure they could fit the rest of the cast in the politics storyline. Ryan and Espo as bodyguards, perhaps? Ryan already showed earlier this season he was up for it. One thing is for sure, things are going to change, but change can be good, right?

The final moments of the episode had Castle is receiving the “Poe’s Pen Career Achievement Award,” the biggest honor for a mystery writer. And the event has the whole cast present, together, his extended family, at the center table. (Real Tory is back, and all is right with the world again.)

Castle needed to decide on the picture to put up of him, on the stage. I like to think that Alexis and Kate chose different pictures on purpose, and plotted with Martha who refused to pick favorites, to mess with him and have him choose instead of them. I love though, that in the end, Rick went with Kate’s preferences of the friendly, accessible, ruggedly handsome Richard Castle over the serious and brooding Richard Castle. A small detail that made me smile, and awe.

Michael Connelly’s speech was a direct link to the incredible pilot, as he repeated word for word Gina’s first line in the show, and it brought me back, “Murder, mystery, the macabre…”

The dialogue in this episode was as good as it gets, and had incredibly powerful deliveries by both leads, Stana Katic and Nathan Fillion. Castle’s acceptance speech couldn’t have given me more feels even if they had wanted to, it was perfect, absolutely brilliantly perfect. The “always” at the end of the speech was pretty much the greatest thing ever, if you don’t remember it, go watch it again, it will have your heart melting.

“I’ve spent a lot of time in the last few days, thinking about how I got here, the long hours, the blank pages. Most people think that writing is a solitary profession. That we spend our days in our imaginary worlds fighting, loving, dying, but we don’t do it alone, because anything that’s good in our writing comes from truth and the truth is I’m here because of the people in my life. Mother, you will always be a star in my eyes. And Alexis you amaze me every day. You two are my red headed pillars of unconditional love. To my friends at the twelfth precinct, you let me in, especially you two, Javier and Kevin. You made me your brother in arms and I thank you for that. And Kate, seven years ago I thought I would never write again and then you walked through the door and my whole world changed. You were right. You said I had no idea, but now I do. This is because of you, because of us. Always.” –Castle

“Hollander’s Woods” showcased the characters beautifully, and wasn't too dark and twisty. It seemed to bring a sense of closure, not only for Castle, and his own personal boggy man, but to the story as a whole, as the gang gets ready for a new realm of possibilities.

PS. Sorry for the abnormally long quotes, I just couldn’t find it in myself to cut them, they were perfect.

Do you agree? Disagree? What do you think is in store for the eighth season now that we finally officially have Stana back on board?

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