In “Live and Let Dine,” Archer adds another to its ever-growing line of guest stars in the form of Anthony Bourdain. And, of all the people who’ve come through this show, Bourdain is undoubtedly the most baffling choice made thus far, which is partly why I wasn’t entirely sold on this week’s episode.
Shows often rely upon guest stars to draw in new viewers, except Archer‘s had a bit more integrity than that when it comes to choosing its guest spots. Either their inclusion is inevitable, such as with Burt Reynolds, or it’s a case of an actor wanting to have a bit of fun on the side, like with George Takei.
Bourdain, on the other hand, sticks out as a clear outlier. Like Reynolds before him, Bourdain spends the duration of the episode playing the easiest role of them all, himself; however, whereas those before him were either worked in seamlessly, or had their part downplayed, “Live and Let Dine” feels a tad like a half-hour promo for Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations.
His attitude and overall demeanor fit right in among the ISIS crowd, but that doesn’t stop it from not quite gelling. It’s all folded into the greater scheme of things in the episode’s closing moments, with Barry and Katya revealing to the viewers that they were behind it all, but that seems equally as contrived. Even Barry seems unsure of the point of it all.
Sure, he gets to step on Archer’s newfound dream of becoming a chef, as well as ruin things for ISIS, but it seems like a lot of work for not much payoff. More than anything, it felt like the writers getting a little too clever, especially with Bourdain’s closing quip about using the money his assassination netted him to fund a new show, which is obviously supposed to be a reference to the aforementioned No Reservations.
I laughed, yet when he was pushed out of the helicopter moments later by Katya, I started to get the feeling that it encapsulated the whole driving force of the episode, which was to let Bourdain really put the “star” in “guest star.” Because, as I already said, it felt more like a promo spot than it did your average episode of Archer.
Archer’s interplay with Bourdain alone is almost enough to justify the episode’s existence, but he and the rest of his ISIS cohorts still felt like secondary characters on their own show. If memory serves, Kreiger didn’t even get to make an appearance; and if I’m somehow wrong and he actually did, that says volumes about how brief and ineffective it was.
Likewise, everyone sans Archer was merely a dart board for Bourdain to aim his barbs at. Again, Bourdain is at home on Archer, and his presence was a welcome one, but I just wish it hadn’t come at the expense of the others.
Moreover, I wish the ending, where Malory’s fake threat turns out to be very real after all, wasn’t made predictable by Archer pulling precisely the same stunt before in the season one episode entitled “Mole Hunt.” In fact, I have the sinking suspicion that this wasn’t the first time it was used again since then. No examples spring immediately to mind, but I vaguely recall it coming into play at least once more between now and then.
So where does that leave “Live and Let Dine”? Viewed out of context, it works as well as any episode of Archer. But, judged based on how well it fit into the larger picture, I think it comes a tad short. Listen, I’m all for shows switching things up, just only if they still succeed in making it feel natural, something Reed and co. didn’t quite manage with this week’s episode.
That all being said, a “down” episode of Archer is still up on practically everything else on television, so you could say I’m being rather nit-picky. Except what else can I do with a show of as consistent a quality as this? Three and a half seasons in and I’m still waiting for that bomb of an episode every show seems to have at some point during its lifespan. And, if this keeps up, I’ll be waiting forever.