‘Agents of SHIELD’ improving, but what it could learn from ‘Sleepy Hollow’ and ‘The Blacklist’

SHIELD girl in a flower dress

Okay, that was more like it.

Five weeks in. “Agents of SHIELD” feels a little more like it’s finding its way. And who knows, maybe the slow burn strategy of Joss Whedon and his showrunners has been planned this way all along.

But tonight’s episode, “The Girl in a Flower Dress,” took a couple of big steps toward making the show a must-see each week and, in the process, accomplished a couple of things: It (mostly) resolved the “is she or isn’t she a mole?” storyline about hacker Skye, and it furthered a series Big Bad in Centipede, the group that’s continuing the Extremis experiments – giving people superpowers, as in “Iron Man 3” and the “SHIELD” pilot, through dangerous chemicals.

It also established some other nifty ideas, including the fact that “SHIELD” has a list of superpowered people it’s keeping tabs on. This has been a matter-of-fact part of the Marvel movies and needed to be re-established here.

What still needs to be resolved right away: Coulson’s secret. If there’s one more reference to how the unwitting Coulson (the wonderfully deadpan Clark Gregg) has changed since Loki impaled him in “The Avengers,” I’ll cry.

Coulson thinks he died for a few seconds. Higher-ups including Maria Hill know something else is the truth … and think Coulson must never know.

I think everyone suspects that Coulson is a Life Model Decoy – as mentioned in “The Avengers” – or a clone or something. But please, please don’t save the explanation for the end of the season. Coulson needs to find out sooner rather than later, maybe in a November or February sweeps week episode. And then he needs to get pissed, taking it out on Nick Fury – Samuel Jackson’s already appeared in the series, so there’s no reason he can’t come back – and everyone else who deceived him. Knowing how buttoned-down Coulson is, that “taking it out” might consist of an icy glare and a brisk walking away. But do it soon.

That way, expectations will be defied and the next story arc – how Coulson comes back to lead the team – can begin.

Okay, now here’s what I intended to touch on before I saw tonight’s episode: A few things “Agents of SHIELD” could learn from its counterparts on other networks, “Sleepy Hollow” and “The Blacklist:”

Turn up the charisma. Yes, Clark Gregg is no James Spader, who’s chewing the scenery and loving it on “The Blacklist.” But “SHIELD” needs some flamboyance.

Turn up the crazy. “Sleepy Hollow” is getting points for the relish with which it embraces its storyline. “SHIELD” shouldn’t imitate it, but it needs more of the kind of moments that will make fans and casual viewers alike chuckle.

Show why these people are together. A seven-year-must-prevent-the-end-times-like-in-“Sleepy Hollow” plot device isn’t necessary. But there’s got to be more of a reason holding these people together than just the “we’re all in the SHIELD helicarrier break room at the same time” vibe that sometimes seems to be the case.

Give us more surprises. In the first episode of “The Blacklist,” the frustrated FBI agent stabs sneaky fugitive Red Reddington (James Spader) in the neck with a fountain pen. Yikes! It was quick and unexpected and totally justified. Give us more of that kind of “hey did you see that?” moment. (They even had Reddington make a joke about it in a later episode.)

Give us some Marvel comics names. Remember before the series began, people were speculating on which characters would be introduced? Luke Cage? Moon Knight? Who would have thought that “Arrow” would be introducing established DC Comics characters every week and Marvel, the king of synergy, would be running a series of wannabes past us every week?

Give us the goods, “Agents of SHIELD.”

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