Spoiler Alert: This article contains spoilers for What If…? Episode 3.
In Episode 3 of Marvel’s What If…?, we’re reintroduced to Hope van Dyne, who, according to this timeline, is dead thanks to S.H.I.E.L.D. Because of her death, her father, Hank Pym, turns to the dark side to get revenge and prevent S.H.I.E.L.D. from recruiting any more “innocent” people to join the cause.
Although Hope is essential to understanding Hank Pym’s motive to kill all the potential Avengers in this episode of What If…?, we don’t really get a good picture of exactly who she is and what her significance is to the greater MCU. How is this different from the main MCU timeline, and what exactly happened to her that causes her father to literally kill heroes and somehow think he’s the good guy?
Hope van Dyne dying is the event that triggers this alternate universe.
She doesn’t actually appear in Episode 3 of What If…?, but Hope is essential to the plot of the episode and the final twist at the end. Although the episode asks, “What If… the World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?”, the thing that alters this timeline is that Hope van Dyne decides to become an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
We learn through Hank Pym, who dons the Yellowjacket gear, and Nick Fury’s final showdown that Hank’s daughter, Hope, decided to become a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent to live up to her parents and carry on their legacy. In both the main MCU and this timeline, Hank and his wife, Janet, worked for S.H.I.E.L.D. when they were younger.
After Janet dies (or seems to die, although we really know that she’s actually stuck in the Quantum Realm for decades), Hope tries to live up to her mother’s reputation.
But in doing that, Hope goes on a mission for S.H.I.E.L.D. to Odessa, Ukraine, where she dies. If that sounds familiar, it’s because that’s where Black Widow gets attacked by the Winter Soldier in the main MCU timeline — so could Hope have gone on that mission instead and died? It seems likely.
So that sets off Hank to turn completely to the dark side and become one of the most impressive Marvel villains we’ve seen. Honestly, he kills off five Avengers — even we have to admit that’s pretty spectacular.
Even though Hank’s motive to kill is to avenge his daughter’s death and try to stop other people from making the same mistake of joining S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury explains that the people who join S.H.I.E.L.D. know that they could die. It’s a risk that they’re willing to take for the greater good and that’s what makes them heroes — believing that saving humanity is a cause worth dying for.
In the main MCU timeline, Hope van Dyne is also known as the Wasp.
Yes, we know Hope pretty well in the main MCU timeline. She’s still Hank Pym’s daughter, but he’s so protective of her that she’s never able to join S.H.I.E.L.D. officially. However, once Hank works with Scott Lang to let him take on the Ant-Man mantle, Hope slowly but surely gets involved. And when Scott as Ant-Man discovers Janet stuck in the Quantum Realm, they work with Hank to rescue her.
Once they rescue Janet, she gives the Wasp mantle to Hope to take over, and Hope joins up with Ant-Man to fight crime with her parents’ blessing and support. In the regular MCU timeline, Hope is very much alive and will be part of the upcoming Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Portrayed by Evangeline Lilly, Hope has been in all the Ant-Man movies, as well as Avengers: Endgame.
The Wasp was also the first female Marvel superhero to be a titular character, before both Black Widow and Captain Marvel, so Evangeline holds that feminist record. In addition, she worked with the Ant-Man writers and production team to make sure her character was fleshed out and not just an ancillary love interest, and we are very thankful for that.
Catch new episodes of What If...? every Wednesday on Disney Plus.