By: John M Jerva
It recently dawned on me that I have never done a review for any of the seasons of the hit Netflix series Cobra Kai. Maybe I didn’t because I was such a fan of the show that I wanted to watch it for the sheer fun of it without having to dissect it for the site. This show which brings back the beloved characters of The Karate Kid films along with new ones is as perfect of a show as there ever was. It gloriously blends heart, humor, drama and action into one cohesive entity that is for traditional fans of the movies as well as newcomers. After all, this is the show that made me do something that I thought I would never do and that’s like Johnny Lawrence as a character. From the initial first episode of the first season, William Zabka won me over as Johnny was transformed into an anti-hero with Ralph Macchio’s Daniel LaRusso taking a back seat to the proceedings. It definitely tugged at my nostalgic strings and each season has only gotten better.
With that we have season 4 which just dropped on Netflix this past New Year’s Eve and today, I finally watched all 10 episodes and I can say without a doubt that this was the best season yeti, if that’s possible. With the new season, we see Daniel and Johnny team up and blend their respective dojos to take on the real threat of the All-Valley area in ruthless Sensei John Kreese (Marin Kove) who mercilessly made his move at the end of last season and took Cobra Kai from right under Johnny’s feet. Of course, we all knew who Kreese was calling at the end as it was none other than Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith) as he needed reinforcements to help win the upcoming All Valley tournament as the loser will have to close their dojo doors forever.
Season 4 doesn’t miss a beat as Johnny and Daniel definitely have growing pains as they try to learn to work together to train their students as their teaching styles are so vastly different. Daniel’s daughter Sam and Johnny’s number one student Miguel try to maintain the alliance of the combining of Miyagi-Do Karate and Eagle Fang while Kreese makes a power play for Johnny’s son Robbie who is reeling from the events of season 3 as he felt betrayed by his father and Daniel.
I can’t remember a series I have watched that has continue to give us such great entertainment and even though there are its flaws, Cobra Kai continues to score with its eclectic mix of genres. Zabka and Maachio are clearly the heart of the series, but the supporting cast are all sensational as well. Zabka’s character arc as Johnny has been sensational and he continues to grow each and every season even though he will always be that loveable loser who is stuck in the 80’s. Maachio is just as game as his Daniel has matured into a loving father and husband while he tries to honor Mr. Miyagi’s name while at the same trying to accept Johnny as his equal as the stakes have never been higher for this upcoming tourney.
It’s no secret that the best addition this year has been Thomas Ian Griffith’s Terry Silver and this time around, Silver is way more complex than he was in the third movie where he was the comic book style villain. Having aged, Silver at first wants nothing to do with Kreese when he comes calling but he succumbs to the man who saved his life in Vietnam and in doing so, the beast is once again unleashed although Silver is more calculating than ever. Griffith’s Silver is reintroduced into this world in an unsuspecting way and his arc is clearly the best of them all. On the plus side, Griffith, who is an avid martial artist and one time action star, still has the moves that made him a staple in the DTV barrage of the 90’s and it’s fantastic to see him in action once again as he has always been one of my favorites.
Like I said earlier, the rest of the cast is spot on as every single character has something to do and no one can be pegged as good or bad. Robbie continues to struggle with the fact that Johnny dropped the ball as a father when he was younger while Tory clearly isn’t the traditional bad girl that everyone thought she was. They both have their inner demons which gives them more layers. Miguel is great too and this time around, he has to continue to recover from his back injury in season 2 while at the same time trying to cope with the fact that Johnny is now dating his mother. Sam is also still reeling from the aftermath of her fight with Tory and she struggles constantly to overcome her fears.
I also liked that this season, Daniel’s son is given more to do, and it is quite ironic that he starts out as a bully who is terrorizing a newcomer to school named Kenny. This new character has history with someone from last season and I like how that was fleshed out especially as Robbie tries to take him under his wing with disastrous results. Hawk AKA Eli also grows this year as he is having trouble finding out who he truly is after he left Cobra Kai as he discovered that he was nothing more than an asshole and that Kreese was just using him. His depth this year is another standout, and he has one of the most satisfying conclusions this year.
Cobra Kai has always been built on the nostalgia factor and this season is no different as we are treated to more classic 80’s rock that will certainly get you humming. There are also some tremendous nods to that era as Bloodsport makes its way into the proceedings along with a fantastic shout out to the Lady dragon herself Cynthia Rothrock. Fans like me who lived through those years will do nothing but smile as there are mentions to such classic Chuck Norris movies like The Delta Force (which is my favorite Norris flick) as well as The Octagon. The creators and writers just get what is going on here and show ample respect to the source material throughout.
Another strong point for me is the fact that the fight sequences have gotten stronger each season and this year, fans are treated to some of the best action sequences in terms of martial arts skill and showmanship. The last two episodes are the best as the All-Valley Tournament is on, and the competition is fierce and there are also skills competitions to go along with the Kumite aspect. The choreography has definitely come a long way and this finale is worth the price of admission alone with some spectacular displays of martial arts action including a sensational fight between Robbie and Eli that is a real showstopper.
I won’t go into any real spoilers, but this season once again ends with a massive cliffhanger and there is the return of an old character that will get fans’ fists pumping. Season 5 will most likely take the show in a different direction, and I can’t wait to see what happens with all the underlying story arcs that are on the way. In my mind, I feel that villains will become heroes and vice versa just like in the past and you never know where the plot is going to go from here on out.
Overall. Cobra Kai is as strong as ever and the heart, humor and action are all in full effect to go along with the nostalgia that will constantly make you smile. There is some cheesiness to be had but I think that’s part of its charm, and this is one show that I would love to see continue for years to come. Who knew when the original movies first came out that we would still be here celebrating these characters old and new and they would be just as relevant as they were back in the day. Maachio and Zabka bring it all together with outstanding chemistry between the two and their growth is one of the strongest selling points of the show. Martin Kove and Thomas Ian Griffith are a treat as the villains you still love. With Cobra Kai, it’s come for the nostalgia but stay for everything else that it delivers and consider this review for the new season my thoughts on the series as a whole. Season 5 cannot come fast enough.