Cobra Kai

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William Zabka in Cobra Kai.
William Zabka in Cobra Kai.
Screengrab: YouTube/Netflix


Cobra Kai 




5/5 Stars


Decades after the tournament that changed their lives, the rivalry between Johnny and Daniel reignites in this sequel to The Karate Kid.


Dare I say it, but Cobra Kai is better than the cult classic 1984 film The Karate Kid. For many of us who grew up in the 80s, The Karate Kid was a staple, and everyone was doing flying crane kicks all over the place.

Cobra Kai takes everything you knew and loved about The Karate Kid and not only turns it on its head, but gives it added layers of poignancy and depth.

Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka )was the bad guy and bully and even though we felt sorry for him in the end because his sensei was the worst, we didn't waste too much energy on him because he wasn't our underdog and golden boy, Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio). The characters in Cobra Kai are far more three-dimensional than they were in the summer blockbuster that was The Karate Kid. After watching this, the characters in The Karate Kid feel flat.

Johnny is not the worst. We get to see how he became that way and a really interesting scene was one in which he told his side of The Karate Kid story. What I love about this show is how it can very easily just be fan service but goes above and beyond that.

The flashback scenes are used well to give the viewer that feeling of nostalgia but to remind them of what happened then and how those things seemed doomed to repeat themselves. I love how this show also mirrors a lot of scenes from the original movie, like Miguel dressing as a skeleton for Halloween, the beach scene and the montage scene of Daniel training his new student the way Mr Miyagi taught him.

But Johnny is growing as a person. This stands out when his students win a tournament dishonourably (something the old Cobra Kai would've done) and he says: "Maybe I'm still learning a bit too. I wasn't taught the difference between mercy and honour, and I paid the price for it." It's really interesting to see this side of someone who we always perceived to be the villain.

His (at first reluctant) relationship with his 16-year-old neighbour is great to watch. He takes Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) under his wing in a way that he never could with his son for whatever reasons. Unlike Johnny's relationship with his sensei, theirs is a very symbiotic one in which they learn a lot from each other. And while Johnny is hilariously stuck in the 80s and Miguel has to break it to him that women are allowed to be in the army now, he still has some surprisingly good lessons to impart. Even though he might not recognise it as such, it's an opportunity for him to be the dad he could never be for his own son to a kid who's never had a male role model.

Speaking of Johnny's son, Robby (Tanner Buchanan), he is jealous of this relationship and schemes his way into Daniel's life, at first purely to annoy his father. But he then ends up liking the man. Again, here's a boy looking for a parent because both of his are awful and he does stupid things to get attention from them.

But this is probably the best move for Robby (who can easily be this generation's JTT) because despite Daniel-san being truly annoying in his self-righteousness, he gives this child the peace and balance he needs in Mr Miyagi's form of karate. Whereas Miguel benefits from the confidence he gains from Cobra Kai's brand of karate. The series shows that there's no right way, just a different way, and different kids need different things.

I love that they did this as a series instead of a movie because there is a lot more opportunity for character growth and for these interlinking storylines to truly blossom. The show balances comedy and drama so flawlessly; it's truly masterful and an absolute delight.


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