By Dalton Grijalva
Cobra Kai is the sequel to the Karate Kid movies set thirty years in the future featuring the original actors, as well as some fresh new faces.
The show was originally released as a Youtube Red as an exclusive in 2018. Just like its main character Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), it finds new life on Netflix.
Johnny has been down on his luck and also frankly a piece of hot garbage ever since he got Crane Kicked in the face by Daniel Larousso (Ralph Machio) and almost choked out by his Sensei, Kreese (Martin Kove). He’s become a handyman alcoholic, a deadbeat dad, and is quickly turning from riches to rags. While we’re led to believe in the original Karate Kid films that Johnny and his Cobra Kai gang are the bullies, when we look through Johnny’s eyes, we see Danny as someone who came in disrespecting him multiple times, and ruining everything for him.
It’s this back and forth that drives the plot forward. Johnny Lawrence isn’t a bad guy; he’s a man who’s made many mistakes and wants to atone by doing better for his new generation of students. Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) is actually what makes Johnny want to start back up Cobra Kai. He sees a kid getting bullied and believes it’s his responsibility to teach his brand of karate to a new generation.
Also in contrast to the original, Daniel isn’t this clean cut goody two shoes underdog. In fact, throughout the show, there seems to be this underlying anger issue with him. He starts his school because he believes that Cobra Kai is dangerous in both ideas and practice. Daniel’s struggle is not to change his dojo around but to live up to the high moral standards of Mr. Miyagi.
“Strike first, Strike Hard, No mercy” is the motto of Cobra Kai. The politically incorrect humor never crosses a line but is actually a breath of fresh air in an increasingly PC world. Johnny in particular is very out of touch with the modern world. Seeing him interact with his students is both a delight and hilarious. He is learning how to be a better person through them because even though they’re cobra kais they all start off as nerds and the bullied.
Each character never comes across as shallow and one dimensional, oftentimes bringing two generations together you sacrifice one for the other (looking at you, Sequel Trilogy). Having the format of a show allows not just each generation but each character to shine thoroughly.
The show wouldn’t be a part of the Karate kid universe if it didn’t have Karate. The fight choreography as well as the stunts are done excellently, with both the season 1 and 2 finales being particular highlights.
Since seasons 1 and 2 are available on Netflix, now would be a perfect time to enjoy them as season 3 is just around the corner.