UK TV review: The Walking Dead: Season 10, Episode 9 (Squeeze)
Winnie the Pooh8
Cool for cats8
Neil Brazier | On 24, Feb 2020
The Walking Dead Season 10 returns from its mid-season break with a claustrophobic episode that will squeeze all the breath out of you. Focused solely on those survivors Alpha (Samatha Morton) trapped in some catacombs with her herd – and a little further insight of Negan’s (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) initiation into the Whisperers – the episode feels tight, dramatic and not without a few surprises. Having traversed this dangerous world for the past 10 seasons it has often taken many lives and presented many challenges, but this latest episode genuinely makes it seem like any life could be taken in a situation that looks utterly inescapable. To still be able to provide this amount of drama is a real testament to the creative team.
Of course, there are some moments that feels like they could have been avoided. An encounter at a latrine answers the question of whether Whisperers poop in the woods and is only missing a knowing wink to camera to emphasise the relation between the physical faeces and the excrement-like situation. Gamma (Thora Birch), who only gets a brief cameo, overdoes her surprised face when she hears whisper of a mole in the ranks, which really should have been the tell that Alpha was looking for. There are also some questionable zombie-related situations, but the scares soon overrule the absurdity. Plus, Aaron (Ross Marquand) is fitted with his awesome mace hand and any zombie splat made with that is pure joy.
Carol (Melissa McBride) once again excels in delivering unadulterated emotion. She has been struggling to deal with the death of her adopted son for so long that the pills she took to keep her awake and free from the nightmares has left her mind consumed with nothing but revenge. All of this rage and hurt explodes from her in the opening minutes, both from being bested by her enemy and, hopefully at least, for realising she has put her friends in danger. We can only hope in this situation, because her mind is so completely focused on one thing, that she becomes enshrouded in a fog and continues to put the other survivors in danger. Being so absorbed into Alpha’s game, it is only when the reality of their situation envelopes her that she starts to crack, her truest fears extenuated by the claustrophobia of the catacombs they’re trapped in.
By the end of the episode, Carol has left the reservation; her emotions about Henry that she kept locked up tight finally break her down but her actions during their attempted escape have only alienated her from the group. Her relationship with Daryl (Norman Reedus), usually the truest friendship in the apocalypse, is tested more than it ever has been before. Reedus and McBride, the series’ favourite couple, delight in telling a new side to their relationship, one that will provide nothing but drama and emotion and that should have the writers salivating.
It’s another positive win for The Walking Dead that puts the fates of our survivors – who have already been through so much – at another deadly impasse. The show has been criticised for recycling the same good-group-versus-bad-group plot devices, but when the situations continue to be as unique and imaginative as a deadly game of Frogger, it’s hard to condemn. Regardless of the situation, the character stories that are being told offer enough entertainment and drama to be praised. Come for the zombies, stay for the intricate mental breakdown of one of the show’s greatest characters.
The Walking Dead Season 10 premieres on FOX UK at 9pm on Mondays. Don’t have pay-TV? You can also stream it live and on-demand on NOW TV, for £8.99 a month, with no contract and a 7-day free trial. (An Entertainment Pass auto-renews at £8.99 a month until 1st September 2020, £9.99 thereafter unless cancelled.) Seasons 1 to 10 are available on Sky Box Sets and NOW TV until 31st October 2020.
Innards and entrails (spoilers)
– The Whisperers are aware that there is a mole in their ranks and it is Negan who feeds Alpha the information it’s her number three, Gamma. Originally, Alpha is displeased that Negan would point this out to her, but she is just upset that her followers are being disloyal to her and that she hadn’t noticed it herself. Alpha threatens to cut off Negan’s only pride and joy left in this rotten world if he does this again, but after some time to think about the situation she has a change of heart.
– This leads to the episodes most awkward encounter. Negan is marched into the woods and told to strip. He thinks Alpha is going to go through with her castration threat, only to turn around and find her naked too. She thinks his crass attitude deserves a crass reward, but the mask stays on. Comic book readers may find the attitudes towards sex held by The Whisperers are somewhat different, more animalistic and sadistic in nature. That is what leads Negan and Alpha to have a one-to-one situation where things take a nasty turn. If this arc is going to be played out in the show, it could derail Carol’s redemption and, right now, it feels far too soon for The Whisperers to have their head taken from them. The season feels like it is pushing towards at least a huge Carol and Alpha scrap, but Negan may yet prove helpful.
– Carol confesses that she hasn’t been the same person since losing Henry and her one-to-one with Daryl looks like it’s going to turn the page on her thirst for revenge. But after Kelly (Angel Theory) finds some dynamite, Carol thinks she can take out half the horde with some well-placed sticks. She stumbles as she tries to lay the dynamite atop a precipice above the crowded zombies, but thankfully Daryl is there to save her, again. He chastises her for wandering off alone and doing something stupid – something the pair of them did together when they initially crossed Alpha’s border.
– After an episode full of tight squeezes and claustrophobia, the survivors finally find a hole they can escape out of, but it requires digging and one false move will cause the entire shaft they’re in to collapse. Jerry (Cooper Andrews) does his best Sloth from the Goonies impression to hold open the hole when things start to go awry. But not everyone manages to escape before the shaft collapses and crashes on to the box of dynamite, setting it off.
– Magna (Nadia Hilker) and Connie (Lauren Ridloff) are still inside having gone looking for Carol. Daryl is distraught and, as much as Carol throws herself at him demanding he say something and blame her, he can’t. This could be the bitter end for our beloved Caryl (Carol and Daryl). With Carol in her broken state of mind, this could provide with some very interesting, or foolish, decisions on her part.
– The survivors find themselves trapped in a series of caves and caverns that appear to be part of an old mine. It’s a unique setting and fun to watch them try to get out, as well as suffer from the innumerable zombies that surround them, plus the mental unpreparedness put on them by the close quarters. We must however, suspend our disbelief quite a lot, or agree that there was a much easier exit that the gang just missed, if we are to believe that Alpha managed to get her entire horde into the bottom of this cave.
– Further still, a bunch of Whisperers just appear as if from nowhere to attack. Jerry points out an arrow etched into the wall as The Whisperers probable navigation, but we only see one before we are squeezing through incredibly tight crawl spaces.
– This is one of the biggest scares of the series so far: being crushed in-between rock with no exit in sight. It’s scary enough to be trapped wriggling between people, but when walkers suddenly appear to nibble at your heels, it makes the panic even worse. Poor Jerry can’t fit through and it looks as though he is done for, but he sheds his gear and is pulled out like Winnie the Pooh. It’s an unbelievably dramatic and frightening scene that he is lucky to have survived. But how on earth did the zombies find them and manage to navigate themselves through the space?
Photo: Chuck Zlotnick/AMC