Anthony Bourdain's finale of ‘Parts Unknown’ in Bhutan leaves many fans teary eyed
In the episode aired on Sunday, Bourdain explores Bhutan with director Darren Aronofsky; there are references to happiness, pain and even death through the course of the episode.
CNN on Sunday released the season 11 finale of Anthony Bourdain's 'Parts Unknown,' where the late writer and travel show host explored Bhutan and its culture with acclaimed director Darren Aronofsky.
Given that the finale came just two weeks after Bourdain killed himself by hanging in a hotel in France, fans were predictably left teary eyed as they watched the beloved host partaking of regional delicacies and saying words like, “It is considered enlightening and therapeutic to think about death for a few minutes a day.”
Prior to the finale episode, CNN anchor Don Lemon paid his respects to Bourdain, speaking about the effect of his death on family, friends, and colleagues — as well as complete strangers — and noting the celebrated traveler had the "unique ability to shrink the world for his viewers."
“Anthony Bourdain was our window to the far-flung places of our planet, but he had a way of making what was so foreign seem so familiar by the time he was done weaving his words around the story,” Lemon said.
According to Lemon, Bourdain had that rare trait to make people realize that “what we have in common is still so much more powerful than our differences.”
Though the Bhutan episode had all of the aforementioned qualities, it was hard not to see it through the prism of Bourdain's suicide. Even the trailer for the episode starts off with talk of death and treating life like an illusion.
The episode is filled with shots of mouth-watering food and breath-taking views, but somehow, it’s hard to focus on them amidst some of the words Bourdain speaks, which take on additional meaning in the wake of his death.
In one scene, Bourdain and Aronofsky are seen sipping on a traditional Bhutanese drink, ara, and talking to environmentalist Benji Dormi about the contrast in their cultures’ relationship to happiness. Dormi talks about how the Bhutanese government operates under a philosophical principle known as Gross National Happiness, which Dormi compares to the “pursuit of happiness” in the American constitution.
With a sarcastic smile, Bourdain says, “We don’t actually believe that.” It’s excruciating to see him speak those words on screen just days after his suicide.
In yet another conversation, Aronofsky asks Bourdain, who never warmed up to the idea of vegetarianism, if he believes animals suffer. “Pain is pain,” Bourdain answers. “If you don’t respond to that, there’s something seriously wrong with you.” It’s hard not to think he’s referring to something deep within himself with these words.
At one point, staring out of the car window, the two contemplate life over the voiceover of Bourdain saying, “It is considered enlightening and therapeutic to think about death for a few minutes a day.” “You are reminded time and again not to take things too seriously," a man responds.
Evidently, the episode was filled with moments that will make you tear up. But there are also moments where you will be engulfed in wonder and laughter. Through the eyes of Bourdain and Aronofsky, you experience Bhutanese culture and food -- a mystical journey through a beautiful country.
The release of the episode was met with both enthusiasm and sadness. A Twitter user commented, “Watching @DarrenAronofsky & Anthony trek through Bhutan is hilarious, enlightening, breathtaking, original & enthralling, but ultimately unflinchingly gutting. Darren’s kind words are important, but it’s hard not to feel the loss.”
Some even thanked CNN for releasing the episode, commenting: “Thank you guys for doing this. I hope you will keep these available forever. You’ll never know what this means to us.”
Yet another Twitter user took the opportunity to share her love for the man himself. She wrote: “AB left a legacy that is more powerful than most rock stars and politicians. He was more of a statesmen than those we elect. He brought humanity showing us this crazy world. He laughed at America showing us it is far worse elsewhere, yet he showed us the beauty of others. RIP AB.”