As someone who “liked” the original movies of The Karate Kid, Cobra Kai has been a hard kick in the pants to re-watch the movies to find a new love and appreciation for them. That speaks volumes to how great of a job the show runners are doing with this Netflix series. After watching the first few episodes of the first season I was hooked and invested in the characters more than the movies had ever caused me to be. The movies now hold a different place in my heart, and I have a newfound fondness for them.
The spin that this show puts on the one dimensional “good guy, bad guy” character is a unique and thought-provoking way to show that there are multiple levels to each character, every good guy has the potential to be the big bad and vise-versa. This show pulls this off all while still giving us the “80’s” movie feeling of hard rock, fast cars and high kicks!
What the first two seasons showed us is that this show is capable of giving us chills, laughs and dramatic moments where we are on the edge of our seat. Season one left large shoes to fill for the second season being full of everything people loved with the first movie, the training of the under-dog who is looking to get the girl, geeks turning cool and the climax of the All-Valley Karate Tournament. The next season brought their A-game however and filled the shoes nicely. We see more back and forth with the good guy bad guy characters trading partners faster than a honkey tonk ho down. The under-dogs have now turned into the bullies and Johnny now sees the error in his ways and wants to make some serious changes to his dojo only to have push back from his one-time abusive sensei, Kreese. The season ends with his star student and his estranged son facing off in a wild-west type of school fight that honestly, is one of the best school fight scenes in cinematic history we have ever seen. We end on a cliff hanger with a tragic end to the fight that sets up the next season.
Season three of Cobra Kai continues to push the character development of its two main characters, Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) and Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) forward. The back and forth of “will they, won’t they” become friends is a frustrating, yet satisfying rollercoaster ride of emotions. Johnny continues to be the guy stuck in the 80’s with no real need or want for modern day style or technology while Daniel makes mistake after mistake looking for leadership from his fallen sensei, ever the follower and never the leader it seems.
The over arcing theme for this entire series is re-evaluating the one trick pony that is the bad guy, as I have stated many times thus far. Where this show nails this is with the in-depth story building for each important character, we are introduced to including back stories as well as reasons behind every decision they make in the show (especially the bad ones). Due to this style of writing, the show gives us a newfound empathy, or at least sympathy for the characters we would typically throw the bad guy label on. Season three is no different, in fact it goes deeper into why certain characters are the way they are, possibly even the always hated John Kreese. How could anyone feel any kind of sympathy for a psycho like Kreese? Watch this season and find out!
We learn more about the tragic mistakes Johnny has made (and continues to make) as a father to Robby (Tanner Buchanan), but we also see him time and time again strive to be a better person and father. For anyone who has a rocky relationship with a parent, this story arc is one that is touching and emotional. It seems no matter how hard Johnny tries to patch up the holes in his relationship with Robby, things keep going wrong for him.
Daniel continues to try and do the right thing but somehow trips over his ego and NEED to be on the right side of the ying-yang. Because of this he takes a trip to Japan and without giving too much away we see some fantastic call backs from the original movies that continue to show that the ones running this show are true fans of the movies and will do everything they can to give nothing but love and respect to them.
We follow the twists and turns of each member of both dojos as they grapple with who they are and why they do the things they do, and how it affects those around them. It is surprising again how this show can flip your emotions on a character you have felt so much love or hatred for in previous seasons when they open the curtain and reveal what is really going on I their lives.
Cobra Kai’s season three is nothing but a continuation of everything we have loved in the first two seasons with deeper character development. The conflicts between the two dojos continue to fester and boil to the point of life changing consequences and self-reflection for multiple characters. Full of redeeming scenes and thought-provoking flash backs, this entire season is full of emotion and action giving us everything we wanted. With a surprising ending to the season that sets us up for nicely for season four, Cobra Kai season three pulls everything it can from the 80’s movies it spawned from and injects it into a modern-day way of storytelling. When so many shows parts ways with its roots, this show embraces them and continues to grow in the right direction being shaped as one would a bonsai tree.
Written exclusively for TheLastPicture.Show by Jacob Ruble
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