By: Bill Cushing – Feb. 2021
In 2018, the original cast members of the iconic 1984 film ‘The Karate Kid’ reunited for the revival series ‘Cobra Kai.’ What resulted was a fresh, thoroughly enjoyable spin on the well-established franchise, as well as a surprisingly heartfelt look at the immense power the past can hold over us.
In season 1, we picked up the story of Daniel Larusso and Johnny Lawrence, 34 years after their clash in the All Valley Karate Tournament in 1984, in which Daniel beat Johnny with his famous crane kick. We then see how that event went on to affect their entire lives. Daniel’s life has turned out much like that tournament. He has become a winner. A beautiful family, and owner of the most successful car dealership in the valley. Johnny’s life hasn’t turned out so great. He and his son are estranged, he loses his job, wrecks his car, and lives in a rundown apartment.
Although Johnny appears to be on the road to redemption, after his next door neighbor Miguel asks for his help learning karate and inspires him to clean up his act, Johnny reopens the Cobra Kai dojo. Meanwhile Daniel has taken Johnny’s son Robby under his wing, teaching him what he learned from Mr. Miyagi, just enhancing the rivalry between Johnny and Daniel.
In Season 2, we saw the return of the evil Sensei John Kreese and his continued attempt to influence Johnny and take over Cobra Kai to exact revenge against Larusso culminating in an all-out brawl at the local high school between Cobra Kai and Miyagi-Do.
The current season, Season 3 picks up in the aftermath of that violent brawl. Kreese has taken back the Cobra Kai dojo as his own, and Johnny, mostly still down on his luck, has a message from his high school sweetheart, Ali (Elisabeth Shue), waiting for him on Facebook.
This setup gives the characters a lot to deal with in Season 3. Add to that, the brawl has sent a ripple through the community and has caused Daniel’s business to start to struggle. In turn, Daniel travels to Okinawa to meet with the company executives. While there he meets up with friends and foes from ‘The Karate Kid Part II’ film.
We also get a glimpse at Kreese’s backstory. Showing us how he became the man he is today, exploring his past as a young man and his experiences in Vietnam during the war. All culminating in a wild season finale.
‘Cobra Kai’ never takes itself too seriously. Many of the scenes and plot points are kind of silly, but those scenes are done so ‘tongue-in-cheek’ that it’s hard not to be amused by them.
Additionally, throughout the series there are some great action sequences, and heartfelt moments that help viewers care about these characters. The show is absolutely loaded with ‘easter eggs’ and references to the films, making it especially nostalgic for fans of the original movies.
The cast does a tremendous job rejuvenating these beloved characters. Ralph Macchio is excellent playing a much more mature and wiser Daniel. Martin Kove is a great villain, playing Kreese with a terrifically campy performance.
The kids in the cast are equally as good, doing a great job stepping into an existing world as newcomers, which can’t be easy.
But ‘Cobra Kai’ is really William Zabka’s series. His wonderful dramatic/comedic performance as Johnny is what drives the show. He turns Johnny from the bully he was in the films to a very likeable, sympathetic character.
At a time when so many franchises are getting reboots or revivals, ‘Cobra Kai’ has stood out by surpassing all expectations and has become a great continuation of its original source material. Co-creators Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg, and Josh Heald deliver a great love letter to the fans of these beloved films and characters.
‘Cobra Kai’ is loads and loads of fun and worth the watch. It has been renewed for a 4th season and all seasons can be found to stream on Netflix.
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