There's no silencing The Walking Dead: it's the best show on television. Season 10 returns with its midseason premiere, "Squeeze," a pulse-pounding nail-biter sure to force squirms from even the most steely-nerved watchers. Picking up where the midseason finale left off — with Daryl (Norman Reedus), Carol (Melissa McBride), Aaron (Ross Marquand), Connie (Lauren Ridloff), Kelly (Angel Theory), Magna (Nadia Hilker) and Jerry (Cooper Andrews) trapped in a cave, swarmed by a horde of walkers corralled by Whisperer leader Alpha (Samantha Morton) — "Squeeze" is a 45-minute horror movie, complete with scares and screams, that steadily ramps up the dread until reaching its explosive and heartbreaking resolution.
The midseason premiere airing Feb. 23 was influenced by horror movie The Descent, centered on a group of vacationers forced to survive when trapped below ground with flesh-hungry creatures. Facing a ticking clock and dangers both living and dead lurking in every shadowy corner, our group of heroes must mount an escape not for the faint of heart: each inch towards freedom is countered by another heart-racing setback before "Squeeze" finally closes in on its seat-gripping and claustrophobic climax.
The zombie drama follows with "Stalker," airing March 1, an anxiety-inducing episode from first-time Walking Dead director Bronwen Hughes (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul). Action has shifted from outside the cramped quarters of the cave, but the heroes located within the relative safety of Alexandria's walls find themselves endangered when they must defend the community from a threatening outside force.
Former Alpha acolyte Gamma (Thora Birch) will prove where her loyalties truly lie while new mother Rosita (Christian Serratos), haunted by recurring nightmares following the murder of her child's father, Siddiq (Avi Nash), must overcome her fears when faced with a foe that dwarfs any threat she's faced before.
In an episode carrying one of the highest body counts in some time, Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) is paying no mind to curbing his growing bloodlust after murdering Whisperer spy Dante (Juan Javier Cardenas). The infiltrator sent by Alpha was viciously stabbed to death by Gabriel, who was both avenging fallen brother Siddiq and indulging in rage stirred by feelings of failure over allowing Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) to escape captivity.
"Squeeze" is The Descent, and "Stalker" is best compared to Halloween when a knife-wielding masked maniac makes their way through an otherwise sleepy and unsuspecting Alexandria.
While corpses pile up at the community left largely unguarded — putting Judith Grimes (Cailey Fleming) and little brother RJ (Antony Azor) in grave danger, especially with mother Michonne (Danai Gurira) away at sea on a high-stakes mission — one hero carrying out a vendetta against Alpha engages the villain in a battle that is as bloody as it is brutal. It's Walking Dead at its best.
If the first half of the season was a slow-burning fuse, the second half is the boom.
TWD returns with its midseason premiere, "Squeeze," Sunday, Feb. 23 at 9/8c on AMC. For more TWD intel, follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter.