Why Are Air Conditioners Killing So Many TV Characters In 2017?


Pop quiz. Air conditioners are:

A) Life-saving providers of cool air during the sweltering summer months, without which you would surely melt into a blob on the floor of your house or apartment.
B) Instruments of death that wait until we least expect it loosen themselves from high-rise windows and tumble down to Earth at a startling speed so they can land on our bodies and crush our bones and organs.
C) Fine.
D) Well I was gonna say A until I read B, but now that I’m thinking about it…

The correct answer here is some combination of A and C, pun not intended, although I retroactively stand by it. Despite the fears of many a big city sidewalk-walker, deaths via falling air conditioner are statistically improbable, at best. Injuries? Okay, sure. Gawker compiled a list of recent AC-related incidents in New York City, which range in result from “head wound that required hospitalization” to “a few broken bones,” but the last full-on AC-related death in New York City took place almost 30 years ago, in 1988, when a maintenance worker loosened a unit for repairs and sent it falling seven stories and onto the head of a poor pedestrian. One in 30 years. Not too bad.

In fact, to put that in perspective, in the period between 1978 and 1995, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated that there were “at least” 37 deaths caused by people tilting or rocking vending machines to retrieve snacks. That’s slightly over two people per year. While these two sets of data don’t line up perfectly (one takes into account only New York City, while the other looks at the entire country), I feel confident enough in my research — 10 minutes of Googling phrases like “people killed by falling air conditioners” — to state this conclusion: You will probably not die via falling air conditioner.

Unless… wait. Are you a character in critically-acclaimed television series? You are? Oh, well then please disregard everything I just said. You or someone you know will almost definitely die in some sort of AC-related incident. I say this because, as of today, just over 33 percent of the way through 2017, we have already seen three people on three different shows die this way. Three! That puts us on pace for nine this year, wildly outpacing even real world vending machine deaths. In the grand scheme of things, it’s practically an epidemic.

(Also of note: Kangaroos have been killed on two separate HBO dramas this year. On The Young Pope, protestors snuck into the Vatican gardens and murdered the kangaroo that Australia sent the pope as a gift. On The Leftovers, an Australian police chief hit one with his car and finished it off with a bullet. I don’t have figures on kangaroo homicide at my fingertips, but I’ve got to believe this is a statistical anomaly as well.)

Below, please find evidence and analysis of these three events, as well as suggestions for how you, a character on a critically-acclaimed television series, can avoid a similar fate. Although I guess the best advice is “be on a show that takes place before air conditioners were invented.” The rare situation where Game of Thrones is actually the safest show to be on. You might get killed by dragons or undead warriors or magical green fire or giants or poison or regular fire, but you will not be killed by a falling air conditioner. Take solace in that.

But for everyone else, please read closely. It’s good to be informed.

The Good Place

Episode: “Chidi’s Choice,” Season 1, Episode 10

Date: January 5

Circumstances: In a flashback, the death of “Good Place” resident Chidi is revealed to have been caused by a falling air conditioner, which struck him on the sidewalk as he stood paralyzed by indecision over what bar to go to with his friend.

Analysis: Of the three deaths, this one runs the closest to a straightforward “man on street killed in freak accident involving falling air conditioner” situation. The only mitigating factor is that the “accident” was his own doing, kind of, because he had whacked the same air conditioner earlier in a fit of frustration, which loosened it and led to its fall. Actually, I’m not sure if this fact makes it better or worse. On one hand, you should feel safer knowing that this is why it happened, because the simple takeaway is “don’t whack air conditioners.” But on the other hand, you don’t know what all these other lunatics out here are doing up in their apartments. They could be whacking their air conditioner right now. Hey! Stop that! Don’t you see what happened to Chidi?

Survival tip: Stop whacking air conditioners.


Episode: “The Law of Vacant Places,” Season 3, Episode 1

Date: April 19

Circumstances: After confronting his parole officer and his parole officer’s parolee girlfriend over a stamp robbery gone wrong, drug addict and small-time crook Maurice LeFay steps out of their apartment building and is promptly crushed like a bug by a falling air conditioner.

Analysis: The thing about this one is that it’s technically murder, even though the only people who know that were up in the apartment. As LeFay exited the building, the parole officer’s girlfriend, another parolee named Nikki Swango, counted down the time it would take him to descend the stairs and reach the entrance, and unscrewed the AC from its frame so they could plop it on his head at the precise moment. So again, it’s not so much an accident as it is the result of something the deceased did earlier, while in proximity to the air conditioner.

Survival tip: Don’t threaten shady criminal-types who live on the top floor on an apartment building, directly above the front entrance.

The Leftovers

Episode: “Crazy Whitefella Thinking,” Season 3, Episode 3

Date: April 30

Circumstances: Kevin Garvey, Sr. negotiates a deal with an Australian man named Christopher Sunday, in which Sunday will teach him a “rain song” if he agrees to fix a shoddy air conditioning unit. Unfortunately, while working on the AC unit, Kevin, Sr. is startled and falls off the roof, landing on Christopher Sunday and killing him.

Analysis: Okay, to be fair, this isn’t really like the others. The air conditioner itself stayed attached and it was the man working on it who tumbled down and killed the man below. You could make a good argument that this shouldn’t be included with the other two. The counter-argument, however, is that a) this is still a situation that involves a faulty air condition causing something to fall from the sky and kill a person, and b) maybe Christopher Sunday shouldn’t have let Kevin, Sr. near that thing anyway, seeing as Kevin, Sr. has a crazy-person beard and literally just got done telling him a wild rambling story about a mystical chicken named Tony. Nothing good was going to happen here. That should have been clear. In a way, he’s lucky it was just Kevin, Sr. that fell on him. All things considered, probabilities be damned, the odds were probably in favor of an air conditioner crushing someone to death in this situation. Uglier way to go. Just look at poor Maurice LeFay. Or, like, what’s left of him.

Survival tip: Do not let anyone work on your home fixtures if they just told you a wild rambling story about a mystical chicken named Tony.

Good luck, everyone!