Cobra Kai is back again!!!! Equipped with classic The Karate Kid movie sentimentality and a healthy dose of 80s nostalgia, the new season of this Netflix Original show has been all the rage since it dropped on New Year’s Day. Topping the Netflix Top 10 chart immediately upon release, Cobra Kai’s third season is another exciting continuation of the Karate Kid spinoff show that has generated massive popularity. Nostalgia is a pretty powerful force, indeed.
Cobra Kai introduced us to middle-aged Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence, brought back to life by the iconic duo of Ralph Macchio and William Zabka. Man, they look a lot older than they did in 1984, don’t they? As adults, their lives are still on completely opposite spectrums. Daniel is an extremely wealthy and successful car dealership owner with a beautiful family, while Johnny is a deadbeat handyman and absent father. As goofy as it seems, it feels like that All Valley Tournament in the first Karate Kid movie really did determine both of their fates: one a winner, the other a loser.
Season 1 focused on Johnny’s revamped Cobra Kai dojo as it took the Valley by storm, introducing a new generation of young Cobra Kai karate students who quickly became strong fighters. Johnny takes Miguel, a lonely teen, under his wing and makes him his star student. Daniel jumps in immediately to oppose Johnny, and ends up training Robby, Johnny’s isolated son. The season’s climax is another All Valley Tournament, but this time, it’s Cobra Kai’s new students vs. a lonesome Robby, the sole representative of Mr. Miyagi’s history and Daniel’s teachings.
In Season 2, we saw Daniel recruit more students for his new and official dojo, Miyagi-do Karate. With his daughter Sam and Robby leading the way, Miyagi-do seemed unstoppable at first, but Cobra Kai only grew more ruthless. We also got the surprising return of an aged John Kreese, Johnny Lawrence’s old karate instructor and the cold-blooded founder of the original Cobra Kai. Still as cruel as ever, he trains the Cobra Kai students to be merciless toward their enemies in Miyagi-do. The tension builds until a full-on war breaks out at the highschool, with old friends battling each other in the name of their opposing dojos. In a tragically climactic ending, Miguel and Robby’s showdown concluded with Miguel falling into a coma and Robby running away. Both Johnny and Daniel are left defeated, while Kreese silently takes control of his beloved Cobra Kai.
Clearly, there was a lot to cover in the third season after that crazy cliffhanger ending. Miguel is alive, but there is doubt that he will even be able to walk again, let alone practice karate. Johnny, who has now been left dojo-less and student-less, goes on quite the alcoholic bender, but is fixed on making a comeback to help his best student out. Daniel has closed his dojo’s doors, fearing for the safety of his students. Sam is determined to keep practicing with the other Miyagi-do students, despite suffering from panic attacks following her brutal fight with Tory, a vicious Cobra Kai student who is also violently jealous of Sam’s weird love triangle with Miguel. Robby is clearly troubled by what he did and on the run. If you thought Season 2 was tense, just wait until you watch Season 3’s epic fights between the warring dojos.
In classic Cobra Kai fashion, there is also an abundance of flashback scenes from the original Karate Kid movies. Daniel LaRusso spends a good three episodes in Japan, originally travelling for business, but then finding solace in visiting Mr. Miyagi’s hometown in Okinawa. Daniel’s trip to Japan, in its entirety, is a callback to The Karate Kid Part II. He runs into many familiar faces there, such as his old love interest Kumiko (she certainly aged well) and his old archenemy, Chozen. His trip ends up becoming a journey of re-discovering the importance of karate, and he picks up some new tricks on the way, too.
Kumiko and Chozen aren’t the only characters to make a reappearance from the original movies. Ali “with an i” Mills is back, too! It appears that the Cobra Kai creators pulled out big bucks just to bring back every possible actor from all of the Karate Kid movies. What’s next, a CGI Mr. Miyagi that resurrects and comes back to teach the renewed Miyagi-do? The driving force behind what makes Cobra Kai so fun to watch is seeing so many familiar faces from the original movies, even though they’ve all aged quite a bit. Remember what I said about the power of nostalgia? If Cobra Kai and Stranger Things have proved anything, it’s that people go absolutely nuts for shows that call back to the 80s (and our favorite movies from that era).
Season 3 of Cobra Kai follows the same formula from the previous seasons: rivalry, drama, and an abundance of nicely choreographed karate fight scenes. Like any typical TV show, with each succeeding season, the plot seems to get wilder every time. One of the main characters ended up in a coma and paralyzed after Season 2—how do you top that?! Despite the obvious challenges of keeping the show consistent and entertaining, the creators were able to pull off another fun season that further develops the main characters by introducing some surprising trades between the good guys and bad guys. We even get the villain origin story behind John Kreese, and finally learn the unexpected meaning behind why he chose the name “Cobra Kai” for his karate dojo.
My friends and fellow Cobra Kai fans like to point out that the show is one of those “so bad, it’s good” types. True, the premise is somewhat silly and there’s a lot of over-the-top, goofy dramatics going on, but just because it isn’t true cinematic art doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable. With another season of exciting changes that keep the characters and the story multi-dimensional, Cobra Kai has done it again: deliver us ten episodes of lively, entertaining, and humorous television that will keep us on the edge of our seats. Season 3 ended with yet another cliffhanger, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.