‘The Walking Dead’ Midseason Premiere: Can Daryl, Carol & Friends ‘Squeeze’ Their Way to Safety? (RECAP)

The Walking Dead 1009
Spoiler Alert
Jace Downs/AMC

[Warning: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 10 episode 9, “Squeeze.”]

Hiatuses are never fun, but with so many fan-favorite characters’ lives hanging in the balance, the absence of The Walking Dead on Sunday nights never rang as hollow as it did from December through mid-February. Thankfully, “Squeeze” answered many lingering questions. Kind of.

The midseason premiere sees Daryl, Carol, Aaron, Connie, Kelly and Jerry trapped in a cave, having fallen for Alpha’s bait. (Well, more specifically, Carol fell for the bait. But hey, they’re all stuck in it now.) With a sea of walkers drooling over them, they’re faced with death at nearly every turn and no clear idea of how to make it back to the outside world. The tension is high, and the stakes are even higher.

Negan, meanwhile, has solved one of Alpha’s biggest problems… but he might not like the “reward” he’s given as a result.

Norman Reedus Daryl Dixon Walking Dead 1009

(Jace Downs/AMC)

No Time

In the cave, the disoriented group tries to get their bearings as they stand on a cliff with Alpha’s horde below them. Jerry picks up on the fact that Alpha’s watching them, and he directs their attention to her; this leads Carol to let out a chilling, rage-filled yell. Alpha simply smirks, departs, and tells her Whisperers stationed outside to “make sure they don’t get out.”

The group crosses the sea of walkers by hopping from rock to rock, and although there are some close calls, they all make it to the other side. This puts distance between them and the dead, but there’s certainly no love lost between Magna and Carol.

After Connie notices Carol’s anxiety and Daryl lets them know she’s claustrophobic, Magna uses that fact to snidely ask what Carol thought she was doing in running after Alpha. “We ain’t got time for this s**t,” Daryl says, and he tells his friends he thinks he found a way out.

On the Same Team

There is time, though, for Daryl and Carol to have a brief heart-to-heart. She apologizes for what she did, and he tells her he wants to be there for her. “I can’t stop thinking about it,” she confesses. “I don’t want to just kill Alpha, I want to hurt her. I want to make her regret everything, I want her to beg forgiveness, and then I want to kill her.” Daryl says if he’d been through everything she’d been through, he’d feel the same — unless she tried to stop him. She promises that they’re on the same team, and she’s not fighting for revenge.

Norman Reedus Melissa McBride Daryl Dixon Carol Peletier The Walking Dead

(Chuck Zlotnick/AMC)

Meanwhile, Magna wanders off by herself and gets attacked, leading the group to discover there are Whisperers as well as walkers in the cave. They pick up the pace and, in following arrows carved on the wall, they’re led to a narrow space they have to squeeze — ha! — through. One by one, they make it out; Daryl, Magna, Kelly, Carol… but unfortunately, things are trickier for Connie, Aaron and Jerry, who realize there are walkers coming up behind them. Again, they all make it, although it is a very close call for Jerry.

An Explosive Situation

The squad makes it into a mine, where they prepare to dig their way out. Kelly makes an explosive discovery: a box of dynamite just sitting there. That becomes a huge problem in short order, when they manage find a way out of the cave, but Carol’s nowhere to be found. She’s taken the explosives out onto a ledge in an attempt to drop them into the horde, but before she can do so, the rock underneath her crumbles and she’s left dangling with thousands of walkers below her.

Melissa McBride Carol Peletier Walking Dead 1009

(Jace Downs/AMC)

Thankfully, Daryl comes to her rescue. At his request, she explains what she was doing, and he rightly notes that she’s going to get herself killed. “She killed my boy,” Carol sobs, and Daryl pleads with her to come back with him. Then the dynamite explodes, and their window to the outside world begins collapsing.

Negan’s Reward…?

In Alpha’s camp, it’s become clear to the leadership that there are spies along the border. Negan knows better than that; having experienced such a betrayal himself, he realizes there’s a mole, and that mole is Gamma. “She’s close enough to you that she knows exactly where that horde was,” he says. Alpha tells him not to breathe a word of that to anyone.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan Negan Walking Dead 1009

(Chuck Zlotnick/AMC)

After hearing Gamma never made it to the border, she gives Beta a new assignment: he is to bring Gamma to her, alive. She then sends for Negan, and she brings him far beyond the reaches of their camp. When she tells him to take off his clothes, he obeys — he thinks he’s being executed — but when she tells him to turn around, he finds she’s taken off her clothes, too. “You are a crass man,” she says. “I reckoned you might appreciate a crass reward.”

Alpha says she wanted to express her gratitude to him for relaying the information about Gamma, and as a result, she’ll have sex with him (and she won’t be removing her mask, of course). Negan can’t get an answer out of her as to whether she’ll cut his head off when they’re done, but eventually he arrives at the conclusion that “it’s been a long time, so [he’ll] take his chances.”

(Chuck Zlotnick/AMC)

Just Say It

Connie, worried that Daryl and Carol are hurt, tries to follow them. Magna follows her. With Jerry supporting the structure so they can escape, Kelly and Aaron make it out. With Connie’s guidance and Magna’s fighting assistance, Carol, Daryl and Jerry escape, too. But before the duo can follow, the rest of the dynamite explodes, leaving them trapped inside.

Daryl sprints toward the collapsed structure, picking rocks off the top to no avail. A heartbroken Kelly makes a good point: the blast will call walkers and Whisperers for miles, and they can’t save Magna and Connie if they’re all dead. Angry, Daryl tries to shove his way past Carol, but, crying, she grabs his sleeve. “Go ahead and say it to me,” she sobs. “I deserve it. You cared about her and she’s gone because of me. Please, just say it.” Daryl doesn’t say anything. Instead he tells Aaron that if the Whisperers got out, there was another way in, and he storms off into the woods.

The rest of the group walks away, leaving Carol crying by what remains of the cave.

Other Observations

  • What did Carol want Daryl to tell her? That everything that happened was her fault? I’m assuming that was what she wanted, although I’m not totally sure.
  • Setting aside everyone’s feelings about Carol, Melissa McBride’s acting deserves serious praise. From that incredible scream at the beginning to her sobbing at the end, she conveys Carol’s boiling rage and bone-deep grief with powerful nuance. At times it’s both hard to keep watching (as Carol’s constant suffering should be!) and hard to look away. Thank goodness she isn’t leaving this season.
  • I don’t think I’ve ever so quickly wanted to erase a scene from my memory as I did after watching that Negan-Alpha hookup. I understand its inclusion if it pushes Negan to realize what he did with his “wives” was wrong, but I’m not sure the show will go there. Seriously though, it didn’t happen in the comics. Did we need it? Did we really need it?
Angel Theory Lauren Ridloff Connie Kelly Walking Dead

(Chuck Zlotnick/AMC)

  • That Connie and Carol scene was so sweet, and it gave me a glimpse of something I’d been wanting for quite some time. I, like the rest of the fans, like Connie… but I wish the writers would give her more narrative significance than being a friend/potential love interest for Daryl. She’s cool for other reasons, too. I enjoyed seeing her compassion emerge again this episode for someone who isn’t her sister/a member of her group.
  • Not sure I love that they’ve “dumpster-gated” Connie and Magna. After a three-month hiatus, I thought we’d be done with the cave after this episode. Every time the story picks up narrative momentum, it takes two steps back. When all’s said and done, it seems the Whisperer War will last as long as All Out War did.

The Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC