"Emancipation" is the twentieth episode of the third season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..
In the aftermath of the events of Captain America: Civil War, S.H.I.E.L.D. feels pressure to reveal their involvement with Inhumans. But with the stakes higher than ever and Hive growing stronger, the team is tested in ways they could never anticipate.
Director Coulson sits at a bar and watching a news report of the battle between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark while waiting for General Talbot to arrive. With the Sokovia Accords now the law of the land, President Ellis has sent Talbot to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s headquarters to take a record of all the enhanced individuals working with them. Coulson takes Talbot to the Playground, which is actually a basement under the bar, and makes the general promise to reveal the Inhumans working for S.H.I.E.L.D. to the public. While Talbot gets a tour of the base, Elena Rodriguez returns to the Playground to keep her out of Hive's reach. Elena shows off her powers for the general by taking the the decorations off of his uniform without him noticing.
Lincoln, meanwhile, is stuck in the medical unit and feels trapped. He calls out to Daisy believing her to have hacked into the Playground's security systems, but is still surprised when his television turns on with a message from her. She soon afterwards appears on the screen herself and speaks to him directly once she feeds the security camera a loop of Lincoln sleeping. Lincoln tells her he doesn't care about S.H.I.E.L.D. or Hive and only wants to be with her. Daisy says she'll help him escape from the Playground, but first warns him that Coulson and Talbot are coming to his room.
At Hive's base in South Dakota, Dr. Radcliffe has taken as much Kree DNA from Daisy's blood as she can give to perfect the experiment. Hive and James collect "volunteers" for the experiment by leading a group of Watchdogs into an alley and ambush them. During the fight, James grabs a chain and uses his powers to turn it into a flaming whip. The Watchdogs are taken back to Dr. Radcliffe's laboratory and subjected to the experiment, but when the procedure's over they find the Watchdogs have been transformed into hideously deformed, barely intelligent creatures. Although both Dr. Radcliffe and James are disgusted by what the "volunteers" have become, Hive has nothing but pride in these new Inhumans. He later introduces Daisy to their "children," but she, too, reacts with disgust.
Once they're done with Lincoln, Coulson takes Talbot to see S.H.I.E.L.D.'s most dangerous asset - Lash, still trapped in his containment unit. With all of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s cards on the table, Coulson and FitzSimmons bring to date on the situation with Hive. FitzSimmons understand that Hive could restart his attempts to recreate the Kree experiments using the Kree DNA in Daisy's blood, but they do not know what his endgame is until they know what he took from the ATCU facility in Indiana. Meanwhile, Daisy contacts Lincoln again and helps him escape from his unit. By the time the rest of the team realize what's going on, Lincoln has nearly made it to the quinjet. Mack hurries to the hangar to stop him, but Lincoln is able to fight him off and escape with the plane.
Before Talbot can deliver an order to shoot down the quinjet, Coulson and May reveal that this was all part of their plan and Lincoln is still at the Playground. They let Daisy believe she was helping Lincoln escape so Hive would let the plane into his town without a fight. On board the plane is Lash, who Coulson believes is strong enough to kill Hive. Lash immediately gets into a fight with the ancient Inhuman when the quinjet lands. He uses his powers to destroy the Hive's parasites before they can ever reach him. Lash blasts a hole through Grant Ward's chest, forcing the Hive to sic his new Inhumans on him, but they're no match for the monstrous Inhuman. Daisy comes to her master's aid, but Lash knocks her to the ground and somehow pulls the parasites out of her body and destroys them. Lash carefully brings Daisy back onto the quinjet, but James sneaks up behind them and sends his chain through Lash's chest. Daisy, now free from Hive's sway, throws James back with her powers, and takes off in the quinjet to return to the Playground.
FitzSimmons' tests on Daisy's brain show that she has been completely freed from the Hive's control. With the information she gave them about the ancient Inhuman's plan, Fitz deduces that Hive could cover much of the world in his pathogen, turning a significant portion of the human race into Inhumans under his sway, if he can find a way to disperse it high enough in the atmosphere. Talbot tells them all that he can do this, revealing that Hive stole a fully-functioning warhead from the ATCU in Indiana. Meanwhile, Elena visits Mack in his room and gives him her crucifix to help him keep his faith.
- Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson
- Ming-Na Wen as Melinda May
- Brett Dalton as Hive
- Chloe Bennet as Daisy Johnson/Quake
- Iain De Caestecker as Leo Fitz
- Elizabeth Henstridge as Jemma Simmons
- Henry Simmons as Alphonso "Mack" Mackenzie
- Luke Mitchell as Lincoln Campbell
- Axle Whitehead as J.T. James
- John Hannah as Holden Radcliffe
- Natalia Cordova-Buckley as Elena "Yo-Yo" Rodriguez
- Adrian Pasdar as Glenn Talbot
- Trevor Torseth as Pete Boggs
- Jean Paul San Pedro as Jackson
- Courtney Friel as Newscaster
- Jason Sweat as Recruit #1
- Matthew Willig as Lash
Continuity and References to the Marvel Cinematic Universe
- Glenn Talbot returns.
- Elena Rodriguez returns.
- Watchdogs returns.
- Steve Rogers/Captain America is mentioned.
- Tony Stark/Iron Man is mentioned.
- Peggy Carter is mentioned.
- President Matthew Ellis is mentioned.
- Grant Ward is mentioned.
- Will Daniels is mentioned.
- A photo of Lucio is shown.
- The Avengers are mentioned.
- The Sokovia Accords are mentioned.
- WHiH World News appears.
- United States Armed Forces are mentioned.
- The events of Captain America: Civil War are mentioned.
- Kree Reapers Satellite is mentioned.
- A photo of Maveth is shown.
- The A.T.C.U. is mentioned.
- Alpha Primitives are introduced.
- Lash returns.
- The Strategic Scientific Reserve is mentioned.
- G.H. is mentioned.
- Carl Creel is mentioned.
- The episode is set after Captain America: Civil War.