In 2021, we have little to do other than think of better times.
TV shows and movies have, for a long time, sought to take us back to “better times.” Films like “Guardians of the Galaxy” and shows like “Stranger Things” attempt to take us back to America’s heyday of the 1980s. While those shows and films are often fun and entertaining, their goal is always to take us to a “better time,” a time that is not our own.
Instead of taking us back to the ‘80s, “Cobra Kai” shows us what our lives could be like if we were to approach our own modern experiences with the attitude and ethic of the ‘80s. The end result of this experiment is an entertaining and riveting show with a lot of heart (and the perfect amount of cheese).
“Cobra Kai” picks up over 30 years after the underdog, Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio), dealt that tournament-winning crane kick in the original “Karate Kid” to the bully, Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka).
Season 1 of “Cobra Kai” follows the beginning of Johnny Lawrence’s redemption story and delves into the mind and heart of the blonde-haired man we all thought was simply a bully.
Johnny hits rock bottom in the first season and decides to open a “Cobra Kai” karate dojo, as his fighting skills from a past he hates are all he has left. His grit, unorthodox teaching methods and warm, paternal relationship with Miguel Diaz (Xolo Maridueña) lead to success for his new dojo. This success results in a rekindling of Johnny’s old rivalry with Daniel, who is now a wealthy family man and a dad to Samantha LaRusso (Mary Mouser).
Though Daniel deeply values karate and has taught it to his daughter, he does not think to start up a dojo of his own until he sees Johnny teaching a form of karate that encourages his students to be merciless and fueled by their anger.
With Daniel starting up his own “Miyagi-do” dojo to provide an alternative to Johnny’s anger-fueled “Cobra Kai” karate, the die is cast for this renewed rivalry to expand beyond just Johnny and Daniel; their enmity infects all of their students.
In Season 3, Daniel and Johnny are forced to come to terms with the repercussions of their animosity and the impact of their decisions on their rival dojos’ young students.
“Cobra Kai” is a wildly entertaining experiment. Nostalgia is easy, but “Cobra Kai” seeks to do more than just entertain with nostalgia. Rather, “Cobra Kai” attempts to bring the grit and political incorrectness of the ‘80s to our present. This creates quite a unique experience for modern audiences.
In many ways, “Cobra Kai” is an improvement on the original “Karate Kid” as the quality of its script, the depth of its characters, its fantastic fight-scene choreography and its cinematography (especially in a few particularly outstanding one-shot fight sequences) are all masterful.
By borrowing an ethic and attitude from the ‘80s and implanting it into our current culture, “Cobra Kai” also offers a great deal of intriguing commentary on the ways that our culture has both improved in some ways and deteriorated in others since the ‘80s.
“Cobra Kai” affords a great deal more nuance to its characters than the “Karate Kid” did. The beating heart of this show is Johnny Lawrence’s redemption story and Johnny’s paternal connection to Miguel Diaz. This show would have entirely fallen flat had Zabka not grounded the series with such a masterclass performance. Zabka’s work as Johnny Lawrence in “Cobra Kai” must be considered as one of the best role reprisals of all-time.
Macchio also does a fantastic job in his role reprisal as Daniel and possesses incredible chemistry with Zabka. In the 36 years since the “Karate Kid,” Macchio and Zabka have both become much more skilled actors. Both actors anchor a show that otherwise could have been nothing more than a cheesy cash-grab.
Macchio and Zabka’s chemistry, a tight and poignant script, fantastic fight choreography, interesting teenage characters played by great new talents, a totally copacetic soundtrack featuring the likes of “Poison” and “AC/DC” and a profound, emotional core all join together to create a thrilling series that will keep you coming back for more.
At its center, “Cobra Kai” is the same kind of entertainment that the “Karate Kid” is. Both are cheesy teen dramas that use karate as a way of expanding upon and resolving conflicts between both the show’s teenage and adult characters.
Though “Cobra Kai” is a cheesy teen drama with plenty of riveting karate fights, it must be said to be the best cheesy teen drama out there and will captivate anyone who gives this show a chance.