Listen to ‘The Avatar Returns’ Episode 43

The Avatar Returns episode 43 is available for listening or download right here and on iTunes here.

The Avatar Returns phone tree has been activated and we’re answering the call as we head into the back half of The Legend of Korra Book Four. In chapter 407, “Reunion,” the band is back together…mostly. And it feels so good…mostly. Wu is down; Korra and Mako are on each others’ nerves; and Bolin lavabends the taste right out of some mecha suit mouths. In 408, “Remembrances,” cue the twinkling flashback music as, you guessed it Golden Girls, it’s a clip show. But oh what a glorious clip show it is! Chibi Mako tells his romantic origin story to Chibi Wu; Korra and Asami share some tea and reminisce; and Varrick shares the tale of the Greatest Mover Ever Made! And finally, in 409, we journey “Beyond the Wilds” to poke things with sticks while Korra finally confronts her inner demons, which bear a striking resemblance to a hippie prison sage Zaheer.

However, the bulk of our discussion tonight focuses on the hundreds of possible spin-off properties we hosts are dying to see in the future, including the possible Varrick/Bolin road movies, the anarchist PSAs of Zaheer, and the “Fearsome Foursome Phone Tree Saga!” (We also talk a little about the new Mystery Science Theater 3000 revival and the anime juggernaut that is Your Name. But really it’s all about that phone tree.)

Next: the penultimate episode of our show discussions. Only two more podcasts focused on The Legend of Korra before we put a bow on the whole TARP project with our big blowout wrap party episode. So next week we’ll be looking at chapters 410, “Operation Beifong,” and 411, “Kuvira’s Gambit.”

(Show notes for The Avatar Returns episode 43.)

Listen to ‘Gobbledygeek’ Episode 306, “Unmaking Soup”

Gobbledygeek episode 306, “Unmaking Soup,” is available for listening or download right here and on iTunes here.

This week, Paul and Arlo turn on and tune into the wonders and terrors of the superhuman mind by taking a gander at the first season of Legion. The FX series, developed by Fargo‘s Noah Hawley and theoretically set in the X-Men universe, is unlike most other superheroic media. David Haller is either schizophrenic, an extremely powerful telepathic/telekinetic mutant, or both. Witnessed through his eyes, the world is fractured, bizarre, disturbing, and a tad surreal. As such, the typical X-Men plot–David is rescued from a mutant-hunting government organization known as D3 by a group of rebels with a Magneto-esque leader–is given a swift kick in the pants. The boys discuss this inventive telling of a simple story, the show’s many visual flourishes, why it’s a powerful exploration of mental health, and Aubrey Plaza’s revelatory turn as a 50-year-old man. Plus, a surprise Rick and Morty pre-empts Samurai Jack, overjoying one of our hosts and causing considerable frustration in the other; and the boys rave about the fifth season of another brilliant FX drama, The Americans.

Next: film critic and horror expert Jess Byard joins Paul and Arlo to ask, “Where has all the good sci-fi horror gone?”

(Show notes for “Unmaking Soup.”)

Listen to ‘The Avatar Returns’ Episode 42

The Avatar Returns episode 42 is available for listening or download right here and on iTunes here.

This week on The Avatar Returns, it’s a Badass Bender Beatdown as The Legend of Korra Book Four continues. In this corner, wearing the simple green tunic, the Ever-Lovin’ Blue-Eyed Avatar (we still have one of those?), Korra! And in this corner, sporting a stylish Earth Empire ensemble of death metal, dancin’ and singin’ and movin’ to the groovin’, the Great Uniter herself, Kuvira!

But first we take a road trip with the Air Kids in chapter 404, “The Calling” as Aang’s grandkids finally get the spotlight. And Toph proves why she’s a master storyteller. Then in chapter 405, “Enemy at the Gates,” Zhu Li does the mecha suit thing better than anyone else, and poor dim Bolin slooooooowly starts to figure stuff out. And finally, in chapter 406, “Battle of Zaofu,” Kuvira smacks the taste right outta Korra’s mouth. LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE!

Paul murders Cousin Oliver after only one week. Eric murders a decades-old Brady Bunch meme. And Arlo murders any sense of even the most basic professionalism and respect for our audience. (Turn off your damn phone notifications, you ass!)

Next: for hopefully the very last time we take a week off to catch our breath. You guys just don’t understand how difficult it is to sit still for two hours once a week and talk into a microphone about things that we love passionately. It’s exhausting and just way too much to expect us pampered podcasters to pull off with any kind of consistency. So we’ll take one last pause in the action to prepare ourselves for an uninterrupted run through to the end. Back the week of April 12th we will be discussing The Legend of Korra chapters 407, “Reunion,” 408, “Remembrances,” and 409, “Beyond the Wilds.”

(Show notes for The Avatar Returns episode 42.)

Listen to ‘The Avatar Returns’ Episode 41

The Avatar Returns episode 41 is available for listening or download right here and on iTunes here.

Book Four: Balance begins as we move into the final season of The Legend of Korra. Time jumps in fiction tend to be something of a mixed bag, but as our story picks up three years after the end of Book Three it quickly becomes apparent the device works like a charm here, in what Arlo dubs the strongest start to any season in the entire Avatar Universe. In chapter 401, “After All These Years,” Korra is missing and former Zaofu Captain of the Guard Kuvira has become “The Great Uniter,” using military force to bring order to the chaos in the Earth Kingdom in the wake of the Queen’s death. Chapter 402, “Korra Alone” answers where exactly the Avatar has disappeared to, and why. (Hint: it involved Nega-Korra.) And finally it’s Toph love in chapter 403, “The Coronation” as the O.B. Original Beifong returns to go all Yoda on Korra’s ass.

Paul introduces the podcast’s version of Cousin Oliver. He and Eric both wax rhapsodic about Star Wars Rebels. And Arlo compares Mako to Vin Diesel. Not in a good way. (IS there a good way?)

Next: the next three chapters of Book Four; 404, “The Calling,” 405, “Enemy at the Gates,” and 406, “The Battle of Zaofu.”

(Show notes for The Avatar Returns episode 41.)

Listen to ‘The Avatar Returns’ Episode 40

Art from ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender – Vol. 4: Smoke and Shadow’ by Gurihiru.

The Avatar Returns episode 40 is available for listening or download right here and on iTunes here.

This week, a break between seasons of The Legend of Korra means a return to the days of old as we look at the fourth collection of the Dark Horse Comics Avatar: The Last Airbender series, Volume 4: Smoke and Shadow. Having reunited with his long lost mother Ursa, Zuko returns with her to the Fire Nation Capital City (which really needs a name) and wackiness ensues, some of which serves to remind us that Avatar has actually really always been The Zuko Show. Even with Mom back in the picture, daddy (and uncle) issues continue to dominate the story. Mai, Ty Lee, and Suki finally get some much-needed page time, even as we lose Katara and Sokka (and the comic relief that Sokka provides). We discuss how relevant this volume feels today with its look at totalitarianism and the struggle to balance security and freedom. And Azula is back and feelin’ good with a brand new Sisterhood of Evil Mental Patients in tow.

Speaking of character development, Arlo finally achieves his own Avatar State as a podcaster. And Eric makes a Hamilton reference! I’m Paul Smith and you’re listening to All Benders Considered on NPR.*

(*) Not really, but…yeah.

Next: the end is coming. This is it, we begin our exploration of the final season of The Legend of Korra with Book Four: Balance. We’re kicking it off with chapters 401, “After All These Years,” 402, “Korra Alone,” and 403, “The Coronation.” (And we are so deeply, deeply sorry for Arlo’s predictions on what those episodes will be about.)

(Show notes for The Avatar Returns episode 40.)

Listen to ‘The Avatar Returns’ Episode 39

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The Avatar Returns episode 35 is available for listening or download right here and on iTunes here.

This is a big one, kids. Team The Avatar Returns assembles to breakdown their thoughts on the final four chapters of The Legend of Korra, Book Three: Change. There’s a lot to cover, starting with the typical children’s television tropes of on-camera assassinations and Boxer Rebellions when Zaheer proclaims “Long Live the Queen” in chapter 310. In 311, “Ultimatum,” he may possibly have bitten off more than he can chew when he challenges Tenzin to a slap fight after airbending school. Bolin learns that the answers were inside of him all along in 312, “Enter the Void.” And Korra She-Hulks out all over Zaheer’s face in the final showdown of 313, “Venom of the Red Lotus.”

Paul gets weepy over the incredible fight choreography this season. Eric is positively giddy with anticipation for Book Four: Balance. And Arlo drops the knowledge we’ve all needed about Shadow the Hedgehog.

Next: as always the break between seasons of Korra gives us another opportunity to revisit old friends by exploring the official Avatar: The Last Airbender graphic novel series from Dark Horse Comics. This time we reconnect with the Aang Gang as they face Vol. 4 – Smoke and Shadow.

(Show notes for The Avatar Returns episode 39.)

Listen to ‘Gobbledygeek’ Episode 301, “The X-Files: Season 4 (feat. Wesley Mead)”

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Gobbledygeek episode 301, “The X-Files: Season 4 (feat. Wesley Mead),” is available for listening or download right here and on iTunes here.

Just in time for everyone’s distrust in government to be at an all-time high, Wesley “Wezzo” Mead joins Paul and Arlo once again to discuss Chris Carter’s seminal sci-fi series The X-Files. This time, the gang sets their sights on season 4, and opinion seems to be divided on just how well the season holds together. Is this where the mythology stuff starts to really go off the rails? Does Scully’s cancer make for a compelling dramatic throughline? And most importantly of all, is there an obvious heir to Darin Morgan’s throne (a couple suggestions are thrown out)? Plus, Wezzo laments the progression of Brexit, while Paul and Arlo sift through the Trump Administration’s mounting atrocities; and on a happier, sillier note, the gang has a blast with The Lego Batman Movie.

Next: this year’s Four-Color Flashback exploration of Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s Y: The Last Man continues. Jeff Bridges poet Donora Rihn joins Paul and Arlo to discuss Vol. 2: Cycles.

(Show notes for “The X-Files: Season 4.”)