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Cobra Kai Review — A Promising Start and A Disappointing Ending

cobra kai review

Although I’m not one for nostalgia in my entertainment, something drew me to Cobra Kai and to subsequently write a Cobra Kai review. It’s no surprise for me to hear that I’m not the only one; Cobra Kai seems to be doing better than every show on Netflix and Hulu. Not only does Cobra Kai have an intriguing premise that goes against type — the old rival and schoolyard bully has a comeback — but it’s also consistently hilarious and has great characterization of Johnny Lawrence.

After losing to Daniel LaRusso in the original Karate Kid, Johnny goes on a downward spiral for the next 35 years. He’s a hard-drinking anti-PC loser who’s attitude and demeanor makes him the most realistic Trump supporter in television (sorry Rosanne). The series starts out following Johnny’s 90 degree turn to a slightly more likable person, as he trains an immigrant protege and seethes over the success of his former rival. But as the series progresses, the cast inevitably becomes more ensemble, and increased focus is given to Daniel LaRusso as he trains his own protege.

For me though, the most interesting part of the show was the focus on Johnny Lawrence. While Ralph Macchio has had a bit more of a post-Karate Kid career, William Zabka hasn’t done anything nearly as high profile. Back in 2003, he wrote and produced an Academy Award nominated Czech short film called Most after training to be a filmmaker. He also had a recurring role in season 9 of How I Met Your Mother and a bit part in Hot Tube Time Machine. He also notably directed and starred in a music video about him never getting over the role of Johnny Lawrence about 10 years before the making of Cobra Kai.

cobra kai review

As far as second acts go, that’s not bad for the bully of a beloved 80’s franchise. It also makes the focus on Johnny Lawrence that much more interesting given that his real-life counterpart has also been overshadowed. But where this series started to fall apart for me was its over-reliance on the Karate Kid narrative.

Of course, Johnny Lawrence needed to start up his old rivalry with Daniel LaRusso and have their respective proteges fight each other. That much made sense within the context of the plot, as well as the context of the overall Karate Kid narrative. After all, Cobra Kai is a continuation in that it’s about two aging men who can’t get over their glory days, and think that they can only define themselves by their pasts.

But where the series started to lose me is when the Cobra Kai kids became the villains of their own story. Led by Miguel — who was a better character than he had any right to be — the Cobra Kai dojo didn’t just fight dirty in the tournament, but we were also meant to actively root against them. Given that the focus has been on Johnny Lawrence becoming a father figure to Miguel at the expense of his own son, it was an odd tonal choice to cast Miguel in this way in the final act.

cobra kai review

What made this choice disappointing to me was how invested I felt in the relationship between Johnny Lawrence and Miguel, and how the season’s final act didn’t seem to follow through on this. While it was a great choice to have Johnny Lawrence’s son fight Johnny Lawrence’s biological son, we never get a sense of how Johnny really feels about this during the tournament. In other words, the fight isn’t about Johnny Lawrence at all, but about Johnny’s son and Daniel LaRusso forging their own bond.

While I appreciate setting up Daniel LaRusso and his protege as a foil to Johnny, it didn’t seem to follow the theme of the season as well as I would have liked. Still, it’s great that this exists at all, and although I’m not a huge fan of the original Karate Kid, I think that Cobra Kai was much better than most of us anticipated and is a worthy entry in the reboot/legacy pop culture landscape we have created.

At the least, I enjoyed the ending better than that of the recent Samurai Jack legacy season, especially because we’ll be getting another one here. Still, it would have fit the season more to keep the final fight focused on Johnny more, if only to help us reconsider the Karate Kid narrative and Johnny’s role in it. He may not be an Ivan Drago, but Johnny is far more sympathetic and I find myself rooting for him — even when  I wasn’t supposed to.

9 thoughts on “Cobra Kai Review — A Promising Start and A Disappointing Ending

  1. I must’ve missed something but I don’t believe Johnny’s political affiliation was ever mentioned in the show. I’ve watched the series twice now, and don;t remember a single political reference ever being mentioned. Kudos to you though for finding a way to bring your political affiliation into something that has nothing to do with politics, and including a little hate-mongering with it. You must be the life of the party.

    1. Obviously it’s not mentioned directly, but all his actions indicate this, especially his non-PC comments and talk of ‘winners and losers.’ If that’s your definition of hate-mongering though, you might want to consider investing in a different dictionary. Thanks for stopping by!

      1. It’s only indicated that way due to your judgmental bias of “Trump supporters”. If you didn’t view Trump supporters as alcoholic, anti-PC, losers, then there is nothing to indicate that Johnny is a Trump supporter. And yes, you feeling that way is due to hate, and that you bring it up completely out of context is a perfect example of hate-mongering. Try again.

        1. I mean there’s honestly a lot to indicate that he’s a Trump supporter, including repeated anti-PC rhetoric, making fun of Lip the way that Trump made fun of a disabled reporter and being ‘stuck in a different era.’ Maybe it’s broad strokes but so is the show, as it’s not explicitly political and Johnny is often the butt of these jokes. I’m sorry to say this but I really don’t think Trump supporters are a persecuted group. You might want to open a history book.

          1. Again. The only indication that he’s a “Trump Supporter” is your biased views of “Trump Supporters”. If you took time to speak with the millions upon millions of people that voted for him, you’d likely realize they’re not all “alcoholic, anti-PC losers.”

            What purpose did mentioning this in your article serve aside from helping you project your hate towards a group of people that voted differently than I assume you voted?

            Like you, I also don’t feel they’re a persecuted group, and if my replies have given you that impression, please forgive me as it was not my intentions. My intentions were only that you took a non political subject and ties your biased views into it for no reason that to express your own biased view points and hate.

            If we as a “united people” continue projecting hate for others who do not believe the same way as we do, where does that get us? If you want to write political stuff, knock yourself out – you have every right to. But injecting your political hate into a non-political subject is self-serving in my opinion, and in this case… very narrow-minded. You’re guilty of the very thing you hate him and his supporters for. Grouping people into a box and labeling them all as one thing even though they’re a very diverse group. It’s no different than saying all Muslims are terrorists, or all brown people are illegal… I could go on.

    1. Damn you got me bro! Also kind of interesting you chose to use butthurt and faggot within one sentence of each other??? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  2. Personally, I loved the series. There are some things that can be improved, but all in all I thought it was a worthy follow-up to the Karate Kid series. I’m really looking forward to the second season.
    By the way, I agree Johnny Lawrence is probably a Trump supporter. Probably only because I just can’t imagine him voting for Hillary. LOL 😀

    1. Thanks! I honestly really liked the season as well, and can’t wait for the next one. This is definitely coming from a place of “I really liked it, but…”

      And yes, I don’t think Johnny would be caught dead wearing a ‘Nasty Women’ t-shirt 😛

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