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I was looking around on the wiki (and on the Internet in general), and I’ve obviously noticed the debate on whether or not we should classify Amon and Tarrlok as dead or alive. A lot of good points were brought up, like how suicide would be too dark for a children’s show so the creators couldn’t give a clearer shot, against the fact that there was no absolute confirmation and therefore any sort of “deceased” classification would be speculative. It sort of goes back and forth. I rather not join in on such a heated debate and turn to a very dandy tool: science.
Let’s start out with getting our measurements right. Amon and Tarrlok were on a pretty small motorboat. Assuming that the brothers are approximately six feet in height, the boat is estimated to be 20 feet long, maybe 7-10 feet wide. Comparing the first scene that showed the tiny, faraway boat in the distance and the exploding mushroom cloud, the smoke seemed to reach at least 35 feet in height—perhaps even taller! This explosion must generate quite a lot of force, and (we’re getting to the unrealistic part now) that explosion had to have occurred in one, blinding split-second.
Now research. I automatically went to Google and started searching for the specifications on boats that size: engine, speed, fuel capacity, but I had to stop myself. This is a show that takes place approximately in the Roaring Twenties/Prohibition Era, so the motorboats would be different. The one Amon had was a personal, “pleasure” boat, not a military one (even though he had a stash of electrified gloves.) It was most likely a 1929 Ditchburn Launch, or at least resembled one like it. Anyway, a boat back then wouldn’t even hold a lot of gasoline—most likely twelve gallons in the fuel tank, with an extra backup on board. (And a lot of boats were powered by electricity, too.) Could that much fuel really produce a mushroom cloud that high?
The answer is no. If MythBusters has taught us anything, it’s that explosions like that don’t really happen in real life. Shooting a car with a shotgun, stuffing an oil-soaked rag in the fuel tank latch and lighting it, or even simply dropping in an ignited match right inside the tank will just not produce the Michael Bay-esque explosion that we all saw in Endgame. So what do we do? Simulate what should’ve happened, or go off that mushroom cloud we saw?
Let’s do both. First, let’s try to simulate what should’ve happened. It’s hard to actual imagine this because we have no specification on the electrified glove. it was able to knock Lin out, so obviously somewhere between 0.0000001 amps (hurt like hell) to .001 amps (potentially fatal.) (This leaves a lot of vague area to how strong the gloves actually are.) And what would 12 gallons of gasoline do? From various automobile fires, even if the flames reached the gas tank the most that could happen would be a nice fireball, not a cloud. Going off possible scenarios I’ve seen with cars on fire, electricity straight into the tank would’ve made a nice blast at the end of the boat and then maybe slowly eaten away at the hull, dashboard, and engine (maybe a another, much smaller blast there) until it sank.
Which means that Tarrlok was at the VERY LEAST badly injured, probably knocked unconscious, and maybe even possibly killed, since he was so close to the tank. But Amon was different. Judging by how far away he was from Tarrlok, Amon could’ve well survived the explosion. He would be thrown away from the blast and land in the water—all while remaining conscious and not deathly injured. He would be well enough to get himself to land with his waterbending skills. And—another circumstantial scenario here—heal and rescue his brother while returning to the mainland together. (Maybe the spirits really do like him.)
Since I cannot actually electrocute a 1929 Ditchburn Launch antique motorboat’s fuel tank, the best I can do is estimate. Chances of Survival for Simulated Scenario: Tarrlok—15%. Amon—65%.
(Also another thing that turned out being very unhelpful was lightning strike statistics. I thought if somebody could survive, being in a boat, while getting struck by lightning, then Tarrlok and Amon could obviously survive this. However no. Both fatalities and survivals have been reported by boats getting struck by lightning. However, most deaths were caused by the lightning strikes themselves, not the fires/explosions the lightning caused in the boat, and most people that survived weren’t in motorboats, but in regular fishing boats. So no data there . . .)
But we’re not done yet! The above paragraphs were simply simulating what should’ve happened if the explosion were realistic, according to my specifications. But for now, let’s assume that I’m wrong and that there’s a million gallons of fuel in the tank and even some packages of C4, and let’s focus our attention to that very big, very not-friendly mushroom cloud that we all saw. Approximately, the smoke was 35, maybe 40 feet tall, while the fire and flames itself reached up to maybe 15 feet. However, this is REALLY hard to estimate because they’re in the middle of the ocean with nothing to judge it by. I’m getting these estimations by comparing the very first shot of the boat and the very last shot of the cloud.
By turning to physics, we know by how well formed the mushroom cloud is, the bigger it is. And that was a very nicely done mushroom cloud in Endgame, especially that little ring around it. Even so, that if I were just to go off the size of the mushroom cloud, I would automatically assume that the boat was some WWII freighter with a faulty nuke on it. Plus, mushroom clouds are really only formed when the explosion is vented into the atmosphere, so thereby increasing our estimated size of the explosion to much, much bigger—BUT this sentence is contradicted with the fact that (after reviewing the explosion) no fire/redness was seen in the “cap” of the mushroom cloud, but only in the “stem.” In nuclear detonations (or just the really really big ones), the fire/redness can be throughout the entire smoke formation, the “cap” and the “stem.”
So this flawed set of physics we were given just keeps leading us in a circle, since the entire cloud itself is just a big contradiction! So, by default, I just have to go by the size of the mushroom cloud and all that fire in the stem to come to one easy conclusion. Chances of Survival for Actual Scenario: Tarrlok—0%. Amon—0%.
(Sorry for you Amon/Korra fans.)
So, science has done it. Looking at the odds, it is now very safe to call Amon and Tarrlok dead. And let’s not just “assume” them to be dead. I wouldn’t argue against them being classified as officially “deceased,” so at least for me, the debate is over. However, the writers are always known for being very clever, so we’ll never be able to know what tricks Bryan and Mike have up their sleeves . . .