REVIEW: The Walking Dead, S10 Ep9 – Squeeze

The Walking Dead 10.9

The Walking Dead returned with a midseason premiere that spent most of the time in the dark with some important character moments and a provocative development between Alpha and Negan. The episode was a mixed bag though it does set up the rest of the season for some major battles as opposed to the simmering sabotage of the first half of the season.

The Walking Dead 10.9When we left our heroes last year, they were all trapped in a cave and surrounded by a horde of walkers. As expected, this sticky situation led to a lot of tense and thrilling action scenes, with the group trying to literally squeeze out of a tight spot while being hounded by walkers in the dark. The tension was exacerbated by Carol’s claustrophobia, which became another sign of her not dealing well with losing Henry.

Sadly, much of the action cannot be appreciated because the episode is so dark, literally so poorly-lit that one can barely make out what the characters are doing or even which characters are in mortal peril. It’s like The Long Night all over again. The Walking Dead should do better than this because all that walker action was basically wasted as characters fumbled in the dark.

The Walking Dead 10.9The strongest moment in the episode was the conversation between Daryl and Carol. Their relationship, as mentioned by another reviewer, has very much become one of the anchors of The Walking Dead at this point because it is one the audience has been most invested in from the get go. Daryl reminds Carol of the self-destructive and just downright destructive behavior she has been exhibiting all season and he encourages her to try and get out of that funk. She gives this some serious thought because Daryl is probably the only person she will even listen to at this point. He has always been there for her and continues to take her hand (literally and figuratively) whenever she stumbles.

Unfortunately, Carol is so hellbent on revenge on Alpha that she decides to blow up the cave, and sadly, Magna and Connie are trapped inside. Since this episode was also about Daryl coming to terms with his growing feelings for Connie, the explosion creates another dilemma and another wedge between Carol and Daryl. She tearfully begs him to scold her and to blame her for this latest loss but Daryl is too much of a man of action and he is determined to find another way in to save Connie before losing hope.

The Walking Dead 10.9But as has become The Walking Dead tendency these days, even in such a high-risk situation, there were no deaths. Granted, at least the explosion at the end of the episode will still have some heavy consequences, particularly for Carol and potentially the breakdown of her friendship with Daryl, but again, no one has been lost. Yet. 

Again, given such a dangerous situation, one would have thought that the stakes were higher. For a scary moment, we were led to believe that the walkers had gotten Jerry! It would have been tragic but it would have meant that The Walking Dead was still willing to take some risks. But no. He won’t even need to be amputated because whatever his shoes are made of, apparently, they are walker-bite-proof.

But now on to the juiciest and nastiest part of the episode – Negan and Alpha. That was certainly unexpected, even by fans of the comics. Negan joining the Whisperers has been one of the more interesting developments of the season not least because of the contrast of Negan’s boisterous personality against the silence of the Whisperers. 

The Walking Dead 10.9For all the bluster, we all know Negan to be a master manipulator and a keen observer so he correctly intuits that Gamma is the traitor and he shares this tidbit with Alpha. She pretends to deny it but she has had her suspicions as well so she sends Beta out to capture the girl. And then, she leads Negan out to the woods.

The scene is hilarious at first because Negan is so terrified that Alpha is about to execute him. It’s one of those rare moments that we see Negan so genuinely afraid for his life, to the point that he makes long, cheesy speeches about how he became a monster because that was what the world needed and how he was someone. Even when he’s stripping off his clothes, he believes this is just another indignity to be suffered as part of his punishment.

And then, he turns around and his reaction is the same as ours. Whoa.

Alpha claims that this is a crass reward for the crass man that Negan is, and though it’s pretty nasty (and let’s not even try to imagine the lack of personal hygiene involved here not to mention the filthiness of the woods in general), Negan figures it’s been a while so why not make the most of it. Again, pretty nasty. But also, intriguing because this isn’t some romantic tryst in the woods. This is a weird power struggle between two menacing, manipulative leaders, both trying to gain control of the other. Who ends up on top (pun intended) remains to be seen.