“I look forward to seeing how this whole cave trap works out for everyone. I’m guessing it won’t be like The Descent.”
This was the last line of my review for “The World Before,” the midseason finale of The Walking Dead’s 10th season. Now the show has returned to clearly prove me wrong. Say what you will about how this show ended with things back in November, but it did manage to deliver an episode filled with tension based on concepts ripped right out of The Descent playbook. “Squeeze” is not an episode to remember as far as character strengthening, but it delivers in spades on spectacle, even with a few missteps here and there. Plus, Negan and Alpha just got a lot closer.
Picking up where things left off, Daryl, Carol, Magna, Aaron, Kelly, Connie, and Jerry are now trapped in a cave, with a horde of walkers mere inches below them. They’ve fallen right into a trap thanks to Carol’s recklessness, which is unfavorably emphasized by a ridiculous shriek to kick off the episode. Putting that aside, things pick up rather quickly when we really start dealing with how Daryl and the crew work to find an escape.
Anyone with claustrophobic levels of anxiety is going to be on edge with this episode. As a fan of bouldering, while also being apprehensive of dark caves that may or may not contain scary monsters, I can say “Squeeze” hit a real sweet spot as far as I was concerned. This is an episode focused on ratcheting up the tension in all the ways it could by focusing almost exclusively on the escape attempt, with a subplot involving Alpha’s concerns.
No, it doesn’t make me enjoy how these characters got here last episode any better, especially since there’s almost nothing notable for people not named Daryl and Carol to do, beyond have their deaths teased. However, I can get behind the show calling out Carol for how nonsense actions. That said, the show is responsible for writing these decisions for the character to begin with, and this isn’t anything new. Someone close to a major character died, and so now they go on some kind of rampage that disregards the lives of others and gets everyone into trouble.
Yes, 10 seasons in, and it’s not like it is new for The Walking Dead to deal with a formulaic approach to things. That said, zombified spelunking is not exactly an old trope to rely on, so I can at least appreciate mixing things up in that way. Again, as noted in previous reviews concerning the direction the show has recently taken up again, making The Walking Dead work as a horror series with an emphasis on the actual horror is excellent. Action is fun and all, but making the walkers (and the Whisperers) a scary presence on this show does a lot to make me appreciate how it handles that sort of tension.
By the end of this episode, thanks to Chekov’s dynamite, most of the crew manages to get out of their subterranean predicament, but not before an accidental dynamite drop down a cavern leads to the cave collapsing. This leaves Magna and Connie trapped (and most assuredly not dead, because who are we kidding?). Daryl is visibly upset and rightfully so, but still not pressed hard enough to really give it to Carol, let alone acknowledge that he had feelings for Connie. Daryl is too tough for this, I suppose, but we can all read the sadness and anger on his face, as Carol cries out for being punished based on what she did.
Meanwhile, in Whisperville, USA, Alpha is continuing to put up with Negan’s business. That said, it looks like he’s proven himself useful to her. Yes, he’s loud and has a hell of a time listening to orders, but he also knows what it means to be a leader. While suspicions of people crossing the border have gone nowhere, Negan insists there’s a mole in the camp, which proves to bear fruit. Gamma has been getting awfully chummy with Alexandria, and Alpha decides to reward Negan’s suggestion.
Now, while I was not expecting Negan to be killed off, I did enjoy the build-up in this moment. This comes down to how much more in the zone Jeffrey Dean Morgan is as this character. Watching him slowly breakdown under the belief that he’s going to be killed makes for a terrific little moment, only to have him surprised by his “crass reward” from Alpha instead. While awkward, uncomfortable, and most undoubtedly weird (given that she kept the mask on), the idea that Alpha would choose to get intimate with Negan is going to have some interesting repercussions for both, as well as Beta, which should make things interesting.
For a midseason premiere, “Squeeze” was effective enough. As these episodes tend to have a spectacle element to them, I felt director Michael E. Satrazemis did his best to deliver on an episode that will likely be plagued with complaints about darkness (streaming HDTV is only going to go so far thanks to all the crushing of those dark hues). That said, I was into how it played out and was happy there was rarely any movement away from this storyline, except where Alpha was concerned. So now that we’re back, let’s see what comes next for the rest of the survivors.
- Zombie Kill of the Week: There’s a quick smash of the mace hand by Aaron after Jerry gets out of the hole. That worked well for me.
- Yes, I basically saw the beginning of this episode as a video game platformer.
- So…despite the number of characters, no one major died in this premiere, which is impressive as well as a bit of a fakeout, given the non-deaths taking place at the end.
- That said, I’m not on board with teasing a possible death of Jerry. This guy is the best.
- “Not exactly.” – See, Jerry rules!
- The Whisper attack inside the caves was one of the weakest moments by far, as it truly lacked tension due to the darkness and indecipherable choreography.
- “You’re just gonna leave that mask on?” “Stop talking.” – The true words of love birds.
- Thanks for reading and feel free to hear what me and a few other fans of the show have to say about the series on The Walking Dead TV Podcast.