Well, I’m all caught up on Cobra Kai! In preparation for the upcoming 4th season of the show on Netflix, I’ve seen all the necessary movies and episodes so I know all of the history. I watched all 3 Karate Kid movies (not the one with Hillary Swank because it has no connection to Cobra Kai… for now) and I’ve binge watched all of episodes. So I’m all ready when all of the new episodes come out later.
After watching all of the Karate Kid movies (sans The Next Karate Kid) and all of the previous seasons of Cobra Kai, something did strike me like an illegal crane kick to the face. Throughout the entirety of the show up until now, Cobra Kai’s focus has changed. On the surface, it’s still the story of Johnny Lawrence and Daniel LaRusso’s old rivalry when they were teens. It still involves misguided karate masters teaching kids brute force and being mean is the way to get what you want. However, the main premise has… I won’t say “changed” but rather, it’s evolved into something different.
The story isn’t about Johnny Lawrence going after redemption anymore. It’s now more about him and Daniel LaRusso facing off against old demons.
In order to really delve into what I mean by this, I will have to go into SPOILERS for Cobra Kai and, to some extent, the Karate Kid movies. So, if you haven’t watched any of them yet (although you really should since they are fun in a cheesy, kid-friendly sort of way), be forewarned for upcoming SPOILERS, okay?
The first season of Cobra Kai picks up years from the events of the Karate Kid movies. Johnny Lawrence was the star pupil of the Cobra Kai dojo and was the so-called bully in Daniel’s mind. However, it has been pointed out, if you view the film from a different perspective, Johnny isn’t the bully; Daniel is. After all, he is the one who instigated most of what happened, if you really think about it.
Because of this event as well as his sensei, John Kreese, basically disavowing him, Johnny’s life has hit a downward spiral. One day, he sees a teenager getting bullied by some teens and, recalling his karate days, sends the bullies packing. He then vows to train this teen his version of karate and, realizing there are so many kids who have become wimps, decides to reopen the Cobra Kai dojo and train them to stand up for themselves. Daniel, who has become a successful car dealership owner, recalls the bad times (bad times he causes, mind you) he had with Cobra Kai and tries to close down the dojo.
Of course, things get out of hand and Johnny Lawrence’s students, being taught to strike first and strike hard, start becoming the bullies. This, in turn, leads Daniel to open up his own dojo and even start teaching Johnny own son. These events causes the rivalry between the two to deepen even more.
However, with all of this happening, it’s actually shown, if things were just a little bit different, both Johnny Lawrence and Daniel LaRusso could actually be friends. They have more similarities they would not like to admit.
This, in my mind, was the central premise of Cobra Kai. It was all about Johnny Lawrence, in his own misguided way, trying to help kids since his own sensei taught him incorrectly. Even with Daniel thrown into the mix, the show was primarily focused on Johnny and how he found his calling and how he wanted to do better and even help others. This made you root for Johnny because what’s more inspirational than a guy down-on-his-luck trying to lift himself and others up?
The first season also brilliantly sidestepped the idea the show had to have a primary antagonist. It didn’t have a big bad to go after because neither Johnny nor Daniel (even though he was the bully in the movies) is actually doing anything overtly evil. Simply put, it a show about a couple of normal guys who have a misunderstanding and they both think they know what’s the right thing to do.
This all changed with the return of John Kreese.
You could say John Kreese was the main villain of Karate Kid 1 and 3. He did kind of farm out his bad guy duties to his old war buddy, Terry Silver, who just so happens to be returning for the upcoming season of Cobra Kai. Now, all of a sudden, the story isn’t about Johnny Lawrence wanting redemption or trying to help others. It’s become a traditional show with two enemies have to band together to take on a foe they can’t take on individually. Things also seem to be escalating because even John Kreese knows the two of them could be trouble so, once again, he has to turn to Terry Silver for some assistance.
Now, I’m not saying I’m totally against the way Cobra Kai is developing. Everything so far does seem to follow this weird sense of movie logic progression and I’m fine with that. However, I will say I’m disappointed how Cobra Kai isn’t about Johnny Lawrence anymore. It’s not about him trying to do better because he deserves better. No, Cobra Kai has become about him and Daniel getting revenge for the way they were treated in the past. I’m also not saying it came from out of nowhere. The way everything has progressed so far does feel natural in a television show sort of manner.
However, with the reappearance of old foes from the previous Karate Kid movies, it does feel like Johnny Lawrence’s story of trying to find purpose has taken a backseat and Cobra Kai has become this strange battle with the good guys banding together to take on some big, nasty evil that’s going to corrupt the town. The story of a man who wants to do good by helping others has evolved into warring factions and a big, climactic battle on the horizon.
The change isn’t necessarily a bad thing but I do wonder if this was the plan for Cobra Kai all along. I have the sneaking suspicion it wasn’t. They were writing by the seat of their pants and, somehow, somewhere, it reached this point and there’s no turning back now.
What are your thoughts on Cobra Kai? Do you think the show is getting better? Let me know in the comments section below!