The discovery of nine human skulls leads Lilly back to George Marks, the serial killer she was unable to incriminate months earlier, and who walked away a free man. As the detectives reinvestigate his mother's murder from 1972, George is forced to emerge from hiding to face Rush again. This time, their very lives are at stake in their final showdown.
The episode begins with the flashback to 1972 (John Denver ”Sunshine on my Shoulders”). A 12-year old George is sitting alone in the attic of the red barn-like home. We see an array of dolls on the floor with their eyes cut out. When George’s mother comes up to ask him to go to the store. He tells her he cut out all their eyes and he hands them to her. Horrified, she drops them to the floor. We then flash to the mother’s body, shot to death and clad only in her underwear.
Back to the present — Lilly and Scotty are approaching the same house with its windows now boarded up, Scotty apologizes to Lilly about dating her sister, Chris. He knows that she tried to warn him about her and he didn’t listen. Lilly smiles and replies that she’s just sorry Chris came between them.
The new owner of the house has asked for a property inspection. It turned up nine skulls buried in the yard, all facing the attic window and with fake deer eyes in their eye sockets. The on-scene detective (a newbie) says the new owner is the first since the place was the scene of a homicide in 1972 — that of George’s mother. It later turns out that the new owner is actually George, trying to draw them back into his twisted little world.
They decide the best way to find George is to reopen his mother’s case. The team find his mother had called for George to be taken away, calling him "The Darkness". A social worker comes by, and she blames George for the destruction of the house, 13 marks at the top and bottom of the stairs to mark how many there were. He was trying to help his mother.
They start with Jacob, the social worker who took George into custody the night of his mother’s murder. He mentioned that George was flashing a flashlight out his window and a light was being flashed back from the house across the street. They track down the neighbor boy who says they weren't really friends but used to message Morse code at one another at night for something to do. He remembers going over to the house the night of the murder to see why George’s flashlight messages suddenly stopped. He remembers looking in the window and being surprised to see George’s mom looking out at him, not seeing him. Then he saw a couple of thugs in masks approach and start jimmying one of the windows. At this point he high-tailed it for home. Around this time, Lilly figures out that George’s mom was blind, based on the kid’s account and the fact that the stairs to George’s attic had notches for the number of steps cut into the top and bottom of the staircase . Prints taken from the windowsill at the time of the murder match a current inmate whom they go to interview.
He claims to be a rapist, not a murderer. He also says that he left when the woman recognized the voice of his partner in crime (a guy he met at the racetrack just days before) as the man who had come to take George to foster care earlier that day. She asked if he was there to put his dirty thing inside her, creating another monster. This leads one to believe George is the child of rape. He assumes this guy killed her after he left. Hence, the social worker is brought back in for questioning. He finally admits to being there and cornering the mother after she recognized his voice but says he left when the freaky music started playing from up in the attic (George’s trademark). In the flashback George’s mother looks up in horror and says, ”The darkness always comes back.” Now the working theory is that George snuck back to the house that night and killed his mother. They’re discussing this at the office when George calls for Lilly. The key information George dishes out in this call is that he wasn’t the only one who ’went back’ that night and that sometimes we see what others don't. They trace the call and find that it was made from a pay phone at the park where the bodies of his other victims were all found. Assuming this is a trap, the male detectives all take off, with Stillman giving orders for Lilly to stay put since she's the one George is after.
Not very happy to stay put, Lilly does some investigating on her own. She arrives at the house and sneaks upstairs. Lily sees the corner of some wallpaper is down, revealing drawing behind it. She rips a piece off, soon ripping more and more. She discovers an entire forest of trees drawn on the walls underneath leading her to the realization that these were George’s woods. This was the room he was locked in most of his life, hence his life-long affinity for the woods. Just as this revelation hits her, we hear whistling from behind. George states, ”I told you one day we would hunt together.”
Meanwhile, at the park, the detectives have discovered another body — the woman referred to as Atlanta (Dee Dee - the one who got away in Mind Hunters). On the way back they try Lilly’s cell phone and get bounced to voice mail again and again. This starts to disturb Scotty, especially once they call the office and discover she’s not there either. Eventually, George answers her cell and after taunting both Scotty and Stillman with info about their personal lives (Scotty’s fiancee and Stillman’s daughter) he tells them that if he sees a single cop outside his house he’ll put a bullet in Lilly’s head.
Back at the house, the game of who can out-psychoanalyze who has begun. We learn that it was Jacob came back to the house that night. The mother had gone up to George’s attic to investigate the music and that’s when the rapist appeared. George was hiding in the closet. Jacob initially attempted to rape his mother, but she uttered ”Not in the woods, not in the woods”. She couldn’t have known there were trees on the walls if she couldn’t see. George realizes she has been lying to him and blaming him for her blindness (the reason she calls him ”The Darkness”) so he shoots her.
Then he starts on Lilly. We learn that at 10 she had been sent to the store late at night to get liquor for her mother and got jumped by a guy trying to steal her money. He chased her even after she gave it to him though and beat her quite badly, breaking her jaw and teeth. We see minimal flashbacks of this, really just a long-haired blond girl with some blood on her face recoiling and screaming from an unknown assailant. Giving this info up is not easy for Lilly but by the end she has a little epiphany. She realizes she and George are alike in that they are both fighters. Also, she has understood the significance of the woods but not why he makes his victims run. When she tries to dig into this, he gets distinctly unsettled. Astutely, she digs deeper and we get the flashback of what really happened the night his mother died.
Meanwhile, Stillman has parked somewhere nearby and wants to go in after her. Scotty claims George will kill Lilly if he does but Stillman says he’s going to do that anyway and he’s not going to lose her too. It turns out that George’s mom was indeed able to see but perhaps only regained her sight during such a traumatic incident since what she had was hysterical blindness. With the attacker over her, we see her on the floor in the attic, saying, ”Not in the woods.” And then she notices George watching from the closet and tells the rapist to take him instead. So he does. Chases him all through the house... like an animal. At this point George seems to have an epiphany of his own. He realizes they both had mothers who sold them out. Lilly had a mom who sent a 10-year old out for booze in the middle of the night and his mother gave him up to a rapist. At this point he drops Lily's gun in the center of the floor.
Lilly pulls her gun and orders him to get down but he doesn’t. They’re in a mini-standoff for a couple seconds and you sense that finally George has found someone he deems worthy of killing him. An equal, someone who has suffered the same indignities. George was taunting her with how she was going to become just like him in the end. Gunshots are heard. Stillman was right at the door ready to burst in. The last thing we heard George say was ”Wanna bet?” after Lilly says, ”I’m never going to be like you.” We see that Lily shot him three times in the chest.
The closing has them taking down all the women’s photos. Lily sees the ghosts of young George and his mother in the attic window to the tune Behind Blue Eyes by The Who. Then we see young Lily, surrounded by all the men who protect her now.
- Kathryn Morris as Lilly Rush
- Danny Pino as Scotty Valens
- John Finn as John Stillman
- Jeremy Ratchford as Nick Vera
- Thom Barry as Will Jeffries
- John Billingsley as George Marks
- Karina Logue as Simone Marks
- Sal Landi as Jacob Leonardo (2005)
- Sonya Leslie as Det. Lennie Desalle
- Vic Polizos as Lee (2005)
- Hugh Scott as Lee (1972)
- Ash Christian as Jacob Leonardo (1972)
- Nick Price as George Marks (1972)
- Christina Cellner as Young Lilly Rush
- Chet Grissom as Evan (2005)
- Unknown child actor as Evan (1972)
- George (to Lilly): "Who else would be in your bedroom, except dead people?"
- Scotty: "You hurt her, George, I'll murder you."
- George (to Stillman): "I know all about your help, it comes 18 years to late. And true to form, you're too late for Lilly, too."
- George (to Lilly): "The only thing that separates you and me is who pulls the the trigger."
- George (to Lilly): "You sleep with the dead. You're already halfway there. When you kill me, even those photos you cling to, will fade away. Like everyone fades away from you. And you will be alone. Like me."
- This episode is based on serial killer Robert Hansen.
- During one of the flashback scenes a young George plays a 45 of John Denver's "Sunshine on My Shoulders;" however, this is an anachronism, as the scenes were set in November 1972, and the song would not be released until late 1973.
- This episode was chosen as "The Worst TV Show of the Week" and "the most psychologically disturbing" by The Parents Television Council because of its themes of familial dysfunction, rape, and murder.
- DeeDee Cooper is mentioned and appears dead in this episode.
- The shots of John Finn and Jeremy Ratchford in the opening later made for Season 3 onward are from this episode.
- The song "Riders on the Storm" was also heard in the episode "Metamorphosis".
- As Jeffries and Vera saw at the gun store in Mind Hunters, George Marks may see himself as Orion the Hunter. One of the versions of the myth of Orion says that he was the lover of Artemis, the Greek goddess of moon and that he once tried to rape her. Outraged goddess killed him. That's more or less what happens between George and Lilly: he brings her to the "woods" and assaults her not physically, but mentally, (making her relive her terrible childhood memory) which ends in her shooting him in self-defence.
- Based on that, the fact DeeDee Cooper is referred as "Princess Atalanta" in Mind Hunters makes even more sense, since according to Greek mythology, Atalanta was indeed a princess who was also a huntress and the fastest on the land - and also, a protegé of goddess Artemis.
- John Denver "Sunshine On My Shoulders"
- The Doors "Riders On The Storm"
- Jethro Tull "Aqualung"
- The Eagles "Witchy Woman"
- America "Sandman"
- Michael A. Levine "Rush & George"
- Closing Song: The Who "Behind Blue Eyes"