This week, the Avengers are unseen almost entirely as we finally get around to what Hank Pym’s been up to, as well as some awesome guest appearances from the show’s ever-expanding universe.

We open on a bank vault, with money just sitting on the table, the way it does in cartoons, as the camera serenely pans around the empty room. Suddenly, the money begins to glow a bit, shrinking down past the point of visibility. The camera pans around, looking for a culprit, but finds none. At last, the lens focuses on a speck and when it zooms in, it appears to be Ant-Man, flying atop a red ant and carrying a duffle bag full of cash.

I think the theme song is dead, folks. I don’t know whose decision it was, but since EMH is already facing either cancellation or creative upheaval, I’m just gonna go ahead and blame Jeph Loeb.

At the Avengers Mansion, Hank, it seems has finally returned, as Jan chats merrily around him, talking about all the things they’re going to do as Avengers. He enters his lab, collecting up data and test tubes and samples and other scientific detritus and, to Jan’s surprise, destroys them. Turns out, Hank’s not back to rejoin the Avengers. He’s leaving for good. Jan tries to get him to reconsider but he tells her he hasn’t felt like an Avenger since the Ultron catastrophe (where his robots went all sentient and tried to destroy Earth and all.) The scene is decidedly very somber and Hank actually seems really depressed about the whole ordeal, there some good voice acting. (I’m usually the one going “Alright Hank, we get it. Diplomacy.”) On the TV, Hank catches the story about the bank robbery and sees the security footage of his suit. He runs off without explaining anything to Jan.

At Grayson College, Hank looks around in his lab to discover that his suit has indeed been stolen, but nothing else was. He looks over a newspaper, specifically at one want ad. (Something like “Need help? Call 1-800-somethingsomething”) He begins to try and figure out what to do about the thief and wonders what  he must be going through right now. We see the thief enter a shady motel room, while Hank’s thoughts narrate the scene. The thief finds that the money he stole has now completely disappeared.  The man doesn’t quite have control over the Pym particles yet and shrinks down into the dirty carpet. Once there, he’s accosted by giant ants and finds that he has super-strength to fight them, or well, normal human strength that is not proportional to his tiny size. He learns how to use the ant-speak helmet and sets off into the night on another ant.

Cutting back to Hank, it now seems he’s explaining the situation to an unseen party, about how he can’t let his work hurt other people and asks “Will you take the case?” He turns to none other than the Heroes for Hire themselves, Luke Cage and Iron Fist.

(I squealed like a teen girl at a One Direction concert.)

On the streets, the thief rides down the street with another bag of cash, only to be sniffed out and accosted by a security dog. He bolts and leaves the cash behind. In an alleyway, Luke and Danny are monitoring the situation at the bank, which is under heavy security, and also just being really cool. Apparently the bank is a front for Hydra, and they both wonder if the thief even figured that one out. Danny asks why Hank would go to them, when he’s supposed to be on the Avengers. “I don’t get it.” he says. “I do. Man’s got pride.” Luke responds. After some more banter about how Luke’s too angry and probably something about Danny’s costume, Danny realizes, with a grin, “We’re working with the Avengers.” Meanwhile, back at his lab, Hank’s having a good-old fashioned freakout about what this could potentially mean for his career. Many test tubes are smashed. In case this show made you forget, Hank Pym can be kind of a dark dude. One important development here is that Hank catches sight of another insect: a yellowjacket wasp.

Luke and Danny find some D-List supervillains lurking further down the alley, and realize that they’ve been waiting not just to apprehend someone, but apprehend a superhero. They get in a fight, in which the show quickly showcases their powers in neat, witty ways: Luke barely has to do much work while the villains exhaust themselves trying to break his skin and Danny shows off his martial arts prowess. After the fight, Luke and Danny run into none other than the Ant-Thief. A fight ensues, although the thief insists he doesn’t want to fight them at all, and manages to escape.

The thief returns to his hotel room only to find Luke, Danny and Hank close behind. He finally gets the helmet off and Hank realizes, to his shock, that he knows the man. His name is Scott Lang and he works as a janitor at Grayson College. (Marvel fans, you know this dude and his story.) Scott begins to explain: He used to be an electrical engineer, until he fell in with the wrong crowd and used his prowess to perform bank robberies, even though he had a family. He stole money to help his daughter Cassie, who had a serious heart condition and was caught, doing three years in prison. When he got out, he couldn’t find work and got hired as a janitor at the college. But now his old partner wants the cut he lost when Scott went to prison and even worse, he’s kidnapped Cassie.  Scott’s old partner is none other than William Cross, and he was responsible for the goon squad that Luke and Danny fought earlier. (Somewhat unrelated note: During this monologue, there’s a really great shot of Hank looking into a fractured mirror. That always portends something.)

At Cross’s hideout, we see him threatening an adorable little blonde girl, namely, Cassie Lang (she of future Young Avengers fame) as they wait for Scott’s ransom money. But of course, Scott’s brought the cavalry, namely, the Heroes for Hire and Hank bringing up the rear. When one of them asks who they are, Luke flatly replies “We’re the Avengers. I’m Captain America. My friend in the pajamas is Thor.” Scott’s still in the Ant-Man suit and an epic fight ensues between our heroes and a bunch of wacky villains whose names I cannot be bothered to look up, there were too many of them. Hank uses the Pym particles to get Cassie out of Cross’s clutches. The fight is finished, our heroes win and Scott and Cassie are reunited. Scott offers to turn himself in, but everyone’s pretty okay with him getting away with it, especially Hank, who gives the Ant-Man suit to Scott for good.

Well kids, what can I say? I loved this episode, which is weird considering…well, the Avengers weren’t even in it, save a Wasp cameo. I can’t lie and say that Hank was ever my favorite character, although I appreciate the moral argument he always brought to the trigger-happy team, and considering we haven’t seen him all season, his departure, however long it lasts, from the team felt genuinely earned, like it was a real fracture instead of just a throwaway moment. When you compare Hank now from where he was at the very start of the show: there seems to be a real arc here. Hank never wanted to be a superhero, but he tried it, and even though he’s good at it, it still blew up in his face, and he’s still really really depressed, and even angry about it. (Needless to say, you remove one trademark facet from Hank’s character for the purposes of kid’s TV and he becomes a lot more sympathetic. You know what I mean.) It doesn’t feel like “Hank is qutting the Avengers for the billionth time” because the plot needs that, it feels that way because that’s who the character is. I always got the idea that Hank is a mad scientist in training, as his dark freak-out in his lab would suggest, but he got waylaid by his superhero girlfriend’s goodness and his own moral compass. Hank Pym never quite figured out how to be a hero but could never be a proper villain.

This episode reminded me a lot of film noir, with the beautifully rendered animation of the shady hotel and Luke and Danny’s back-alley fights, the way they stood around cooly surveying the scene and chatting, as opposed to the tense muscular fronts we’re used to seeing from the Avengers. The narration and animation of Scott learning to use the Ant-Man suit was particularly well done and I was glad to see it from EMH, because animation quality is the first thing to go on this show. It had a slow build, nothing very explosive on the plot scale, but good character stuff, and some new faces.

While my affections for Hank waver constantly, I will always get excited to see Luke Cage and Danny Rand in any capacity, although it’s odd to see them so serious here after watching their teen selves in ‘Ultimate Spider-Man’. I’ll never not love their partnership, their powers and personalities, which are on opposite ends of the spectrum, and I really hope they show up again and soon and often. (Or give them their own show. I’d watch it and love it.) And Scott Lang! Forever Marvel’s least shady Ant-Man. I look forward to seeing him take on the helm of Ant-Man and possibly join Earth’s Mightiest. Well done with this one, EMH. I had my doubts after last week’s okay-at-best run-in with the Kree, but they really delivered here, giving us an electric script and gorgeous visuals. What did you think of the episode?

If you missed the previous episode be sure to read our ‘Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes Welcome To The Kree Empire’ recap to catrch up.