In 2017, Cobra Kai was announced that a sequel to The Karate Kid was coming to YouTube Red, eyes rolled. A few times. To add insult to injury, it was announced that William Zabka and Ralph Macchio would be returning as their characters. The prevailing thought was, “it would be interesting to see where both of those guys ended up some thirty years later.” The kicker was it being set more as a comedy but still hold true to the original film. Yes, many were prepared for a 21 Jump Street style of faire. Fortunately, after watching all 10 episodes, Cobra Kai was the sequel we didn’t know we needed.
The series not only focuses on the returning rivalry between Johnny Lawrence (Zabka) and Daniel LaRusso (Macchio), but the tangled web that plays out through their students and Daniel’s children. Johnny is a more sympathetic character than he was portrayed back in 1984, but his character is more fleshed out. He is truly the anchor of the show and does amazingly well heading the series. LaRusso is turned into being the bully, using his clout to keep Johnny from restarting Cobra Kai.
Of course, you cannot have a series like this without master and student dynamics. Johnny meets Miguel Diaz (Xolo Mariduena) after he is getting the crap kicked out of him by bullies. Johnny doesn’t mean to tangle with these kids, but when they throw Miguel into his car – Johnny has to stop it. Of course, he agrees to train him, and new Cobra Kai takes shape.
Daniel’s family is in turmoil. Daniel is having trouble trying to keep his life in order, it gets more chaotic when he realizes Johnny is reopening Cobra Kai. Without Myiagi for guidance, Daniel learns that getting back into karate is the key to a balanced life. Daniel is supported by his level-headed wife, Amanda (Courtney Henggeler), who knows that a 30-year grudge is ridiculous. Samantha (Mary Mouser) is trying to be popular and her new friends are bullies. Anthony (Griffin Santopietro) was designed to be the comic relief but is the one annoying character within the family.
After some training with Johnny, Miguel takes on some of the bullies at school and becomes the local badass. Fortunately, many of the kids being bullied want to learn karate to stop their bullies. The dynamic works. Johnny is hard on the kids but grows to make these kids tough. Confident, and to be comfortable in their own skin. In many instances, they begin to turn into the kids that Johnny ran with when he was in school. The bullied become the bullies.
The thirty-minute format manages to compress humor and melodrama into an addicting series. It is easy to blow threw the entire season in a few hours. A Sunday afternoon was killed binging this series. The season finale ends with a couple of cliffhangers and bigger concepts for the second season. The characters are likeable, except for Daniel’s son, and entertaining to watch. The writing manages to capture the nostalgia factor and telling a new story. The series hits all the right notes with nods to the original films.
Cobra Kai is one of those series that will have people rolling their eyes when mentioned. After the 10-episode run, you will be wondering why they didn’t make more episodes. The length of the episodes and the season was perfect. The pacing didn’t allow for much in the way to drifting off during the season. The usual mid-season lag is missing from this series. You will wish for more episodes and let us hope that we can see a season two next year.
Cobra Kai is only available on YouTube Red. The first two episodes are available for free, but all additional episodes are available to YouTube Red members. YouTube does offer a free 30-trial, which will allow you to view the entire series. A heavy recommend.