A recap of some of what happens in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004): Ned Plimpton (Owen Wilson) makes his way into Steve Zissou's (Bill Murray) life as Steve's long lost son from an affair with a woman who has since died. Toward the end of the film, the cold and intimidating Eleanor Zissou (Anjelica Huston) reveals that her husband Steve is infertile, aligning with subtle cues throughout the film that Steve and Ned have different underlying characteristics.
If you check out the clip here, we find that after Steve and Ned have a bonding moment midair in the helicopter (which they have flown before without any problems), there is a mechanical failure, causing the helicopter to go down. Steve comes out with cuts and bruises but Ned appears to sustain a massive laceration below the waist, which ultimately leads to his death.
As his casket is thrown overboard in the clip, we see Eleanor Zissou smoking in the bubble underwater away from the packed ceremony. Given that Eleanor
- is the brains of Team Zissou,
- knows that Steve is infertile (and thinks Ned is up to something),
is it possible that Eleanor orchestrated Ned's death?
She could have tampered with the helicopter to cause a failure and crash land, with injuries occurring primarily to the pilot. On the other hand, we have no indication of any malicious intent by Ned. In fact, he seems genuinely interested in being a part of Steve's life. However, if Ned's death was indeed just a freak accident, the film does NOT mention the infertility again and it seems like a superfluous detail. Thoughts?