Cobra Kai is a sequel to the classic hit move Karate Kid starring Ralph Macchio as Daniel Larusso and William Zabka as Johnny Lawrence. I actually stumbled upon this new series as I scrolled through my YouTube recommended videos. What a great thing that I did. I started watching the series around 9pm on the night it released when I really should have been doing homework, and ended up binge-watching the whole season, which contained ten episodes which lasted 25-35 minutes each. I stayed up past 2am that night to finish the series because it was so addicting. I will provide my take on the first season of this brand-new series.
When I first stepped foot into the world of the new show, I couldn’t help but notice the cliché high school atmosphere. Kyler, the mean boyfriend of Samantha Larusso, gangs up on “losers,” andSamantha is the innocent girl who is oblivious of Kyler’s evil. Further, Miguel, one of the protagonists befriends a group of “nerds,” and ends up beating up these bullies. Further, the Daniel Larusso becomes too attached to his innocent girl when he notices that she is growing up with a questionable group of “cool” kids. The set-up was the classic Spider-man scenario, where the nerd becomes powerful and consequently embarrasses the bullies. However, as I swam deeper into the series, I noticed the film was much more complex.
The first feature that caught my attention was the film’s use of old-style humor, differing from many other Hollywood shows. Johnny Lawrence, the “guy who lost to Larusso,” re-opens the infamous Cobra Kai. Through the re-open, his old-school teachings becomes clear. He uses brutality to teach Karate to eager children, also displaying his sexism and in-formalness as he addresses his students. He constantly spews stuff like “grow a pair” or “pussy” or “eat a dick.” Johnny is such an old-school teacher, using violence and brutal tactics that would not be acceptable in today’s society. He first doesn’t accept women to his dojo and when he does decide to let in a girl, hilariously, his motive was purely the money. Miguel’s grandmother, who Miguel calls “Yaya,” answers the phone about him beating up bullies, and she is proud. The depiction of Armand, the real estate owner, is also very humorous. The writers displays him as a stereotypical angry middle-eastern guy with a heavy accent. His savage personality is fun to follow. In an age of political-correctness, filmmakers unfortunately fail to include the wide variety of people existing in current American society. Creators of Cobra Kai were clearly not afraid to include facets of America which do not necessarily comply with the formalness of media today.
Another intriguing part of season 1 was Johnny’s development. First, Johnny is a mere alcoholic and a weak man who couldn’t take care of his own son. In his development, he becomes a fatherly figure for Miguel. In his journey in teaching Miguel, Johnny’s morals flip; he was a bully, but now protects Miguel. Ironically, Johnny’s anger towards Daniel boosts his motivation. Johnny’s breakout into the dojo industry is quite notable because Miguel, the apprentice, discovers Johnny’s talent when he fights off teenagers, identical to they way Larusso discovered Miyagi sensei’s talent. Furthermore, Johnny’s growth lies a personal part of his life. When the dojo first hits a bump in the road, the room is full of “losers.” Miguel believes Johnny doesn’t know low social status feels like, but in reality, Johnny’s personality is based off of being a “loser” who was bullied by his own father.
So far, Cobra Kai has also done well in exploring the line between good and evil. Larusso, who was considered the against-all-odds protagonist in the original movie, watches his life fall apart amidst Johnny’s success. His fall is almost satisfying to watch as he displays his arrogance caused by wealth. The audience first uncovers his flawed personality when he forces Armand to raise estate prices at the strip mall in which Cobra Kai stands. Rather than considering the well-being of hard-working people at the strip, Larusso lets his petty anger take over. Moreover, once considered the villain, Johnny now acts much more morally and humbly than does Larusso. Johnny’s previous evil also diminishes when the show explores his origin story concerning his father and abusive coach. By the end of the season, however, this line between good and bad becomes even more hazy. Johnny’s tough teachings corrupt Miguel, and when John Kreese returns to Cobra Kai, the audience questions the morality of the new Cobra Kai.
Thematically, Cobra Kai explores the power of mentors. This idea is first discovered when Miguel becomes powerful person through his new fatherly mentor, Johnny. On the contrary, Robby seems to live a life of complete deception without a mentor or parental figure, and even the legendary Daniel Larusso, who is successful and happy on the outside, seems completely lost without Miyagi Sensei.
Overall, Cobra Kai nostalgically brings back the stories of Karate Kid by masterfully exploring many themes concerning both childhood and adulthood through many varying characters. While the original Karate Kid came out years before I was born, i definitely watched both the original and the re-make, so I was able to re-connect with Cobra Kai’s Johnny and Larusso, and the hardships they and the kids of their following generation experienced. Sometimes the story seemed too cliché and the pieces of the puzzle often times fell into place easily, but all in all, the first season of Cobra Kai was very good.
FINAL RATING: 94/100
“Cobra Kai (TV Series 2018– ).” 2018. IMDb. IMDb.com. Accessed May 5. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7221388/.