REVIEW: ‘Cobra Kai,’ Seasons One and Two

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Cobra Kai

The first two seasons of Cobra Kai have been officially released on Netflix. The show, which is a prequel to the Karate Kid series, was originally a YouTube Premium show, which is where the two seasons first aired. However, it was announced back in June 2020 that Netflix acquired the streaming rights to the first two seasons and will release the third season.  I’ve been a big fan of the Karate Kid series since I watched the first film when I was younger. I was immediately captivated by the action and the overall premise of the film. When I heard that the series would continue with Cobra Kai, I felt like I was a kid again and was left with excitement.

Season one of Cobra Kai establishes that the focus will be put on Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), who seems to still be reeling from his loss to Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) at the All Valley Karate Tournament. However, things start to change for Lawrence when he rescues Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) from a group of bullies. Feeling inspired, Lawrence decides to open up the Cobra Kai dojo in order to teach Miguel and other students karate. This attracts the attention of LaRusso, who is missing the balance he once had in his life ever since the death of Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita). Lawrence and LaRusso reignite their rivalry, which in turn affects everyone around them. Meanwhile, Miguel falls for Samantha LaRusso (Courtney Henggeler), but things get complicated when Johnny’s estranged son, Robby (Tanner Buchanan) arrives.

Cobra Kai season two deals with the fallout of the final fight between Miguel and Robby in the karate tournament. John Kreese (Martin Kove), the former sensei of Cobra Kai visits Lawrence to congratulate him on his dojo winning the tournament. Kreese asks Lawrence if he could come back to be a sensei at the dojo, which he ultimately agrees to. New students joined the Cobra Kai dojo after watching the tournament, including Tony (Peyton List), who gets close with Miguel. LaRusso, seeing potential in Robby, decides to open his own dojo and takes Robbie and Samantha as his students. Meanwhile, Samantha and Robby start their relationship, much to Miguel’s jealousy.

Cobra Kai

As much as I enjoyed the original movie series, I always felt like there was a lot more to Johnny’s story than just being a bully. Luckily, Cobra Kai expands on this to great lengths. The show focuses more on his story and what’s happened since his loss against LaRusso. You’re meant to empathize with Lawrence, but there’s also a reason to not like his character. That constant shift in being a likable and unlikable character isn’t necessarily a new element in a TV series, but the way that Zabka portrays it is fantastic. You always know why he decides to do something rather than leaving it up to the audience to find out. For instance, he decides to open up the dojo to help Miguel and to get back any sense of the days when he was on top. I found myself rooting for him while also feeling a bit weird cheering on someone like him.

Although Cobra Kai mainly focuses on Johnny’s story, the show relies heavily on nostalgia. That’s not to say it was a bad thing, especially since the show probably would not have worked had Macchio not come back to play the role of LaRusso. There’s also archival footage from the original series, reminding viewers what happened in the movies. I understand that the show is meant to focus on a new story, but it’s always great to remember where the entire series came from. The original Karate Kid film was so iconic that it would be strange to not make references to it. Fortunately, it doesn’t go completely overboard in how much it relies on the films to carry the show’s plot forward.

Much like the original Karate Kid focuses on the rivalry between Lawrence and LaRusso, Cobra Kai focuses on Miguel and Robby’s rivalry. Part of their rivalry stems from Samantha while the other comes from Robby’s hatred for his dad. I wish that their rivalry would focus more on the latter rather than relying heavily on them fighting for Samantha. It simplifies the entire plot that could have been much more impactful had it stayed between who was training Miguel and Robby. Given the way season two ended, the love triangle may be dropped and a new angle will hopefully be introduced. This is a great step for the show, rather than continuing to focus on the love triangle.

I was a bit worried about how the fights would look before the first season came out. However, I was completely blown away by them and the lengths the cast went to make them look great. The fights in season one felt like one that would take place in the film series, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It added to the nostalgia while also erasing any fears I had in regards to how the fights would look. Season two, however, had even bigger and better fight scenes. I could feel the animosity between Cobra Kai and LaRusso’s dojo whenever the students faced against each other. The final fight of the season holds nothing back, showing just how dangerous this rivalry between the two dojos really is.

Cobra Kai

I’m not sure whether the cliffhanger in season two was a good idea. I mainly say this due to the current state of the world because of COVID-19, and season three has already been confirmed, but had it not, the cliffhanger would’ve been a horrible ending to the show. Without going too deep into spoilers, it would’ve been such a dark ending that neither the film series nor season one ever went to. I hope that season three teases a potential new season but also doesn’t rely on a cliffhanger.

Overall, I really enjoyed the first two seasons of Cobra Kai. The show has a definite sense of nostalgia but doesn’t rely on it too heavily. I quite enjoyed seeing the show focus on Lawrence’s life rather than going back to LaRusso. However, that doesn’t mean LaRusso isn’t an integral part of the show. The fight scenes got better as the series progressed, and the rivalries throughout the seasons, really the heart of the show, progress to great heights. Nothing is ever out of place nor is anything rushed. Season three has a lot that it can do with its characters, and I for one am excited to see what happens.

Seasons one and two of Cobra Kai are streaming now on Netflix.

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    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

I really enjoyed watching the first two seasons of Cobra Kai. The show has a definite sense of nostalgia but doesn’t heavily rely on it to affect the entire plot.