A couple of weeks ago, the fourth season of Netflix's martial arts series Cobra Kai landed on the streaming service. Continuing the petty rivalries between Johnny Lawrence and Daniel LaRusso and their respective dojos, a rivalry that started back in 1984 with The Karate Kid, this show has rocketed to success ever since its first season dropped in 2018. Despite this being the case, and despite currently being one of the highest rated TV series of all-time on IMDB, I hadn't actually jumped onto the Cobra Kai bandwagon until a few days ago, and now, I severely regret that being the case, as six days and four seasons later, I'm absolutely hooked.
This show, from the outside, has absolutely no right to be as good as it is. It might seem too harsh to say, but if you try selling someone on a show based on two of The Karate Kid's main characters once again at odds, except this time they're middle-aged and somehow can't get over what happened at the end of a tournament nearly 40 years ago, you will have a tough time getting people on board. Believe me, I've tried to rope people in, and likewise had people try to convince me to give the show a go for years. But alas, I caved in January 2022, and decided it was time to see what all the fuss was about, and boy had I been missing out.
While the core nature of this series is about as petty and daft as it gets, even more so as the seasons continue to develop, the show's creators and writing team have done a truly remarkable job at turning a couple of 80s characters into defined, deep and truly well-rounded individuals whose stories are so enthralling that the show's entire premise can be built on their backs. Ralph Macchio's LaRusso is the embodiment of his Miyagi-Do dojo teachings and is calm, collected, compassionate, and generally the more level-headed character, whereas William Zabka's Lawrence radiates the ways of the Cobra Kai dojo, and is short-tempered, hypermasculine, tough, and is pretty much trapped in the 80s. The point is, these characters have been given so much personality, a lot of which comes from the fantastic performances from Macchio and Zabka, who have so much chemistry on-screen that you'll never want to look away when the two are together.
This is an ad:
The remarkable part is that while these two are great, this show has pulled together a brilliant cast of younger stars who now serve as some of the main protagonists in this overarching martial arts tale. Between Xolo Maridueña's Miguel Diaz, Tanner Buchanan's Robbie Keene, Mary Mouser's Samantha LaRusso, Jacob Bertrand's Hawk, and Peyton List's Tory Nichols, the show has a charismatic group of individuals who are breathing new life into this iconic franchise. Their storylines intertwine and clash, and on-screen there are times where the cast share intimacy but more often than not end up butting heads (or more likely roundhouse kicking one another) over something petty that usually revolves around the timeless rivalry of the Miyagi-Do and Cobra Kai dojos.
The writing team has also done a remarkable job of keeping the characters' stories and motivations interesting and entertaining. One of the best examples is Tory Nichols' story arc as it took a character, who up until Season 4 was basically a run-of-the-mill antagonist created to rival Samantha LaRusso, and as of late has given her depth, vulnerabilities and a reason to root for her. Learning about Nichols' home life, watching her develop as she connects with Keene, and seeing the dramatic event unfold at the end of Season 4 (if you've watched the show, you know what I mean), it's all heart-breaking and you can't help but hope that Season 5 goes better for her.
But the point is, this is a series that continues to surprise. It continues to evolve in meaningful and enthralling ways, and manages to expand on what started as a petty rivalry years ago by bringing in new and returning (looking at you Terry Silver) characters to keep the conflict and action alive. The concept is silly and powered by a territorial conflict of the most absurd kinds, yet it's also remarkably entertaining and charming, even more so when you see the cast interacting off-set as there's a real sense of family there.
This is an ad:
This all brings me back to my initial point, which is that I am absolutely hooked by this show. Be it the actual series or watching on-set bloopers and interviews on YouTube, I just can't get enough of this universe, and it's eating me alive to think that Season 5 probably won't land until around the New Year of 2023 (if previous season releases are anything to go by). Cobra Kai has an appearance that will make you look over it, it'll make you doubt its acclaim, its brilliance, its hype, but I promise you, if you haven't already, give Cobra Kai a shot because it will not disappoint. Hell, it might just become one of your favourite shows, as it has for me.