11:30 am EDT, March 15, 2018

‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ 5×13 hints: They go low, we go high

Wondering what’s next for Team Coulson after that wild 100th episode? We’ve got a few clues for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 5×13!

An unusual opening

If last week’s 100th episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ended in way we’ve never seen, “Principia” takes the opposite approach by giving us a rather unusual beginning. Don’t look for similar warm fuzzies, though; the opening scene of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 5×13 is about as thematically distant from FitzSimmons’ sweet, sunlit nuptials as it’s possible to get.

Related: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. bosses break down Coulson’s reveal, FitzSimmons’ (SPOILER) and the craziness of episode 100

But the scene does have an equal (if very different) impact on the story going forward, in ways that become eerily clear as the episode unfolds.

Elena gets real

Having dealt with the initial horror of losing her arms, and taking her first steps toward recovery, “Principia” allows (/forces) Elena into the next stage of her new life. And guys? It sucks.

Between her new physical reality, the pressure of her awful foreknowledge, and her unnatural state of enforced stillness, Elena has some crap to work through in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 5×13. And work through it she does, in a set of scenes that are equal parts emotional torture and catharsis. It’s tough stuff, and Natalia Cordova-Buckley handles it beautifully.

And if you weren’t in love with Mack before…

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Feartown funtimes

Remember the rather inexplicable fear-dimension that sprang up to power the engine of last week’s episode? (Of course you do, it hasn’t even been a week.) Well, if you were concerned that the writers of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. might miss the opportunity to viscerally terrify their characters in later episodes, fear not. This dimensional rift is exactly as unstable as the story requires, allowing for terror-leakage whenever it is most needed.

But the reaction is no less unnerving for all that that the plot device is a bit transparent. Let’s just say that it’s not only Phil who gets to face a deeply-buried and strangely-embodied scare in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 5×13.

Everything old is new again (again)

Season 5 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been gradually seeding in material from the show’s earliest days, and “Principia” pursues that trend even further. Another familiar face returns to haunt the team (and deal with his own ghosts) this week, while the miracle element gravitonium and a very, very old (one might say OG) antagonist slip back into the center of the scene.

But there’s a new light cast on old stories, a new angle to what we already know. It’s not just S.H.I.E.L.D. that may be passing the torch to a new generation; fresh young faces on every side are rising to challenge what came before them… and boy, do they smell blood in the water.

Straight-up trolls

Don’t quite know what to do with the information that FitzSimmons are married, and Deke is their grandson? Well, the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. writers do. And what they do could be best described as a dance of utterly shameless trolling.

With all three characters involved completely oblivious to their familial status, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 5×13 lets gleefully loose with the winks, nods, puns, and ironies. Deke stays behind in the Lighthouse with Simmons and Fitz this week, and while I can assure you that “Principia” does this work for a purpose, a big part of that purpose is to send viewer’s heads crashing toward their desks.

But don’t let my tone deceive you — this comedy of errors might be the brightest spot of story in this whole crazy season!

Bonus hint: The Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica is a major work by Sir Isaac Newton, presenting Newton’s laws of motion, Newton’s law of universal gravitation, and a derivation of Kepler’s laws of planetary motion. (Thanks, Wikipedia!)

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 5×13, “Principia,” airs Friday, March 16 at 9:00 p.m. on ABC.

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