First and foremost, I’m a HUGE fan of the Karate Kid movies, especially Karate Kid 1 and Karate Kid 3; those two are my favorite movies from the entire series. Karate Kid 2 was ok; I wasn’t too crazy about it. The Next Karate Kid with Hilary Swank was forgettable at best. The Jackie Chan reboot was garbage; it should have never been made.
The first week that Kobra Kai season 1 dropped on YouTube back in 2018, I immediately subscribed (Free Trial), and I binged through the whole thing in a few days. There are 10 episodes per season, coming in at roughly 30 minutes long…pretty easy to binge through the entire series in a few sittings.
Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), our two main characters from Karate Kid 1, are back; they are now middle age, and neither one has gotten over their high school rivalry.
Jhonny struggles with adult life; He has a hard time keeping a steady job — he is divorced, lives in a dump of an apartment, and his son hates him. Zabka gives an incredible performance, giving Johnny some humanity that the original film kind of flirted with. And in Kobra Kai, we get to explore Johnny’s background much deeper, getting a better look at his home-life growing up. We also see how he views the world around him; He seems stuck in time; He displays sexists and racist views. He is angry, frustrated, hasn’t gotten over losing Ali (Elizabeth Shue), and still sees his high school days as the highlight of his life.
On the other hand, Daniel has built a successful life for himself; he owns a local car dealership while using his background in Karate as a marketing tool. He has a lovely home and a beautiful family.
There is this revisionist aspect to the Johnny Lawrence character that has provoked plenty of debate online — reshaping Johnny as the real victim and painting Daniel LaRusso as the instigator and, in a way, the original bully of the entire series. It was Daniel who threw the first punch at the beach in the original Karate Kid movie, which prompted Johnny to defend himself and whoop Daniel’s ass — which was entirely understandable. It was Daniel who continued to provoke Johnny when he used a water hose at the high school Halloween dance and prompted another beat down.
I can see how there is a case for that argument; Daniel always struck me as a bit of a brat in the movies. Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) always seemed to figure out a way to bring balance into Daniel’s life, and in the absence of Mr. Miyagi, we see Daniel reverting to those bratty ways. The endless discussions on these characters are among the many reasons why these two characters and the Karate Kid movies have such enduring power.
Season 1 is mostly about Johnny and his newfound life-purpose by bringing back Kobra Kai Dojo and having a new crop of students following his teachings, which in a big way are the teachings of John Kreese (Martin Kove). The relationship between sensei Lawrence and his top-apprentice, Miguel (Xolo Maridueña), is central to the plotline.
Season 2 is essentially Dojo vs. Dojo—Kobra Kai vs. Miyagi-Do. Daniel starts his own dojo with 2 students; Robby (Tanner Buchanan) and his daughter Samantha (Mary Mouser). Their main objective is to combat the rise of Kobra kai in the valley.
The power of mentorship is a crucial component here. We get to see how passing down knowledge positively or negatively can have a life-changing effect on young pupils. We see how the outcasts and the nerds become bullies by being taught Kobra Kai’s “Strike first, strike hard, no mercy” philosophy.
The cast of young misfits is excellent. Eli/Hawk (Jacob Bertrand) and his rivalry with his former bestie Demetri (Gianni Decenzo) is an engaging sub-plot. Miguel’s mom Carmen (Vanessa Rubio), adds a compelling dynamic to the storyline, and I think season 3 should explore her background a bit further. I sense Carmen or even Tory (Peyton List) has a connection to Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith) or Mike Barnes (Sean Kanan), the two villains from Karate Kid 3. Tory shows up out of nowhere, and all of a sudden, she becomes the clear-cut young villainous bully the show was needing.
Kobra Kai is nostalgic TV at its finest. It pulls away from the 80s effectively, but it still embraces 80s culture beautifully. Exceptionally well produced and well written. It is one of the most enjoyable and satisfying binge-watching experiences of recent memory.
Five out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿
Cobra Kai (Season 1-2). Streaming on NETFLIX