This post contains spoilers for Once Upon a Time, Castle, Sherlock, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Proceed at your own risk.
***I’M SERIOUS! SPOILERS AHEAD***
See there? Spoilers already.
So, let’s talk about cliffhangers. I have a love/hate relationship with these little devils. On one hand, speculating what’s going to happen next helps fill the time between novels, movies, or (for purposes of this post) television seasons. I mean, seriously, is there anyone who wasn’t stoked to get this little tease on Once Upon a Time:
Unfortunately, cliffhangers aren’t always just tantalizing glimpses of what’s to come. They often put characters we love in mortal peril. How did Castle escape that burning car? I DON’T KNOW, DANGIT! But I know he did. And I want to know how. It reminds me of a certain English detective who jumped off a building back in 2012. We all knew he survived. But how? HOW? Speculation kept the Sherlock fandom in full swing for two agonizing years.
As a writer, I respect a great cliffhanger. I still can’t hear the words, “Guys, I know Kung Fu,” without a twinge of jealousy that I didn’t write them.
And of all the cliffhangers this season, there’s none that’s got me more invested than the fate of one Leopold Fitz. For those of you who don’t watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Fitz was last seen bobbing unconsciously in the ocean after being hauled up 90 feet by his biochemist partner, Jemma Simmons. If you don’t know why this hurts my heart, grab a tissue and hold on tight:
And that’s the last time we see him conscious. THE LAST TIME, people. No happy reunion where the whole team gathers around his hospital bed. No follow-up scene with Simmons holding his comatose hand and vowing to do whatever it takes to save him. Nope.
That’s not even the worst of it. Once Simmons hauls him to the surface, they’re rescued by Nick Fury. Nick stinkin’ Fury! Think how bummed Fitz’ll be he missed a chance to meet the man himself. It breaks my heart, really, it does.
What’s next for Fitz? We get a few hints. Fury confirms Fitz’s “heart’s still beating, just barely” but warns his amazing little brain went “without oxygen a long time.” At the end of the episode, when the team asks about him, Simmons merely replies, “he’s alive.”
Of all the times for the sunshiny little know-it-all to go laconic on us!
So what does it mean? Well, I did a little digging. Here’s the short version:
THE SHORT VERSION:
THE LONG VERSION:
WARNING: I’m not a medical professional. Everything you’re about to read is the result of poking around on the Internet. If you are a nurse, diving instructor, or someone with expertise in the matter I’d love to hear from you! 🙂
Here’s what we know:
> Ward jettisoned Fitz and Simmons into the ocean somewhere off the coast of Peru.
> Fitz says they’ve sunk “at least 90 feet.”
> When the window blew, water rushed in with enough force to “knock the wind right out of [them]”
> Fitz rigged a device to “let out a burst [of air] at very high pressure” that “force[d] a breath” into Jemma’s lungs
Okay, so let’s do a little back of the napkin math. Average swim speeds are surprisingly hard to come by, so I’m just going to assume Jemma swam 0.5mph, which seems conservative for someone swimming for their lives, even if they are hauling a soggy Scottish engineer behind them.
Assuming my ballpark speed is accurate, Simmons made the swim to the surface in just over 2 minutes. This, my friends, is awesome news given the Survival Rule of 3, which says, “On average a person can only survive for 3 minutes without air.”
But Fitz said “at least” 90 feet? At least! What if it was farther? What if Simmons didn’t swim in a straight line? What if Fury’s helicopter exerted pressure on the water and made it harder for Simmons to break the surface? Curse you, Fury, and your stylish shades!
In that case, here are a few more interesting time frames to consider during a drowning situation:
30 seconds to 1 minute – the airway closes. Child’s lips turn blue.
1 to 2 minutes – the child looses consciousness.
2 to 5 minutes – the heart can stop. The child has a chance of survival if rescued now.
5 minutes plus – permanent brain damage is occurring as each second passes.
Whatever the variables, we know Simmons made it to the surface on a single breath without blacking out (while towing said soggy engineer behind her). For an untrained diver who “didn’t pass [her] field assessments,” it’s unlikely she lasted long enough to put Fitz in the danger zone.
But wait! That’s not all. During my research, I also happened across a bunch of other cool stuff like the mammalian diving reflex , the benefits of near-drowning in salt water versus fresh water , and this fun little gem from The Doctor Will See You Now : “About 75% of near-drowning victims who receive medical treatment survive. Of these, approximately 6% will be left with long-term neurological problems.”
Does that mean Fitz is looking at a 94% chance of full recovery? I don’t know. So why am I telling you all this?
WHY I’M TELLING YOU ALL THIS
There’s no denying I’m a fangirl, but first and foremost I’m a writer. And, as a writer, it’s important to remember readers today have access to an unprecedented amount of information. The above is what happens when you give a fangirl an hour alone with Google. An hour. That’s someone bored in the doctor’s waiting room or looking to fill the S.H.I.E.L.D. shaped hole in their Tuesday night. Let that soak in. It’s more important than ever for writers to do our homework!
Second take-away: Once you’ve done your research, remember this is a creative decision, not science class. The perfect storm of awesome could bring Fitz back to our screens (unharmed) in the first episode next season. Or the perfect storm of suckitude could give him a whole checklist of near-drowning complications that spur Simmons to perfect GH-325. Or any scenario in between. As long as the writers deliver an equally awesome payoff when the bill comes due, I don’t think anyone will complain.
In the meantime, it’s fun to speculate. What do you guys think? Will Fitz make an immediate recovery? Or does he have a longer road ahead of him? I’d love to hear your thoughts (and theories) in the comments.