Cobra Kai — A Dream Come True For Every Karate Lover
The way it connects with the three Karate Kid movies is the best fan service I’ve witnessed in show business
The Karate Kid movie series is perhaps the most loved martial arts movie series. A story of an underdog teenager with anger issues, being trained by a Karate sensei with the wisdom of his ancestors and culture, is a sure-shot recipe for success. Moreover, the chemistry of Daniel and Mr. Miyagi is even today hailed as one of the best student-teacher pairs in the history of movies.
BUT Karate Kid movies were one-dimensional. There was always a good guy and a bad guy. And the good guy always won. Daniel was always the good guy. And Mr. Miyagi was always a good teacher. The Cobra Kai series introduces the grey shades in this black and white world of karate. It tells the story of bullying in the current context along with age-old wisdom of the importance of the right kind of teacher (Sensei) in one’s life.
Till now Cobra Kai series has 4 seasons, with an IMDb rating of 8.5 and Rotten Tomatoes rating of 93%. These ratings are well-deserved given that every season is better than the previous one, with more exciting conflicts, fight sequences, and characters returning from the original Karate Kid series.
I had enjoyed watching Karate Kid movies during my college days and that inspired me to learn Karate for a year or so after college. I was also fortunate to have a sensei who is a sensible and patient man like Mr. Miyagi. This is why when I came across the first two episodes of season 1 of Cobra Kai on YouTube, I was thrilled and saw the trailer. The trailer makes clear references to the first Karate kid movie and shares some video snippets from it (mainly the crane kick one). I watched the first two episodes and bought a one-year subscription to YouTube Red (with the first month free) to watch the first season. The next season was released the next month and I could complete watching it before the free period elapsed. I recommended it to my karate sensei and to my wife. Eventually, we bought another YouTube Red subscription (with the first month free) and I watched it again with my wife (and enjoyed the show even more). In the last two years, we watched season 3 and season 4 on Netflix.
Season 1 has a fantastic catchphrase that Johnny tells his students to inspire them to become tough — flip the script. And this is exactly what the creators did when they came up with the idea of a web series that continues the story of Karate Kid more than three decades after the first movie. This time they made the bully, Johnny, the sensei and convince the viewers that Johnny was just a hot-head teenager like Daniel but unfortunately got a bad teacher, Kreese, who made him a bully. They made Johnny the guy who is not bad but is struggling to do some good with his life by helping weak high school students to stand up to bullies and fight. Johnny learns many lessons over these four seasons and becomes an endearing character. Daniel is one-dimensional at the beginning but he also begins to accept his shortcomings and that he can be wrong sometimes in judging people. To watch these two former rivals team up for the greater good of their students was the biggest fan moment I’ve witnessed (second only to Steve Rogers wielding the Mjolnir in Avengers: End Game).
There are plenty of amazing supporting characters, and my favorite one (and my wife’s favorite too) is Daniel’s wife Amanda. That woman is smart, sensible and the moral compass that Daniel needs after the passing away of his sensei Mr. Miyagi. Among the teenage characters, Hawk (Eli) gets the best character arc even though Dmitri and eventually Samantha also have their own interesting journeys. Tory is the one to look out for in Season 5, the way Season 4 ended. To find out more, watch the four seasons today!
Season 5 will be released on Netflix on September 9th. I’m eagerly waiting for it, popcorn in one hand and nachos in the other. It's gonna be… Legen… wait for it… dary. This reminds me, that the whole idea of Cobra Kai as a sequel to Karate Kid was conceived when both Ralph (Daniel) and William (Johnny) did a cameo on the How I Met Your Mother TV show.
Go ahead, watch the show even if you don’t enjoy Karate or action. My wife doesn’t unless it's John Wick or Jackie Chan, or our Indian martial artist Vidyut Jammwal. The drama, humor, and storytelling with relatable characters make it worth our time.