Absolution is the twenty-first episode of the third season of the television series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the sixty-fifth episode overall. It's also the first part of the season finale.
It's a showdown a season in the making as S.H.I.E.L.D. takes on Hive, and when his master plan is finally revealed, the team must spring into action. Who will live and who will die?
Daisy Johnson awakes from a disturbing dream where she and Phil Coulson are trapped in a Containment Module on another planet, desperately hoping to escape.
Jemma Simmons notices that Johnson has awakened and approaches her Containment Module, hoping that Johnson has new information that she can divulge about Hive and his plans. Glenn Talbot attempts to get the necessary kill codes to stop the missile's launch sequence through General Andaz, but Andaz believes in proper protocol; Leo Fitz creates a green screen background to impersonate the General so that Undersecretary Walter Thomas releases the codes to Coulson who approaches him from the S.H.I.E.L.D. SUV with the proper ATCU credentials.
Meanwhile, Giyera assures Hive that if a S.H.I.E.L.D. aircraft approaches their location, even cloaked, it will be detected. However, Melinda May proves him wrong by using the Quinjet as a submarine. Aboard the Quinjet also are Alphonso Mackenzie, Lincoln Campbell, and Elena Rodriguez; all with a solemn mood, such that Campbell gives Mackenzie the kill-switch to their Nanothermite Vests if the Inhumans lose control of themselves. Infiltrating Hive's location, May and Campbell electronically patch themselves into Hive's computers, and, as Coulson reads the kill codes to Fitz, with only seconds to spare, stop the missile's launch. Hive swears to show S.H.I.E.L.D. his rage as he commands Holden Radcliffe to take two Primitives with him to reset the launch.
Rodriguez and Mackenzie grow closer as she tells him to hurry with his work; Campbell and May bond over the fact that their lovers were affected by Hive. Everyone knows that Hive seeks them for thwarting his plans.
In the Playground, Coulson stares at the Theta Brain-Wave Frequency Machine as he wonders how he can get Johnson to remember what "Absolution" means. He gives her an update on their progress, but Johnson has a harder view on herself than Coulson does, citing that she, like Grant Ward, is nothing more than a brainwashed criminal. Coulson dismisses her as having withdrawal from her addiction.
Hive is lured by Campbell into Mackenzie's trap, a giant Theta Brain-Wave Frequency Machine, to pull forward all of the different personalities in the dark Inhuman that he has absorbed over the millennia. Hive is freed from the torture when Mackenzie, Rodriguez, and Campbell flee, but the memories of his past hosts still flood his consciousness. Giyera and Hellfire arrive to help, but Hive's speech is an incoherent mess of quotes from hosts past and present. Hellfire realizes that something is seriously wrong when Hive nonsensically addresses Jemma Simmons as if he were Will Daniels telling to her to run, and Giyera attempts to get the dark Inhuman to focus. Fixating on Ward's memories, Hive finally manages to get his mind under enough control to give Giyera and Hellfire a coherent order: disconnect the warhead, since there is no hope of launching the missile now.
May, seeking the warhead, frees Radcliffe from the Primitives while Rodriguez frees the hostages from the conquered missile silo. However, as Giyera takes the warhead and flees, Hive confronts the agents; he is captured in a Containment Module full of Suspension Gel.
Upon return to base, Mackenzie defies the security protocols and tells Johnson that Hive is their prisoner as he forgives and hugs her; this allows Johnson her emotional release as she cries. The two talk about how unsafe it is to have Hive at the Playground.
After Simmons and Fitz plan a romantic vacation, Fitz goes to assure that the base is sealed against Hive loyalists. Fitz realizes what "Absolution" is - the releasing of the Absolution Virus in the Playground - and Agent O'Brien is among those changed when Hellfire activates the trap; they turn into Primitives.
The Primitives free Hive from captivity and he wants the Zephyr One; the aircraft has high altitude capability enough to launch the warhead to make all Humans into Primitives or Inhumans.
Johnson escapes her Containment Module and goes to confront Hive. She begs him to sway her again.