NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “The Walking Dead” are present in this review
The Walking Dead certainly ended its 2019 run on quite the predicament for several of the show’s highest-profile survivors, namely when Carol’s recklessness ended up stranding them in a cavern, filled to the brim with Alpha’s walkers. This was an intentional ploy, naturally, with Alpha conspiring to try and kill Daryl, Carol and co. while they’re trapped, and, “Squeeze” entirely centers around the execution of this plan. This may result in some nicely intense action beats, but unfortunately, as far as midseason premieres go, “Squeeze” also ends up being disappointingly sluggish, spending too much time wandering around aimlessly, rather than actually advancing the story in a meaningful way.
Things begin on a very exciting note at least, as Alpha makes her presence known to Carol once again, confirming that the survivors being trapped is part of the Whisperers’ plan, and thus, the struggle is on for Daryl’s party to survive. We don’t get any check-ins with the other communities on The Walking Dead this week either, so no Alexandria, no Hilltop and no Oceanside. Just pure cavern to trudge through. At least the opening escape is pretty cool though, as the survivors must leap across stone platforms, video game-style, in order to get around the legion of walkers underneath their feet. It feels a little odd that absolutely no one is bitten during this sequence, considering how low to the ground these stone platforms are, but I guess we can suspend our disbelief to keep the plot moving forward.
There’s even another fairly intense obstacle to follow this, namely when the survivors have to crawl through a tight tunnel, which Jerry is somewhat too large for. To make matters worse, walkers and Whisperers naturally stand at all sides as well, with Jerry getting his shoes chewed up during the tunnel climb, but otherwise avoiding being bitten, again. Carol, meanwhile, is claustrophobic, and has to be encouraged up the tunnel. Apparently, Daryl just knows this, despite the fact that it’s not really been much of an issue for Carol in the past. Carol even says out loud that she never told Daryl that she was claustrophobic, so this does stink a bit of the writers inventing more ways for Carol to become a liability, when she’s already becoming too much of a headache for the survivors.
This is very frustrating, because Carol’s character is simply regressing far too much lately. It’s understandable that Carol would be distraught and desperate for revenge after Henry’s death, especially when her marriage to Ezekiel ended up imploding to boot. Even then though, Daryl is completely right when he says that Carol endangering the team isn’t helping anyone, and Carol’s refusal to communicate her thoughts to Daryl is only making everything worse. It feels like this entire point has to be driven home across an extended trip through the caverns that amounts to nothing but trite dialogue and darkness too. The action may be good enough to keep things interesting, but the rest of the core storyline in this episode is a disappointing bore.
Finally, as a cherry on top, Carol endangers everyone yet again during the climax as well! After the survivors manage to locate an exit, Kelly discovers some dynamite, which Jerry discourages her from using, since the mine shaft that they appear to be in is far too unstable to survive a dynamite blast. This doesn’t stop Carol from sneaking off with the dynamite to try and blow up a bunch of Alpha’s walker horde however, like a total dumbass. Carol even nearly falls to her death in the process, ultimately failing to do any damage, and having to be bailed out by Daryl for the umpteenth time. One final walker and Whisperer battle later, and the dynamite gets triggered by a cave-in as well, with Connie and Magna being trapped in the caverns as a result, as Aaron and Kelly declare that there’s nothing they can do, and Daryl insists on finding another entrance. Well, this is a fine mess. Thanks a lot, Carol. You moron.
Fortunately, this midseason premiere’s subplot turned out better, mostly because it was better paced, and didn’t have a consistently brainless Carol causing most of the trouble for the characters involved. Said subplot involves Alpha trying to determine how the survivors knew where her walker horde is located, with Gamma/Mary being sent to the border to try and hunt for spies. Negan, however, presents an alternative (and correct) theory, namely that Alpha’s spy is in her own camp, and is clearly not Beta, leaving Gamma as the logical suspect. Alpha intimidates Negan into keeping quiet, but tells Beta that if Negan is right, then Gamma will be made an example of. Alpha then repays Negan with one of the most hilariously awkward sex romps that this show could have contrived, and honestly, it’s an episode highlight, simply for how uncomfortable it is. Like Negan says though, it’s been a while, and he’ll have to take it where he can get it.
As much as the Negan/Alpha material was pretty great however, it’s too bad that the cavern-set core storyline of, “Squeeze” had to be pushed forward by Carol’s increasingly frustrating idiocy, on top of too many dry stretches between some otherwise solid action. Carol somehow went from being one of this show’s best characters to one of its worst, and she really needs to be reined in when it comes to her grief, understandable as it may be. Carol has been on this show since it started, and it really doesn’t make sense for her to be this much of a danger to her fellow survivors, considering all that she’s overcome and evolved into. Fortunately, Alexandria is at least primed to find a new ally in Gamma though, and she’d better hope that the community takes her in, because, thanks to Negan’s opportunism, Gamma likely won’t have a home with the Whisperers for much longer!
- Some strong action scenes within the caverns
- Negan and Alpha developing a weird, yet compelling dynamic
- Daryl refusing to abandon Magna and Connie
- Carol endangering the survivors to a ludicrous extent
- Too many dull stretches in the caverns