Whitney Ervin, Correspondent
Netflix kicked off 2021 by dropping the third season of “The Karate Kid” spin off series “Cobra Kai.”
Thank you, Netflix, for helping us kick off the year in a good way. Because Cobra Kai has easily become one of my favorite shows on the platform.
The first two seasons of Cobra Kai originally premiered YouTube Red in 2018, but despite good reviews it slipped relatively under the radar. In June 2020, Netflix bought the rights, and the first two seasons were released on the platform where it finally became more accessible to a wider audience.
It’s been consistently ranked on Netflix’s Top Ten since its initial released, breaking into the number two spot with the release of the third season
While Cobra Kai does rely heavily on the nostalgia for the beloved first film of the Karate Kid franchise, it also adds a new twist by retelling some of the events of the first film from Johnny’s perspective.
The series follows the original ‘big bully’ of The Karate Kid, Johnny Lawrence, as he tries to reform the eponymous Cobra Kai dojo. Since losing the All-Valley Tournament to LaRusso in 1984, Johnny has been on a downward spiral. The only hope he feels he has left is in karate. Opposing the reformation of Cobra Kai is none other than the karate kid himself, Daniel LaRusso.
Old habits die hard, and apparently so do teen rivalries. Now both middle aged, the rivalry between Lawrence and LaRusso also inevitably affects their own families as the two continue to go toe-to-toe.
Things are only further complicated when the original sensei of Cobra Kai, John Kreese, shows up seemingly back from the dead. In season three he proves to be the nastiest of all the bullies featured on the show. Although he too is given a chance to be seen, heard, and perhaps a bit understood.
Both Ralph Macchio and William Zabka return for their roles of Daniel and Johnny respectively. They maintain the easy chemistry and tension that made the rivalry of the original movie feel so incredibly intense. Neither character has become exactly what one might expect from watching the first film.
While Johnny is the one initially trying to seek a purpose, we soon learn Daniel isn’t entirely perfect either. As his grudge against Johnny proves to be the catalyst for most of the show’s conflict.
In addition to the original duo, the show boasts a talented ensemble cast playing the students of each sensei’s dojo. The storylines involving the students help balance the nostalgia with more current issues.
Mary Mouser as Samantha LaRusso and Xolo Maridueña as Miguel Diaz — Johnny Lawrence’s star student — particularly stand out among the cast. As well as Tanner Buchanan as Johnny’s estranged son, who ends up joining the LaRusso dojo, Miyagi-Do, to spite his father. Each of the young stars play their character’s development in a nuanced and believable way.
The show features strong, well rounded characters who are realistically flawed. It doesn’t hesitate to blur the lines between the “good” and the “bad” because at the end of the day the characters are uniquely human.
Each character in Cobra Kai has their fair share of defeats and victories. Occasionally they even find themselves in that gray area where somehow nobody wins even if there is a trophy involved. Overall, it’s a fun series that often doesn’t take the expected turn, but always satisfies.