When a television series has a phenomenal premiere season, it’s really hard for them to replicate it for a second. Cobra Kai: Season Two managed to not only keep that momentum going, but crank things up a notch to give it one of those “kinda saw that coming” season finales but brutal the way it turned out. Cultivating a nostalgic second season with some new drama and repercussion from the series’ first season.
Callback to the original trilogy of the Karate Kid, the second season picks up right after the first season. Summer is in full swing for the characters and Daniel begins revealing his plan to take on Cobra Kai. After a hilarious “Johnny out of his element” montage (or what a friend of mine coined “Johnny discovers the internet), we get into two ongoing struggles he has to face: Daniel’s free Miyagi-Do karate lessons and Kreese returning to work his way back into Johnny’s glory.
One of the great things about this season is their use of Johnny. Yes, he wants Cobra Kai to be a “badass” way for the bullied to take control. Unfortunately, the egos of his students are beginning to shift from the bullied to the bullies. Miguel and Hawk are the first victims of his ire. Calling them out for cheating and playing dirty in their respective matches against his son, Robbie. Once they learn about Robbie’s true parentage, they understand that you can play dirty as long as it isn’t against Robbie.
This tidbit starts an undercurrent of mistrust among Johnny and his students. Which is further amplified by Kreese’s involvement. Manipulating Johnny into letting him back in his life. Johnny doesn’t have any trust for him, but his belief in showing mercy against his better judgement. His competition with Daniel and his dojo, the death of his Cobra Kai brother, and his desire to be with Miguel’s mom, Johnny has a lot of distractions which is what makes Kreese’s ability to take over predictable.
One of the biggest changes is Daniel’s attitude toward Cobra Kai, and his ability to turn into a bully against Johnny. Unfortunately, like in the previous season, Johnny and Daniel can put away the past during the episode “Pulpo”. Johnny takes Miguel’s mom out, while Danny and Amanda try to patch things up. They end up at the same restaurant and forces them to talk. The evening is pleasant and quite fun to watch two enemies bond. Like in season one, it doesn’t last long.
Like in the previous season, their kids screw it up. After an evening of two jealous girls fighting over a guy, a drunk Samantha can’t go home fearing her parent’s disappointment. So they crash at Johnny’s apartment. The incident slips into the season finale of “No Mercy”, which sets up the biggest showdown between the dojos. Not only that, manifests the rivalry of two old high school enemies in a new generation. Both of which that don’t understand the animosity, but just know that they support to hate one another. Once Daniel faces off with Johnny over his daughter, Daniel can’t see past his nose to understand what actually happened.
Daniel’s character is a complex one, which many people don’t seem to understand. The series, and their stories, are about perspective. Daniel sees Johnny as an enemy. A bully that took his toll on Daniel. Like Johnny, both guys are unable to get past their own experiences to accept that the past is the past. Daniel is driven by what Johnny and his buddies did to him. Much like Johnny is unable to accept that his life after the All-Valley Tournament was his own doing. Not Daniel’s. To Johnny, Daniel was the bad guy in that first film. Johnny had a normal life until Daniel started causing problems for him and Allie.
Unfortunately, their unresolved past – plus inability to listen – leads to their students having the biggest showdown on the first day of school. One of whom ends up in the hospital fighting for his life, and another kid’s on the run. The shot in the elevator is significant for the two of them. Daniel has the opportunity to say something, but chooses not to. Johnny is on the cusp of losing his best student (and adoptive child) and his biological son. Both of which are in a position that was led to their conclusion by him. At the same time, Miguel’s mother wants nothing to do with him after what happened, and his students (and dojo) are lost to Kreese.
The third season, which we know is happening, should be a solid entry. The third act of a three-act structure. Johnny has given up and rejected everything at the end. Feeling responsible for Miguel and Robbie’s actions. Daniel will have to deal with Kreese and his new generation of bullies. This would be a perfect time for Johnny and Daniel to get past each other and take on Kreese – together. While season one relied on nostalgia to get you into the storyline, the writing was solid enough to take through season one. Season two evolved and was stronger for it. Unlike many shows, Cobra Kai: Season Two was as solid as the first. Good for them. Season three is expected in early 2020.