Premiering today on Netflix is the third season of COBRA KAI, the hit show that started on YouTube Red for the first two seasons but is now accessible on the streaming giant.
The series follows former “Karate Kid” bully Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) as he reestablishes the Cobra Kai dojo – this time in a different manner than his former sensei John Kreese (Martin Kove) – although his methods still place him at odds with his old high school rival and former All Valley Karate Champion Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio), who beat Johnny in the 1984 Championship.
Middle-aged with teen children themselves, both men are reacquainted through a chance encounter which forces them to interact, to each of their dismay.
Now you don’t have to have seen the 80’s “The Karate Kid” saga (there are three films, and a fourth if you count the 1994 movie with Hilary Swank) but it sure makes the series more fun and elevates the nostalgic moments if you have. The latter being especially true this season when, in episode five, Daniel travels back to Japan where several surprise character cameos from the second film occur.
However, I would highly recommend watching the first two seasons prior because the third picks up immediately after an epic high school battle – where several major players are significantly impacted.
In the first episode, we find main characters Johnny dealing with guilt and Kreese’s hold on Cobra Kai, Daniel dealing with the fallout of the school fight and its impact on his business, Robby (Tanner Buchanan) on the run from authorities, Sam (Mary Mouser) being ostracized by peers and still traumatized from the battle, Tory (Peyton List) on probation for her actions and dealing with familial struggles, and Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) struggling for life while in a hospital bed.
Hawk (Jacob Bertrand), Demetri (Gianni Decenzo), Chris (Khalil Everage) and the rest of the crew from season two make a return, except for Aisha (Nichole Brown) who’s disturbingly missing. Slight spoiler, the explanation given is that her character’s parents forced her to move to another school after the showdown.
Showrunner Jon Hurwitz has discussed his rationale for Brown’s absence in the third season, but also left her return open-ended – so maybe there is hope to see Aisha again in future seasons, but I did miss her in the new episodes.
Highlights for me this season are Kreese’s character development – we get a decent back story and ample time to explore his motivations – Johnny’s continued development/growth, Elisabeth Shue’s cameo (which was hinted in last season’s finale) and Daniel’s trip back to Japan in episode five.
However, some of the violence between the teens started to wear on me – especially when it came to limbs breaking and people being spat on (I think that is one of the most disgusting things to do). And I started to question why the kids were behaving so violently, I mean was the original saga that brutal to my parents and not me? I don’t remember, but some of the fighting in this seems extreme.
Yet just the fact that I’m willing to give any benefit of the doubt or question the aforementioned should hint that the overall entertainment value, and the nostalgia, definitely outweighed my concerns.
I also enjoyed how the late Pat Morita (Mr. Miyagi) is given a solid presence and place in the storylines. It’s the cherry on top of a sentimental sundae for us middle-aged folks.
Overall, I think “Cobra Kai” is an entertaining series, albeit with a few overdone teen violence moments – even though there’s no gore. The characters are engaging and it’s fun to watch the saga revisited mainly through Johnny’s perspective. I rate it 3.5 out of 5 on the MMTrometer.
Until next thought, Thomasena