Is it weird that, of all the movies and shows that were slated to be released in 2021, one of my most anticipated would be the third season of Cobra Kai? Well, actually, it should come to no surprise as a lot of people, even those unfamiliar with the Karate Kid franchise have hopped on the Cobra Kai train and they’ve been enjoying the ride ever since.
However, I was somewhat concerned when it was announced the series was moving to Netflix. I mean, I’m glad the show was still going to continue and I think the showrunners were still given free reign over the direction of Cobra Kai. But it’s just the minor concern if the move would give the people running the show’s production the impression that they can go more gritty. Thankfully, as I’ve already binge watched the entire third season in a few days, this doesn’t seem to be the case. However, after watching all ten episodes, a few new concerns did arise.
While I know the entire third season has been out on Netflix and a lot of you have probably already watched all ten episodes, there are still going to be a small percentage of you who haven’t yet. So, just to be fair to the latter group, this review will be entirely SPOILER FREE. Anyway, on with the review!
Cobra Kai’s third season pretty much leaves off where the second season ends. Johnny Lawrence is in the dumps as he lost his Cobra Kai dojo to his former sensei, John Kreese, and he feels guilty because his student, Miguel Diaz, was critically injured and laying in a coma because of the school brawl between Cobra Kai and the Miyagi-do school. Daniel Larusso feels lost as well as his student, Robby Keene, who was the one who unintentionally paralyzed Miguel during the brawl, is now in trouble with the law because of what happened to Miguel. Meanwhile, John Kreese is shoring up Cobra Kai in an attempt to weed out the weak and make his dojo all the much stronger in the process.
I will say, like all the previous seasons, I loved the third season of Cobra Kai. The producers still manage to balance that mix of ’80s sensibilities and modern ideas most of the time. Most of the performances are fantastic and the action, which are understandably unbelievable and insane, is generally fun to watch. However, there are some notable changes in the character dynamics that seem out of whack.
The most notable one being between Johnny Lawrence and Daniel Larusso. This is mostly because, well, Johnny and Daniel don’t really have direct beef with each other anymore. Both of them are more angry at Kreese now. This does lead them to not really have that much contact with each other since they’re more focused on Kreese. Which is a shame because William Zabka and Ralph Macchio definitely have some incredible chemistry together when they’re both in the same scene. You still get a few moments wherein they interact with each other but they feel few and far between.
This does lead me to another issue I have with the third season and that has to deal with the overabundance of storylines. Previous seasons were very streamlined and to the point. It was easy to understand that Cobra Kai was all about Johnny trying to resurrect Cobra Kai and be a more positive influence than his former sensei. Daniel, on the other hand, is having difficulty letting go of the past and what Cobra Kai did to him. It was basically two people having a grudge but they weren’t either the good guy nor the bad guy in the same story.
Season 3 does feel rather bloated as we now have Kreese attempting to remold Cobra Kai into his previous iteration, Daniel’s daughter suffering the emotional effects of the school brawl, Hawk trying to prove to Kreese he’s now the best Cobra Kai disciple, Robby’s difficulty with being incarcerated and Miguel trying to learn to walk again, among others. It’s not that these stories are bad. I would say all of them are engaging in their own way, actually. But it does muddy up the original concept of Cobra Kai. It’s not all about Johnny and Daniel’s feud anymore. It’s much more than that now. I can’t say right now if adding these more complex stories will be better for Cobra Kai in the long run (future seasons will determine that) but I kind of miss the old dynamic.
It’s also really weird that, since Cobra Kai does try to stuff more stories into the fold, it decided to either cut down some scenes from a couple of the major secondary characters or cut them out altogether. Remember Moon, Hawk’s old flame from the second season? Well, she’s barely in it this season. The most conspicuous missing character is Aisha, the female Cobra Kai student who was so prominently featured in the previous two seasons. They quickly explain what happened to her in the first episode but it’s just weird that she wasn’t in the third season seeing how important she generally was in previous seasons.
Thankfully, the cast that did remain still give some really impressive acting performances. I’ve already mentioned the dynamic between Johnny and Daniel but the more impressive pairing is actually between Johnny and Miguel. The two have generally been the heart of the show as you feel there’s a genuine bond between student and sensei. There’s an almost symbiotic relationship between the two, with Johnny trying to do what’s best for Miguel and Miguel trying to teach Johnny how things work in modern times. That’s actually attributed between the fantastic chemistry between William Zabka, who plays Johnny Lawrence, and Xolo Mariduena, who plays Miguel Diaz.
I also have to talk about the overall pacing of Season 3. There are a few filler episodes but not in the usual context. These filler episodes do come off an necessary in the long run as they’re there to introduce new plot points that will become important by the last episode. But they do come out of left field and you know they’re there to tie a bow around everything by the end. I would normally complain but, hey! It’s just like the ’80s, isn’t it?
The fight scenes in Cobra Kai are a little more acrobatic than previous seasons. The first season has fights that were definitely more realistic and down-to-earth. Season 2 turned up the unrealistic factor by having both Cobra Kai and Miyagi-do students performing flawless spinning kicks and flips with no problem. Season 3 does amp up the ridiculousness a smidge from Season 2. Oh, they’re fun and all but they are super unrealistic. Then again, it’s the ’80s! What are you gonna do?
Despite all my previous complaints I made earlier, I really enjoyed Season 3 of Cobra Kai. Each episode was fun to watch in their own way and, even though I had some issues with the filler episodes, they were all engaging as they did lead to the next important plot point. I am super excited to see if they can manage to carry the magic over to Season 4.
Have you seen Season 3 of Cobra Kai? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!