Cobra Kai never dies.
Cobra Kai is a 2018 martial arts comedy-drama series created by Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, and Hayden Schlossberg. It currently has three seasons streaming to both YouTube and Netflix, consisting of thirty episodes. It has been renewed for a fourth season. The series stars William Zabka and Ralph Macchio. It has been nominated for two Primetime Emmys during its run. This show acts as a sequel to the Karate Kid franchise as a whole, but a truly direct sequel to The Karate Kid.
"Sometimes the scars you can't see are the ones that hurt the most." -Samantha LaRusso
Karate is suddenly halted in the Valley after Robby Keene accidentally breaks Miguel Diaz's back. With Miguel barely clinging on to life in the hospital and Robby on the run, Johnny Lawrence and Daniel LaRusso are at a crossroads. As Johnny tries to help Miguel and Daniel tries to comfort his traumatized daughter, John Kreese continues to build up the roster of Cobra Kai, eventually looking to take down Daniel and Johnny.
This was, easily, my favorite season of Cobra Kai.
Right off the bat, you feel the weight of the school fight. We start and Robby is on the run. Miguel is lying in the hospital, barely alive. Johnny has relapsed into a drunk, sad phase of life. Sam is traumatized. Daniel is also traumatized because his daughter was beaten up by Tory and his son figure is on the run and could potentially be a murderer.
The finale also delivers on pretty much every level. I loved the appearance of Ali Mills. I totally appreciated that she was the one who really united Daniel and Johnny. Hawk's redemption is one of the best moments in the show. It completes his character arc, showing that he realizes he has become the very thing he hated before. And the last five minutes are pure gold. Johnny vs. Kreese is great. Robby pitching in is good, too. And I absolutely love the combination of Miyagi-Do and Eagle Fang. Finally, this decades-long rivalry is resolved and Daniel and Johnny have to team up to take down the true evil: Kreese. It makes me very excited.
The stakes are also legitimately high now. Kreese and Cobra Kai are a danger to society, and they need to be stopped. And my complaint throughout all of Cobra Kai has been that the characters take karate way too seriously. Which is still the case in this season, but it feels a little more justified. It's understandable because they broke Demetri's arm. They are committing actual crimes. This will appear in my negatives, too, but we're still in the positives.
I really enjoyed Daniel's trip to Okinawa. I haven't seen The Karate Kid Part II, and I don't plan on it, but I have seen parts of it. The return of Chozen and Kumiko was pretty fun. All the callbacks to the previous Karate Kid films worked. In season one, they were forced and unnatural, but in season three, it flows parallel to the story. While this is still fan service, it feels more organic.
While the dialogue is horrific, Cobra Kai's characters are really well written. Everyone from Johnny to Tory has multiple layers and motivations. Johnny is trying to right his wrongs and teach Miguel karate while also forming a bond with him. Daniel becomes terrified of Cobra Kai, and just as he learns to accept it, they become true villains. Even though Kreese is a manipulative piece of crap, this season fleshes out his backstory to make him more of a sympathetic character. Amanda acts as the voice of reason amongst these crazed karate senseis.
Sam basically acts as the kid version of Daniel. She has all of her father's flaws while also retaining his strengths. Miguel is the character that goes from bullied kid to bully, and then protector of bullied kids. Hawk goes from protagonist to anti-hero to antagonist. Tory has to deal with a rough home life, so she uses karate and fighting as a way to get her anger out. Robby grew up without a father figure, finally finds Daniel, and then feels betrayed when Daniel turns him in.
That's a really good batch of well-written characters. And that is impressive.
Finally, I loved the dynamic between Johnny and Miguel. That was a core part of the show that was removed in season two, which is why I didn't like it. This season picks up their relationship as a more brotherly relationship instead of a father-son relationship, and I think, even though it's a bit weird, it works better.
Cobra Kai is, inherently, a ridiculous show, but things get cartoonish in this season.
I do like that they raise the stakes, but in doing that, they turn the Cobra Kai kids into legit criminals that are committing heinous acts. Hawk breaks Demetri's arm. They steal a cobra from a zoo. Then they break into Daniel's house and begin assaulting the Miyagi-Do kids. Kreese is clearly unstable. The police need to get involved. I hate that Daniel and Johnny let Kreese off of the hook when he says they will resolve this rivalry at the All-Valley Tournament. That is the stupidest possible conclusion. These are bad kids and bad people that need to be contained. Not given a chance in a karate tournament.
Also, while I liked Kreese's backstory throughout the season, the ending is absolutely ludicrous. He is forced to fight his captain over a pit of cobras. Really? That's what you go with? It is almost laughable that this is what they thought of. Instead of giving Kreese a gritty, violent, and upsetting ending to his story, we get this overly cartoonish fight over a snake pit. I'm chuckling right now while writing it.
And, as has been throughout the show, karate is too serious in this season. There's not much to say here that I haven't already said, so that's all.
I really did not like what this season does to Robby. I think his motivations to turn bad are good, but everything else kind of ruins the character. He was trying to redeem himself and be a good person, but this season just turns him full-on bad. And I don't like that. When he was first introduced, I hated Robby. But when season two made him more of a good guy, he was one of the best characters. And season three first sidelines him, and then makes him turn bad and join Cobra Kai. Ugh.
Before I unveil my final score, I've reviewed both seasons one and two of Cobra Kai, as well as the original Karate Kid. If you want daily updates, subscribe to the website. If you want even more Sweet N' Sour content, follow me on Instagram and TikTok @sweetnsourreviews.
Season three is the best season of Cobra Kai. While still riddled with problems, it delivers the characters and emotional payoff that the audience wants.
I'll go Savory on this one. Age range is 8+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Sweet (Great) Savory (Good) Sour (Bad)
Fun Factor: 8/10
Created by Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, and Hayden Schlossberg
Rated TV-14 for karate violence and action, language, thematic elements
Episode runtime: 35 minutes
William Zabka as Johnny Lawrence
Ralph Macchio as Daniel LaRusso
Xolo Maridueña as Miguel Diaz
Mary Mouser as Samantha LaRusso
Martin Kove as John Kreese
Courtney Henggeler as Amanda LaRusso
Jacob Bertrand as Eli "Hawk" Moskowitz
Tanner Buchanan as Robby Keene
Peyton List as Tory Nichols
Gianni DeCenzo as Demetri
Vanessa Rubio as Carmen Diaz
Yuji Okumoto as Chozen Toguchi
Tamlyn Tomita as Kumiko
Elisabeth Shue as Ali Mills Schwarber
Annalisa Cochrane as Yasmine Barrett Carnahan as Young John Kreese
Terry Serpico as Captain Turner