The Walking Dead midseason premiere recap: It's time to panic
The Walking Dead is back after its midseason break and the ninth episode of season 10, “Squeeze,” was quite a dark episode. That’s meant literally. It was darker than the Game of Thrones Battle of Winterfell. Couldn’t. See. A thing. Can we chalk it up to motion smoothing?
When last we left off, Carol botched the whole stealth mission when she locked eyes with Alpha and impulsively chased her tormentor into a cave. Daryl, Aaron, Connie, Kelly, Magna, and Jerry followed, and everyone fell into Alpha’s trap. They slid down a crevasse and found themselves stuck on a ledge in the den where Alpha moved her horde. The show’s return picks up at this moment with a scream erupting out of Carol as she stares daggers at that dirt-stained bald head of Alpha’s. Not only has her enemy got the best of her for God knows how many times at this point, but now she’s stuck in a cramped space, which does wonders for her claustrophobia.
The space is a poetic setting to unpack Carol’s state of mind. (Even though “poetic” may be giving The Walking Dead a bit too much credit.) It brings to mind Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, which contemplates individuals spending their lives staring at shadows projected on cave walls, believing what they see to be reality. Carol’s reality is warped. Grief and trauma have muddied her judgment and made her deaf to Daryl’s guidance. She turned herself into an enemy of the group. During a discussion later on, Daryl feels like he can’t even turn his back on her out of anxiety for what she might do next. The feeling is only stressed further by Magna, who blames Carol for unnecessarily putting all of their lives at risk. She whispers her criticisms to Carol, mimicking how the Whisperers themselves sowed discord and paranoia.
A random thought: Carol mentions to Daryl during their convo that she never told him she was claustrophobic, to which he replies, “If I only knew what you told me, I wouldn’t know s—.” But in the very first season, when the entire group (Daryl included) is being led through the CDC, Dr. Jenner asks Carol in front of everyone if she’s claustrophobic. She says at the time, “A little.” It’s hard to tell if this was just a case of forgetful writing in season 10 or if there’s something I’m missing.
The group finds a way through the cave by hopping across a trail of stone pillars to reach another platform on the other side. The tension is real. You feel as though someone is going to die, first as Kelly trips and the horde scratches at her ankles. But everyone makes it to safety. Daryl uses matches to find the direction of the wind, which will hopefully lead them to another way out. They are eventually attacked by Whisperers, confirming that there are indeed multiple entrances. Jerry even spots directional arrows the Whisperers presumably carved into the stone.
The deeper they travel into the cave, the closer the corners become. They weave down a maze of tunnels that lead to a thin path they’re forced to squeeze through. That then leads to an even tighter crawl space. Carol becomes paralyzed for a moment and Daryl eventually talks her through it, but this is another moment when you think one of the less prominent characters will die. Jerry hears walkers crawling after them, so they all race out. Jerry gets stuck and the dead grab at his legs, but he’s able to take off his gear and climb through, as well. When everyone is finally out, they realize they are at the very top of the cave. If they fall, all the way down below is the horde waiting to welcome them to its ranks with open arms and jaws.
Meanwhile, at the Whisperer camp, Alpha wrangles together Beta and Gamma. Based on where she found Carol and the others, she knows her enemies knew where to look for the horde and says there’s a spy in their midst. She tasks Gamma with informing the border patrols that they’ve failed their leader and to increase their efforts. But Negan finds Alpha later (while she’s on the crapper, no less) and puts the idea in her head that maybe Gamma is the spy. At first, she doesn’t believe him and shoves him into their designated latrine. But then Beta tells her later that Gamma never made it to the border patrols and she’s nowhere to be found. As a thank you, Alpha leads Negan away from the camp. At first, it feels like an execution. He’s forced to walk a few paces in front of her, eyes front. Then she commands him to take off his clothes and things get weird. For a “crass man,” she rewards him with something equally “crass”: sex. She wants to keep her zombie mask on, too, which Negan is oddly into because of course.
Back in the cave, the group finds an old closed-off mine entrance. As they begin digging themselves out, Kelly finds a stash of temperamental dynamite that Jerry notes is “sweatier” than he is. They’ve almost dug through to the other side when Daryl realizes Carol isn’t there. She stole the dynamite to destroy most of the horde, but she slips on the ledge and almost kills herself along with the dead. Daryl arrives in time to help her back up, and at this point the mine is now collapsing. Kelly and Aaron are the first through and there are Whisperers running towards them on the offense. More “skins” are approaching from inside the tunnel, prompting Magna and Connie to stay back as the others slip through to the outside.
When the mine does collapse, so does Carol’s mental state. Everyone except for Magna and Connie made it out. Aaron notes it’ll take weeks to sift through the rubble to get back in, while Kelly says the sound will draw Whisperers and walkers alike to their location. As Carol weeps under the weight of her own guilt, Daryl tells Aaron to go back home and inform the others that they found the horde. He, meanwhile, will stay back to find another entrance to the cave.
AMC's zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.