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

  1. is the brains of Team Zissou,
  2. 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?


1 Answer 1


First of all, great theory! This to me seems like a plausible situation. You are correct about Eleanor's demeanor towards Ned, and to a certain extent towards Steve while he gets to know him. The helicopter WAS known to be ill serviced, as was pointed out by Steve on the first flight with Ned. Ned seems to have pointed out the problem, a loose pin of some sort I believe. With that knowledge, we would have to assume that as soon as they got back to the ship, the helicopter was serviced for that specific problem.

HOWEVER, What if it was indeed serviced and working though out the years, but by someone that isn't as capable. Let's not forget that most, if not all of the crew wern't technically cut out for the job in the first place. So this makes me think three things:

  1. The helicopter was just out of the range of the crews understanding, and they "made repairs" as best as they could and called it fixed.

(Ex.) The heads in the boiler room were in really bad condition, and keep in mind, this is something that is absolutely necessary, and yet, it was not fixed right away, likely due to funding.

  1. The helicopter was tampered with by Klaus.

(Ex.) Klaus thought of Steve as his own father, and was there way before Ned. We see how jealous he gets when Ned gets brought on. And with Ned finally out of the picture, he will be the only "son".

  1. STEVE ZISSOU IS OUT OF HIS MIND!!!! Throughout the movie, we see him as someone who's body of work, and accolades take precedence over everything in his life. What if he purposely puts his crew in perilous situations at all times, in order to capture the most spontaneous footage. From sailing around the oceans in a ship that's about to fall apart, to purposely going straight into pirate waters, is there nothing that he won't do?!?!

Of course... this is just conjecture.

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