cobra kai

Cobra Kai season 5

This also doubles as a Chozen appreciation post, what a dude. “Unhinged trained killer who is also pretty much just a weird uncle” is just one of my favourite character archetypes ever.

(Spoilers ahead!)

This was a good season that very much felt like a final one. Daniel and Johnny are finally friends, they’re healing their relationships with their kids, I’m not really sure where else they can go from here. Unless they revisit the plot with Miguel’s biological father, it is a little odd that it petered out so fast.

Some folks are saying that Hilary Swank’s character from The New Karate Kid (I’ve never seen it, sorry!) might be back in the future and I like that idea simply because Hilary Swank is a great actress and I haven’t seen her in anything for a while. Also this season brought back Robyn Lively as Jessica and revealed she was Amanda’s cousin which was the last thing I expected, so it’s not like they couldn’t do it in an organic way if they wanted.

Fundamentally this is SUCH a silly show, all full of big fights and prison breaks and blatant fanservice but I still love it to pieces because it takes itself so deadly seriously. These guys deliver speeches about karate tournaments like they’re deciding the fate of the human race. It’s amazing. Yeah, I reckon they can pull off one or two more seasons.

Cobra Kai season 4

(vague spoilers ahead)

In the year between season 3 and season 4 I finally got around to watching the original three Karate Kid movies (having only ever seen the Jackie Chan/Jaden Smith remake) and they were very good. Yes, even the third one which I gather is widely disliked in some quarters. So I had a much better understanding of who Terry Silver was, for a start! Also, wow, Thomas Ian Griffith has aged staggeringly well hasn’t he?

It’s a shame to think that Daniel, the cute plucky hero from those three movies grew up to be a shitty parent but he really did. Finally he gets a harsh calling-out on it in this season when a child psychologist (played by Ralph Macchio’s actual daughter!) sits down with him and Amanda and starts asking the hard questions. She is absolutely correct in that the Larusso parents love their daughter more than their son, or at least show their daughter much more love, and this season makes it clear that Anthony turning out to be a shitty, spoiled bully is almost entirely the fault of his mum and dad.

Towards the end of this season we see Daniel finally try and discipline his son instead of just ignoring him, snapping his ipad in half with his bare hands, but it’s occurred to me this isn’t good parenting either: really all that will do is teach Anthony that violence is the fastest way to solving your problems. Not great, especially considering every single person in this show defaults to karate whenever they have the slightest issue with anyone else.

I’m looking very forward to seeing that parental relationship evolve, as well as all the other parental relationships in the show: Johnny and Miguel, Johnny and Robbie, Miguel and his biological father (who I really hope turns out to be a new character instead of someone we already know, as some people are suggesting), Sam and her parents, oh and I guess Amanda and Tory sort of almost counts as a parental relationship now too.

It was nice to see the tradition of “unexpected character pops up at the very end of the show” continue! I won’t spoil who it was, although I do admit that with all the multiverse shenanigans going on in media lately I half expected a portal to open and Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan to walk out.

Cobra Kai season 3

Well that was a nice New Years surprise. (I forgot it was coming out so early.) It continues to be a very entertaining, surprisingly insightful show. I love how it drives riiiiight up to common, rather tired tropes and then subverts them. Daniel not even thinking of cheating on his wife with his attractive, single childhood friend, for example, or Miguel not being able to overcome paralysis just because he wants it enough. (God, do I hate that one.)

It was interesting to see Kreese’s backstory, nice fakeout right at the beginning with him being the victim instead of the bully. (Fun fact! The guy playing the bully is Martin Kove’s son! Great fakeout there.) I’m glad that the show positions him and his attitude as abusive no matter his tragic history, when he starts talking about “the snowflake generation” you’re supposed to loathe or at best pity him. He’s a child abuser, what else could you call him?

Really the only major flaw with this season is that it makes no sense why the police aren’t involved. Even discounting Kreese’s actions towards his students (no you can’t do that in a real karate dojo!!) you’ve got the kids stealing from the games arcade, the surprisingly overlooked issue of Hawk breaking Demitri’s arm, the THROWING PEOPLE THROUGH WINDOWS… Also where are the parents and why aren’t they getting involved? Shouldn’t Demitri’s parents be raising hell that they gotta pay for a broken arm? It’s not a dealbreaker or anything but I wish they’d address it.

Also Hawk’s “redemption” was a little too fast for me. Ugh, I hate that kid.

Apart from those quibbles I had a tremendously good time watching and I’m so annoyed that now I’ll have to wait a year or two before Season 4.

Cobra Kai season two

Everybody was kung-fu fighting!

Those kicks were fast as lightening!

…In fact it was a little bit frightening.

So, now I’ve seen all of season 2. Although still not the original Karate Kid movie, I’m sorry! I will get to it I promise.

This series is so good. I keep running into reviews of it which say, “I expected this series to be a ridiculous nostalgia-fest and it’s the exact opposite.” At times it feels like a Greek tragedy which just happens to involve karate. The awfulness which happens in the season 2 finale, you could see it a mile away. Just talk to each other and stop acting like children! Put your petty differences aside and try and help out the kids in your care! Get them away from toxic influences including your own! But they didn’t and now everything is ruined.

There’s one thing I really hope the show picks up in season 3 and that’s how much both Daniel and Johnny have failed at parenting their sons. Look at Anthony! He’s a spoiled brat who barely says a word which isn’t demanding or antagonistic. You get the feeling his parents, with their busy careers, never had time for him and just handed him whatever would keep him happy. And in a show about how the older generation can ruin the next one, I hope we learn more about what’s gone on there and see Daniel try and fix it. Because that kid is a goddamn powder keg.

Another kid who is a goddamn powder keg is Hawk, he’s gone way beyond regular teenage posturing. I appreciate that this season showed us he always had anger issues and Cobra Kai just pushed him over the edge. (Probably straight-up Johnny’s fault, that one, for bullying him in front of everyone.) I’m sort of terrified of him but the actor who plays him is killing it. I hope he has an even bigger role next season.

Is it too on-brand for me to say I feel a lot of this series is about toxic masculinity? Johnny and Daniel are the main examples of this so far, but they’re very slowly learning. It’s just a shame it might have come too late.

According to Wikipedia, Cobra Kai is a comedy-drama. I’m not so sure about that.

Cobra Kai from the perspective of someone who’s never seen The Karate Kid

I’m sorry! I really have never seen The Karate Kid! I saw the 2010 remake (and liked it) but that’s about it. I was born too late into the 80s to actually be an 80s kid.

But Cobra Kai is a really good show!?

Looking at reviews of it I don’t think anyone expected it to be a serious exploration of how the effects of high school bullying can ripple down for generations, but that’s exactly what it is. The two main characters are both incredibly messed up and they’re passing all their worst qualities on to their children and students. Seeing it happen is like watching a car crash in slow motion, PLUS the teenagers in question have the more esoteric 21st century bullshit to deal with as well.

I’m up to just before the season finale of season one and I dislike almost all of the characters. Lawrence is a bigoted asshole with a chip on his shoulder and Larusso is a capitalist who screws over poor people just to get a shot at his high school rival. Apart from Lawrence’s son and Larusso’s daughter (who I’m guessing will shortly have a Romeo and Juliet thing going on) they’ve made everyone and everything around them worse.

I think this show was probably only greenlit on the basis of, hey, there’s a lot of nostalgia for the 80s around now, right? But Cobra Kai is the antithesis of that. The broke, bullied 80s movie hero always walked away triumphant and got his ticket to a better life, and yet turns out the world he lived in didn’t actually improve any. (An 80s movie villain is now literally the President of the United States, after all.) There’s always a cycle. If any of the characters in this show manage to actually break it that’ll be their real strength.

(Maybe it’s a good thing I wasn’t an 80s kid.)