SPOILER WARNING: The following article features major spoilers for the latest episode of What If. If you have not yet had the chance to watch, proceed at your own risk!
The first two episodes of What If have been fairly straight-forward. They have both started with the plot of a single Marvel Studios film – namely Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger and James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy – and each made one slight tweak to the plot of the existing movie to tell a whole new story? For Episode 3, however, that idea goes totally out the window, as not only does it use three different blockbusters as a starting point, but the actual nature of the “What if… ?” is maintained as a mystery that doesn’t reveal its answer until the very end.
The latest installment of What If is set around the events of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2, Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, and Kenneth Branagh’s Thor – and while it finds Nick Fury and Black Widow at the center of a dangerous puzzle that winds up threatening the entire world. As has become kind of tradition in these weekly episode recaps, let’s start with the titular tweak to the Marvel Cinematic Universe itself and examine the big change that identifies what is different about this reality in the multiverse...
Hope Van Dyne Joined S.H.I.E.L.D. And Was Killed
In the last six years, Hope Van Dyne, played by Evangeline Lilly, has become a key member of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Operating as Wasp, she has become a great partner to Scott Lang a.k.a. Ant-Man, and helped save the fate of the universe from Thanos during the events of Joe and Anthony Russo’s Avengers: Endgame. In the layer of the multiverse featured in the latest episode of What If, however, none of that actually happens, as she instead becomes a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent at a young age and winds up being killed in the line of duty.
As you may remember, Hope’s parents – Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne – were both S.H.I.E.L.D. agents when they were younger, and apparently after the latter died, the young hero opted to try and follow in her footsteps. That decision, sadly, winds up being terrible for her, but more significantly for the What If episode also creates a ripple effect that creates another major problem years later...
Hank Pym Is A Homicidal Vengeance-Seeker
When Janet Van Dyne died in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it sent Hank Pym spinning in a seriously bad way, and while that resulted in him alienating his daughter for years, at the very least she was still alive and taken care of. It turns out that’s a pretty big deal. As we discover in the new What If episode, things would have been far worse if he didn’t have Hope around, as her death in the story winds up seeing Hank turn into a homicidal vengeance-seeker who aims to kill the world’s superheroes.
Janet losing her life in service of S.H.I.E.L.D. is one thing, but it turns out that Hope doing the same thing would break Hank Pym’s mind and have him become the villain known as Yellowjacket. Objectively, he winds up becoming one of the most successful Marvel villains we’ve ever seen, as it’s actually impressive just how good he is at eliminating the good guys… but it’s still definitely a sad alternate reality.
Hank Pym Kills Iron Man
When the new episode of What If begins, the immediate impression you get is that the story is going to be a riff on Iron Man 2, perhaps examining how things would have gone differently had Tony Stark developed a different relationship with Nick Fury and Black Widow. That all goes out the window pretty quickly, however, as fans are traumatized to see the hero known as Iron Man die for a second time in the span of two years – this time via an injection in his neck.
As she does in Iron Man 2’s diner scene, Black Widow attempts to administer medicine that will help at least temporarily heal Tony Stark’s palladium poisoning, but it all goes horribly wrong when the shot kills him instead of saving him. It turns out that this is because Hank Pym was hiding out in the needle as part of an assassination plot, but the explanation doesn’t really numb the emotional impact.
Hulk is widely regarded as one of the most powerful Avengers, and just about impossible to kill. Not only is his insanely strong, giving him the capacity to demolish any threat that comes near him, but he is also nearly indestructible – as bullets and all other weaponry barely have any effect. All that being said, he definitely is not immortal, and Hank Pym discovers a rather nifty way to destroy the monster.
While it's damn near impossible to kill Hulk from the outside, it's something that is much easier done from within his body – and Hank Pym manages to enter his bloodstream when he rides a bullet that is shot into Bruce Banner's shoulder. From there the assassination requires no more than Yellowjacket throwing one of his grow disks at the rage monster's heart, causing him to blow up like a balloon.
Hawkeye Accidentally Kills Thor
It’s funny to think that Thor and Hawkeye technically started as adversaries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In Thor, the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent famous for using a bow is introduced to the franchise when the God of Thunder breaks into a top secret facility in New Mexico to try and retrieve Mjolnir, and for a very brief moment it appears that Hawkeye might try to kill him. So what would have happened had the future Avenger let loose his arrow? Well, What If answers that question somewhat bluntly: he would have killed the Asgardian.
The setup is mostly the same in the Disney+ show, but the big altered factor is that one extra individual is on the scene to change the way everything goes: Hank Pym. While Hawkeye is as spectacular an archer as you’ll find living on Earth, there’s nothing he can really do when Yellowjacket makes him let loose his bowstring. Not only does Thor wind up dying, but Hawkeye is forced to question his brilliant skills. Fortunately, it doesn't haunt him for too long, given that he is killed shortly after.
Asgard Very Nearly Goes To War With Earth
Loki is a character who doesn’t really need a “reason” to try and conquer Earth. He recognizes it as a world favored by his brother Thor, and because he hates his brother, he loves the idea of taking anything away from him. Because of this, it’s not surprising in the slightest that the God of Mischief’s first reaction to hearing about his brother’s death is to respond by sending an entire army to our planet with the intention of going to war.
It makes for a pretty heavy situation for Nick Fury, who knows a thing or two about intergalactic conflict, and one hell of a capper for his big week.
With this week’s episode now streaming, the countdown is now on until next week’s new chapter of What If – and after it launches, you can be sure that you’ll find our recap here on CinemaBlend. Look for it on Disney+ next week, Wednesday September 1 at midnight PST/3am EST.
NJ native who calls LA home; lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran; endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.
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