At a time where so many properties are getting sequels or reboots decades after the fact, Cobra Kai stands out by surpassing all expectations and becoming not only a great continuation of The Karate Kid, but a nuanced piece of commentary on the franchise and its legacy. After a shocking cliffhanger and an agonizing delay as the show moved from YouTube to Netflix, Cobra Kai builds up to a crane kick of a climax with another knockout season.
Season 3 picks up in the aftermath of the violent high school brawl between Miyagi-Do and Cobra Kai, which left Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) in critical condition in the hospital. The fight started a ripple effect that’s affected the entire Valley, as citizens are finally starting to consider that maybe their obsession with karate is not really healthy. This new season takes things even further than the previous two, to the point where it’s hard not to see this as an alternate Earth where the only rule of law is karate, and dojos are treated as full-on gangs. Battle lines have been drawn, and friendships have ended as the young cast has pledged their loyalty to their respective dojos. In retaliation for putting Miguel in the hospital, the Miyagi-Do students attack the Cobra Kai-kids during gym class, who in return attack the workplace and even the home of some Miyagi-Do students — all without a single security guard, parent, or cop who cares.
Yes, it seems like Cobra Kai is set in a world where all legal conflicts are resolved via karate, and you know what? It works. If the show is all about how Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) remain obsessed over their high-school All-Valley karate tournament after 40 years, it makes sense to have the rest of the Valley be weirdly into karate as the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems. That being said, there are still plenty of fight scenes in this season, including another stunning one-take fight in the final episode. Fans of the original movie should also look forward to some action from the original characters, who really manage to sell the choreography and their fighting prowess even after 40 years.
As for the kids…well, this is where Cobra Kai stumbles the most this season. By now, the young cast members – including Miguel, Samantha, Hawk (Jacob Bertrand), and his former best friend Demetri (Gianni Decenzo) – remain standout additions to the Karate Kid mythos and it’s a joy to see their teenage soap shenanigans. However, the season doesn’t really know what to do with them as characters. Sure, we do spend a lot of time with them, and Demetri gets a surprising and hilarious mini-arc, but they are mostly used as plot devices to advance the story of Daniel and Johnny, rarely seeming to have their own stories. That is, until the last couple of episodes leading up to the already-confirmed season 4.
In some ways, you could draw direct parallels between Cobra Kai and the Star Wars sequel trilogy. If season 1 of this show took a bit of a The Force Awakens approach, reintroducing us to the legacy characters while telling a new story in the same universe that was all about confronting the legacy of the original story and season 2 was all about asking whether these characters (or anyone) can actually change, season 3 is all about teachers and how their legacy shape their students in profound ways. That’s right: this is The Last Jedi of the Karate Kid universe. There’s also a little bit of Rise of Skywalker in here, especially with the ongoing machinations of John Kreese (Martin Kove.)
You can see this in Johnny’s story, as well as Kreese’s. The show has always been, and continues to be, all about the redemption of Sensei Lawrence. Zabka continues to give a fantastic performance as one of the best characters currently on TV, a man desperately trying to do the right thing even if circumstances make him look like a villain at every turn. This season sees Johnny struggle with the idea that he owes much of who he is to Kreese, and how hard it is for him to free himself from his past. Meanwhile, Kove remains a charismatic yet terrifying presence in the show; perfectly able to manipulate everyone around him while still convincing you that, in his mind, he’s doing this for the good of his students. New this season is an extended backstory for Kreese, which was teased in the previous season and now includes flashbacks that reveal his own dealings with the teachers who influenced him.
Keeping on with the theme of teachers and the cycles they create (whether of violence or compassion), Daniel-San gets a bigger role this season that he did before as the show walks down memory lane in Okinawa, Japan. Cobra Kai has always found a way to integrate fan service into its story in an organic way, whether to illustrate the characters’ obsession with their past glory like Daniel appropriating Miyagi’s teachings into his car dealership, or to advance the plot. This season is not different, as Tamlyn Tomita and Yuji Okumoto return to reprise their roles as Kumiko and Chozen in a subplot that has significant repercussions for Daniel’s arc and the larger story of Cobra Kai. Specifically, Daniel must reckon with the golden pedestal he put his own teacher on. It’s great to see these characters again after so many years, and the show doesn’t shy away from poking fun at some of the clunkier moments of the original movies.
If there’s one big downside to the season, is that it at times leans in too heavily on the cyclical nature of its themes. This results in several plot beats being repeated across seasons, to the point where you almost want to fast forward to the last couple of episodes when things finally start coming to a head. For example, this is the third time we see a Daniel/Johnny team-up episode that shows how good friends they could be, only for their stubbornness gets in their way. It works because the actors really sell their dynamic and you almost buy their will-they-won’t-they dance, but it’s getting a bit old and future seasons need to freshen this dynamic.
In an age of reboots and sequels, Cobra Kai continues to make the case that there are still ways to recycle 40-year-old characters and stories and make them feel fresh, timely, and necessary. Season 3 examines the importance of teachers, and how much they impact the lives of their students even decades later, all while teasing an action-packed fourth season that might make fans of Karate Kid Part III very happy.
Source: Read Full Article