Cobra Kai is worth binge watching. Each season has its own build up and self contained story themes. Though the important theme is redemption. All the characters have faults whether past or present that they want to fix. Each season has a set up period for the first couple of episodes and then really builds up to the penultimate episode, where something big happens. The thrills, the set up and the foreshadowing of what’s to come makes it an captivating show.
What makes Cobra Kai more addictive to me is my connection to martial arts, though Wing Chun than Karate, and how I grew up with it being a big part of my life. For me, it makes complete sense that these characters are solely focused on Karate and make it their central point of focus.
Spoilers to follow.
Season 3 was the first season produced under Netflix. There was a long hiatus between the second and third seasons, but it was worth it to see the aftermath of the big school brawl and what was to come for characters like Johnny, Daniel, Miguel, Robby, Sam and Tory. Sadly with the increased number of characters, some of the cast in season two did not return in season three.
Season 3 manages to bring Johnny and Miguel closer as Miguel is recovering from his severe back injury, Daniel goes to Okinawa to save his business (which is also Mr Miyagi’s hometown), the rivalry between Sam/Tory and Eli/Demitri intensifies, and we learn more about John Kreese and his history. In this season in particular, fans of the original Karate Kid get to see more notable guests appear to provide some guidance to Johnny and Daniel from the original film series. These moments are worth it as they manage to provide some different perspectives and closure.
By the end of season 3, we realize that John Kreese is a real McCoy as the villain of the show. As an intimidating sensei, we get a good glimpse into this character, behind just being the bad guy of the show, and see him through a different lens. Thanks to the flashbacks to young John throughout season 3, we realized how multilayered this character is and how he developed from a bullied youth to a hardened, embittered war veteran. The loss of his parents, his girlfriend Betsy, and one of his closest friends during the Vietnam War and also his treatment by the public at large on his return made him into the person that is he in Cobra Kai. We can understand why he vowed to never lose again and wanted to instill strength and discipline through karate.
Season 4 introduced some welcome changes and managed to redeem a few characters, yet also set up new stories for characters to explore in future seasons. For starters, Terry Silver, John Kreese’s old friend and war veteran and villian of Karate Kid III returns, and a new kid on the block Kenny Payne who is subject to intense bullying by none other than Anthony LaRusso, Daniel’s son, and his friends manages to create a parallel story where being bullied can lead to the dark side. Both these characters add a lot to the story in that Terry manages to bring in a whole lot of money into Cobra Kai and manages to bring back so much of his character from Karate Kid III, while Kenny’s story is of an innocent young man growing up and being corrupted by Cobra Kai’s teaching.
I think Terry Silver probably says one of the most important lines in the show, “everyone has a weakness”, even to John Kreese (though to John’s displeasure). Weakness appears several times throughout the season in the form of Daniel not being able to accept Eagle Fang Karate as a legitimate style, Johnny’s desire to do anything to defeat Cobra Kai, and John Kreese’s connection with Johnny. Though overcoming each weakness in this season seems to help each of these characters grow even further when Daniel realizes the value of being an the offensive, Johnny in his failure in Miguel, and John Kreese in learning not to repeat the mistakes of his past.
What season 4 also does well is give all the characters something to do. I really enjoyed the Tory and Sam rivalry and appreciated even more Tory’s difficult upbringing and family and how she manages to fight back. (I ended up rooting from Tory by the end of the season.) In this season, thanks to all the setting up of the story and strong performances, I was happy to see Kenny learn from Robby and get his comeuppance against his bullies, Eli/Hawk achievements in the All Valley Tournament (it was an amazing fight by the way and how he finds a new partner), Miguel take his stand and doing what he thinks he right, and seeing Aisha and Stingray make their appearances.
With what happens at the end of season 4, I just wonder where things will go from here. For example, will we see Miguel in season 5, does Robby and his dad Daniel team up, what will happen between Terry Silver and John Kreese, and whether Tory and Sam will become friends one day. I think some characters will need to leave to give other characters a chance to shine so that they don’t overstay their welcome. In any event, I will be excited for season 5 when it comes around.
Cobra Kai started as a YouTube Original and was exclusive to people who subscribed to YouTube’s premium service. Fortunately, given that YouTube Original is now defunct and this was just an incredible series that the whole series, including seasons 1 and 2, is now on Netflix.
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