The third episode of Marvel Studios’ What If…? animated series centres on SHIELD boss Nick Fury as he tries to figure out who is killing his Avengers Initiative hopefuls before they have a chance to join the team.
We later learn that the episode’s real “what if” is “what would have happened if Hope van Dyne had joined SHIELD and died in the line of duty?” At first, it seems to be asking what would have happened if the majority of the original Avengers (aside from Captain America) had been killed off prior to the Battle of New York.
Regular readers of Den of Geek will already be aware of the change in format for our What If…? evaluations. We’ll provide more of a breakdown in the hopes that it will satiate ardent Marvel fans while also assisting younger viewers and those less familiar with the MCU.
In light of that, let’s explore “What If…? Have the world’s greatest heroes been lost?
To completely comprehend this episode, you’ll probably need to have seen pretty much everything in the Phase 1 Marvel Cinematic Universe. Also, Ant-Man. Additionally, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but I’ll get to it later.
Of course, Jeffrey Wright is Uatu The Watcher. Samuel L. Jackson will reprise his role as Nick Fury, Jeremy Renner will play Hawkeye, Michael Douglas will play Hank Pym, Tom Hiddleston will play Loki, Clark Gregg will play Agent Coulson, Frank Grillo will play Crossbones, Mark Ruffalo will play Bruce Banner, and Jaimie Alexander will play Lady Sif.
Lake Bell, who plays Poison Ivy in the dazzling DC animated series Harley Quinn, fills in for Scarlett Johansson. Mike Wingert, who previously played Iron Man in Avengers Assemble, Spider-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Marvel Future Avengers, has taken over as Tony Stark from Robert Downey Jr. In Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness, Stephanie Panisello plays Betty Ross, while Mike McGill, not William Hurt, plays General Ross.
Around the time of Iron Man 2, Nick Fury and Natasha Romanoff start their efforts to win Tony Stark over to SHIELD, but rather than assisting him in overcoming the palladium core in his arc reactor poisoning symptoms, they appear to mistakenly murder him with the same injection. By Brock Rumlow and his goons, Natasha is taken into custody but quickly escapes.
Agent Coulson discovers Mjolnir in the desert, but Hawkeye kills the God of Thunder with a single arrow after his finger “slips” as he prepares to train his bow on an approaching Thor. Soon after, Hawkeye passes away.
Natasha pursues Betty Ross in the meantime for guidance over Tony’s strange demise. Bruce Banner is hidden in Betty’s lab, which Natasha finds while she analyses the antidote and the syringe. Bruce Hulk leaves… It abruptly bursts in the middle of an ambush headed by General Ross.
Loki and an Asgardian army have been drawn to Thor’s death and are threatening to conquer Earth. Fury makes a deal with Loki in an effort to find out who is behind all the killings before Loki can carry out his terrible schemes.
Fury visits the burial of Hope van Dyne, nicknamed Wasp, who became a SHIELD agent in this universe and passed away, in collaboration with Loki and with the help of a crucial tip from a critically ill Natasha. We can infer that Hope, not Natasha, undertook the dangerous trip to Odessa that she spoke of in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. When the expedition reached Odessa, Natasha was accosted by Bucky Barnes, who then shot her in the stomach and killed the nuclear engineer she was supposed to be accompanying out of Iran.
Hank Pym is the murderer who Fury (and Loki dressed as Fury) face at Hope’s grave. After losing both Hope and Janet on SHIELD missions, he has become completely driven by revenge. Hank has gone full, and is not wearing his Ant-Man outfit. Yellow. Jacket; driven insane by sadness, he killed the potential Avengers.
How does it work out?
Not fantastic, mm? Because it uses a really stupid twist to highlight how terrible things could have been given the appropriate change, this is more of a classic What If…? story. In a last-ditch effort to change the course of events, Fury slams his Captain Marvel beeper as Loki betrays him and continues to attack Earth, fulfilling his “glorious goal.” He and Carol Danvers explore the region where Steve Rogers has been hidden in the ice for decades as the episode comes to a close.
This episode has a lot of wonderful tiny details. All of the Avengers’ unexpected deaths were terrible, but Natasha’s death affected people emotionally the most. Perhaps because she was Fury’s most dependable Agent of SHIELD for the majority of the programme, but also because she died in the Sacred Timeline and this wasn’t on her terms. Natasha obviously went out fighting, but because of her most recent role as Black Widow, it feels like we’ve lost her three times in a row.
The dialogue Coulson used in the episode was excellent. It’s difficult to choose between Clark Gregg’s “sir, he’s magnificent” description of Thor and his password confession, “Hashtag-Steve-Steve-Steve-i-Heart-Steve-0704,” because the actor always delivers with perfection. In every possible future, Coulson will go absolutely nuts over the Avengers. Some things remain the same.
I really adored Hank’s transformation into Yellowjacket. I’m aware that some viewers will find the idea that Hank might have murdered all those people absurd, but, hey, “unbelievable” is frequently the name of the game with What If…?, and Hank was always a brash hardass. After leaving SHIELD, Hope seemed to be the only thing left in the world he was truly invested in, so it’s not hard to imagine that his resentment toward the group would have grown after Hope’s passing.
Next week I’ll be on vacation, but I’ll be back here shortly with another episode! Be careful.
Disney+ now features Marvel’s What If…? on a weekly basis.
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