The Walking Dead season 10 episode 9 review: Surviving together

Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier - The Walking Dead _ Season 10, Episode 8 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AM8
Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier - The Walking Dead _ Season 10, Episode 8 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AM8 /

When The Walking Dead returns from winter hiatus with 1009, fans are in for some heart-stopping intensity as the survivors fight to escape Alpha’s trap.

The Walking Deads midseason premiere, “Squeeze,” picks up where the midseason finale left off. Daryl, Carol, Jerry, Aaron, Magna, Connie and Kelly are trapped in a system of caves with Alpha’s horde. Tensions are running high as they must figure out a way to get out while dealing with the horde and Whisperers in the caves who were put there by Alpha to make sure they don’t escape. Rocks, and relationships, are going to crumble under the weight of all that tension.

Visually, the episode recreates the claustrophic feelings that some of the survivors are fighting. This episode was directed by Michael Satrazemis, who has directed many episodes of The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead. There’s a signature darkness to his work that makes him the best choice to direct episodes like this which are tightly focused primarily on one dark location. He also directed Fear the Walking Dead’s “Close Your Eyes,” which similarly had the characters in a very dark and precarious location.

Most of the episode focuses on the survivors trying to find a way out of the caves, and if you are at all claustrophobic, you will probably feel your skin crawl at some of the tiny spaces they have to navigate through, like I did. But the physical sensation of the walls closing in on them mirrors the psychological walls closing in for some characters. Magna is almost frantic to find a way out because she’s not happy with how she and Yumiko left things. Carol is struggling too, both with claustrophobia and with grief. The episode is a perfect combination of taut psychological thrills and heart-stopping scares. Visually and narratively, The Walking Dead season 10 has really gone to the next level since Angela Kang took over.

Alpha realizes that somehow the survivors are getting information about her plans, and she teeters on the edge of paranoia as she amps up her pack and promises severe retribution for any spies that are found. A paranoid Alpha may be even more dangerous than normal Alpha. And of course, Negan is going to try and turn paranoia to his advantage somehow.

Survival Skills On Point

When they’re trapped in the cave, the survivors have to rely on all of the survival skills they’ve developed over the years, and it’s exciting to see them working together to survive. Since they have been in communities for a long time now, it’s been a bit since fans have gotten to see the survivors rely on those skills.

Seeing them working together as one and embodying the spirit of surviving together is both a nice throwback to what made this show so special in the beginning and a reminder of why they are fighting so hard to hang on to their way of life. It’s not just the physical support from each other they rely on; it’s the emotional support, too. Without both, they won’t make it.

Daryl’s Leadership Development

It has been fantastic to see Daryl finally given some real purpose and development. The character has never been better. He’s mature now, and committed to being a leader, but he still has the finely honed instincts and next-level survival skills that made him such an asset to the group in the first place. The loner who always stayed on the outside of the group is definitely gone. Daryl is becoming a fine leader that Rick would be proud of. His poise, commitment to the group, and skills are on full display in this episode, and it’s excellent to see.

Melissa McBride Shines

Carol is in a bad place emotionally and making some bad decisions lately, but Melissa McBride delivers a really emotional performance in 1009 that finally has Carol showing some humanity. The unflappable force of nature is finally showing cracks as she opens up to Daryl about her grief.

There’s an impression that Carol is almost afraid of the intensity of her grief and she isn’t sure how to handle it or stop it. When one of her decisions has some shocking and unintended consequences she is rattled, and hopefully she will see that she needs to get a handle on her grief because it leads to some even more serious consequences for her and for the survivors.

As hard as it is to watch Carol struggle, it’s great to see Melissa McBride get more to do than just be a stone faced killer. If you shed a few tears for Carol in this episode, you’re definitely not alone.

TL:DR TWD 1009

The Walking Dead 1009 is one of the strongest midseason premieres in the show’s history. There’s an underlying thread of tension in both what’s going on in the cave and Negan’s adventures in Alpha’s camp. The tension is palpable, and it’s ramping up. It will be very sad to say goodbye to Alpha and the Whisperers because this is by far the strongest narrative arc the show has ever done. It’s thrilling. But the ramping up of the fight between the living and those who walk with the dead is clear, and it’s clear that when the Whisperer War comes, no matter who wins, there will be a heavy price to pay. People won’t survive, relationships won’t survive, and even if Alpha is destroyed, The Walking Dead world will never be the same.

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The Walking Dead season 10 continues with the midseason premiere “Squeeze” on Sunday, Feb 23.