Captain America: The Winter Soldier has already opened in overseas markets, and finally hits the big screens in North America this Friday. Timed with its theatrical release is the return of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC tonight, launching a 7-episode run through to the end of the season. The timing is not coincidental. Remember, Marvel wants you to know it’s all connected.

That’s the hashtag used in promotional images for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., a series about an organization which experiences some changes in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. That’s just part of the reason why the schedule of the series has been erratic since beginning in the fall. The Olympics break didn’t make it easier for fans either.

But now that it’s back, the show is here to prove to followers why it’s been worth the wait and why the 22-episode format can lead to some big payoffs. The last two episodes before the latest break introduced us to a blue alien and a mystery cure that was used on both Agent Coulson and Skye, and the following episode brought a pair of important Asgardians to Earth, all ending with a reveal about one of Coulson’s most trusted agents. And tonight? Michael Peterson returns to play Deathlok, this time in a new costume.

“See Deathlok with your own eyes…or someone else’s!”

Speaking with IGN, Marvel’s head of TV Jeph Loeb hyped up the return and final stretch of the show, and tie-ins with Captain America: The Winter Soldier:

“We come back on April the 1st with an episode that’s appropriately entitled ‘End of the Beginning.’ I think the real question that people will be asking is, who do you trust? When you’ve got someone like the Clairvoyant that’s out there, who clearly is one step ahead of everybody, you know, what is that about? What is that agenda? Who is that agenda? It is by no small coincidence that we’re back on April the 1st and Captain America: The Winter Soldier opens on April the 4th. We’re back again on April the 7th, and then we go straight through to the season finale.”

What can fans expect episode to episode now that there’s no more holding back?

“This has has been a long, slow fuse waiting for the bomb to go off. All I can tell you is, the bombs are going off. Every single episode is going to have what refer to as a ‘Holy eff!’ moment.”

Big twists? Big cameos? Big reveals? Based on the last two episodes alone, we can expect all three. After all, ABC and Marvel have yet to greenlight a second season of the series which struggled early on to find its footing as a new series. Now, things are different and the creatives have long planned to make the back half of the series “feel more Marvel.” And they may only have these seven episodes to do so.

THR spoke with writers and executive producers Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon about the “growing pains” (Whedon’s words) of the series, the response from fans and critics and the plan going forward now that they are preparing to shoot the season finale. Are the planning for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 2?

Tancharoen: We have a board going right now. We just don’t have a season two yet. But we are planning on it and at the end of season one, we are tying a lot of things up as well as teeing things up for a possible season two.

If season one is the all fans see of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., will the finale wrap things up nicely to ensure the story feels complete?

Whedon: No, you’d be so desperate to see another season and you’d be sad. It’ll definitely be a satisfying season finale but we definitely are teeing up stuff to come.

If not tonight, then next week’s episode will absolutely begin to deal with the aftermath of the events in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the #ItsAllConnected marketing is a big indicator of that. While Marvel Studios president of production Kevin Feige would have you think Marvel’s TV division is doing its own thing, the movie side is absolutely involved with the series when it comes to making sure everything fits together.

Tancharoen: They’re aware of every step; they’re an integral part of our process. They see every script. They see every cut. They give notes and we’re very aware of everything they’re doing; we read all of the film scripts before they’re even finished.

Whedon: The idea with every Marvel property is for them to exist on their own and then interweave. No one backswipes; Thor didn’t show up in Iron Man 3. It’s not that these things are dependent on one another. They had the opportunity to interact and they exist in the same universe and we are in the same universe and when we establish something in our universe, in our show, it becomes a rule in the universe so we have to make sure we’re respectful of what they’re planning to do and that we’re all on the same page.

That’s why Joss Whedon is overseeing all of Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, writing and directing The Avengers: Age of Ultron, and involved in creating the show – the later of which with his brother and sister-in-law. If you’re  fan of the show, Clark Gregg (Agent Phil Coulson) teased the following at PaleyFest last week – the same event where Chloe Bennet (Skye) revealed what the blue alien was in episode 14 (“T.A.H.I.T.I.”) – read about that here.

“When people see the remaining episodes of the season — what they’re doing here is a slow build to something I don’t think you’ve seen before. I can’t really elaborate.”

Will you be following along tonight and for the remaining episodes? Let us know in the comments!

More: What’s Special About Agent Coulson?

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns tonight @ 8pm on ABC. Captain America: The Winter Soldier – which connects to the series – hits theaters April 4, 2014.

Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes for your Marvel movie and TV news!

Sources: HitFixIGNTHR