Cobra Kai S5
WHERE TO WATCH:
Warning: Spoilers ahead for the first four seasons of Cobra Kai.
WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
It's the fifth season of the hit Karate Kid spin-off. Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith) is now in complete control of Cobra Kai, and it falls on our heroes to bring him down before his toxic form of Karate spreads from the Valley to the rest of America, if not the world. The problem is that even with Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) enlisting the help of his former foe turned friend, Chozen (Yuji Okumoto), Daniel has to deal with the strain that his latest karate rivalry is putting on his marriage. Johnny Lawrence, meanwhile, has his own personal issues to deal with as he tries to bond with his long-estranged son, Robby (Tanner Buchanan), as the two head down to Mexico to find Miguel (Xolo Maridueña), who has embarked on a quest to find his birth-father. Will the three senseis and their students get it together in time to stop Silver – and just how do Tory Nichols (Peyton List) and the recently imprisoned John Kreese (Martin Kove) fit into all of this?
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
When Sony Columbia Pictures announced they were prepping a brand new Karate Kid film to hit theatres in 2024, they didn't exactly get the desired reception. Fans were wary, to say the very least. Not just because the Karate Kid films got progressively worse as they went on, but why do we need another Karate Kid film when Cobra Kai has already been doing everything a film could possibly do – and significantly more – over the past five years? Most crucially, what would this mean for the future of Cobra Kai, and what does it mean that no one from Cobra Kai apparently has anything to do with the film whatsoever?
Nothing good, presumably.
Here's the thing, though: there would be a certain amount of logic to ending Cobra Kai next season and capping the whole thing off with a feature film. After all, how much longer can they possibly milk this surely very limited premise?
Indeed, at the start of every single season of the show, I have had exactly these thoughts. Certainly, at the beginning of season 5, I once again couldn't help but think that surely – surely! - they can't possibly get away with yet another season, could they? The last season ended on an amazing cliffhanger, sure, but Cobra Kai has always been a show that never should have been any good whatsoever, and the fact that it already had four terrific years is surely miracle enough – do they really want to push their luck any further?
And yet, like clockwork, when I reached the end of the final episode of the season, all I could think was... more Cobra Kai? Yes, please! One more season? Three? Five? Another six seasons and a movie? Bring it on!
I don't understand it. I really, truly don't. How the hell do Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg keep getting away with this? How has a series that seemed like a terrible idea at the outset not only maintained its quality despite its growing ever more unwieldy, convoluted, and utterly nuts but has somehow had two of its best seasons?
While season 4 maintained its strong focus by building up to the latest All-Valley Karate Tournament, with the fate of Daniel LaRusso's Miyagi-do and Johnny Lawrence's Eagle Fang hanging in the balance as the two tried to team up to take down Cobra Kai once and for all, season 5 threw all of that out of the window. One of the biggest changes is that though there is still some teenage melodrama, it is rather toned down this year. By making Terry Silver such an imposing and ruthless baddie, the conflict between the show's increasingly huge cast of good guys is downplayed, and the resulting character development for the likes of Miguel, Samantha, Tory, and Johnny is all that much more satisfying as a result.
If anything, the most important conflict this season is between Daniel and Amanda (Courtney Henggeler). Her wryly amused exasperation with how all the Karate madness has taken over her life reaches a tipping point as yet another decades-old rivalry proves to be more than she can bear. The way this whole sub-plot plays out is very, very Cobra Kai, but it's more grounded than most, and its outcome is particularly effective with Henggeler making a character who could so easily have been a boring straight-man into my low-key favourite character on the show. It's also the first season in which Daniel and Johnny come across as actual friends after finally fully burying the hatchet at the end of the last season, and while there's still some super fun bickering between the two, I'm glad to see that they have finally been allowed to move forward.
Okumoto is a genuine delight in the role, and he and his character fit so well into the show that it feels like he's been there since the start and his massive redemption arc also makes him the perfect compliment to Zabka's Johnny. Frankly, with a cast of characters this unwieldy, it's one of the show's many small miracles that everyone involved gets at least a moment or two to shine. And yes, this includes even more new additions this season.
And, of course, by the season's end, most of the plotlines are resolved, often through crazy-ass, over-the-top Karate hijinks, but it still ends on a huge cliffhanger with some major new plot twists and turns for season six to deal with. It's impossible not to feel a bit bereft that we don't get to hang out with these characters again for another year. It is exciting to guess what's to come and wonder how they will get away with this insanity for a sixth – sixth! - year.
That's for the future, though. For now, Cobra Kai remains, despite every odd stacked against it, the most purely entertaining show on TV.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE:
Cobra Kai is available to stream on Netflix