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Cobra Kai Season 3 – Review

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Miguel Cobra Kai Season Three image
Netflix

The long-awaited Season Three of Cobra Kai is here, streaming now on Netflix, but is it any good, here’s our review.

Besides cathartic and well-choreographed teenage karate, two things keep audiences watching Cobra Kai. The first is that the show never stops changing. Characters that began season one as meek bully bait ended it as the aggressive bullies. Others started by wrestling with resentment and bitterness to end up in a state of inner peace. In Season Two, friendships and alliances form and falter. Conflicts that appear close to resolving end up accelerating. Like a cobra, the show slithers.

The second what The Karate Kid franchise is all about: heart, and the ability to improve oneself. Even for a karate show, Cobra Kai is full of conflict and characters that do awful things to one another. Yet we can help but earnestly root for each of them on every side. Except for John Kreese, that is.

Season Three continues these themes while also elevating them. Not only is change constant, but about-faces abound. Characters confront their demons, learn to let go of the past, and reconcile with enemies. The first two seasons slither; Season Three plants its roots and grows.

SPOILERS: If you’re reading this then you’ve probably seen the show, but if not there are spoilers ahead.

Highs

Two particular characters bring out this theme of evolution from each of our two leads. First, Danny LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) travels to Okinawa, seeking simplicity and retreat. Instead, he finds a Tomi Village that has seen four decades of Japanese capitalism. He luckily runs into Kumiko (Tamlyn Tomita), who remains the ray of sunshine she was in The Karate Kid Part II. After reconnecting, Kumiko brings Danny to meet with Chozen (Yuji Okumoto). At first, Danny is apprehensive about spending time around his former attempted murderer. But Chozen reveals secret Miyagi karate techniques even Mr. Miyagi kept hidden.

These techniques are a complete turnaround from the typical Miyagi style of defence. In particular, Danny learns the secrets of Miyagi pressure points and how to numb them. As Chozen says, “If your enemy insists on war, take away his ability to wage it.” They end their brief reunion in forgiveness and friendship, the same as their senseis four decades previous.

For Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), his evolution comes from the person in the past he never let go. Mild spoilers for the end of the season, but we are finally graced with the presence of Ali (Elizabeth Shue). She and Johnny have a lovely day reminiscing and regretting. They run into Danny and Amanda (Courtney Henggeler) at a Christmas party, where Ali takes both men down a notch (and rewrites a little canon). It takes the woman at the centre of a rivalry echoing for forty years to get the men in it to see they are the same. It’s ironic that the characters brought in for the nostalgia factor teach us to let go of nostalgia.

The season is full of other highs. Miguel (Xolo Maridueno) recovers from paralysis to become the best of his Season One and Season Two selves. Sam (Mary Mauser) faces the trauma and panic resulting from the Season Two finale. Robby (Tanner Buchanan) and Tory (Peyton List) wrestle with, and succumb to, their guilt. Hawk sheds more of his decency every episode, and Jacob Bertrand portrays his fading humanity with impressive subtlety. Amanda, whose aloofness from the drama has been her charm, finally gets in the middle of it. And as insane as John Kreese is, Season Three gives us a humanising window into the man.

Lows

The lows are easy to ignore, but believability gets strained in this season. It’s natural that stakes are hard to raise after a school-wide karate riot. But the antics of Cobra Kai pass into outright felonies, culminating in a home invasion with the intent of aggravated assault. The tone becomes confusing, setting lighthearted teen comedy alongside scenes of deadly fear. We’ve moved from high school bullying too, “Why is no one calling the police? Do any of these kids have parents anymore besides the LaRussos and Carmen?”

These complaints would usually be leaning into the nitpicky side of things. But this season features both cops and parental political will as major subplots! Robby goes to jail and the PTA pressures the high school to act on the karate issue and institute new rules. We see Miyagi-Do characters blamed for the karate riot, but how does Cobra Kai avoid getting bad press? John “been fighting in Nam mentally for over half a century” Kreese stands before the city council and gets thanked while Danny gets reamed.

Robby’s character arc is understandable and necessary from a narrative standpoint. But the individual twists of his arc lacked effective execution. Rather than the intended tragic figure, Robby is coming across as a kid who absorbs a new personality once he spends two episodes with a group of people.

Easter Eggs

Fitting for a season interested in roots, Season Three has a lot of easter eggs from The Karate Kid Part II. Johnny begins the season by emulating his Sensei by breaking some car windows with his fists. Chozen and Danny have a sparring match that ends in the very same finishing move as their climactic fight. Kumiko is following her dream of being a traditional Okinawan dancer and reveals that she has remained, in Danny’s old words, “a free agent” over the years. Sam bonds with Miguel by explaining the secret of the Okinawan hand drum and the karate lesson it holds. And Danny recounts to Chozen the story of Miyagi karate´s origin that Mr Miyagi once told to him. And a character that Danny saved forty years ago returns to save him from his own troubled situation.

What to expect

Season Four’s release date has yet to be announced, though many predict January 2021. It promises to be a high-octane thrill ride. Season One introduced and developed the characters. Then Season Two entrenched their arcs and conflicts. Season Three reinvented and regrouped them. We expect Season Four is thus prepared for a climactic confrontation, our heroes banded together against the horde of villains. A climactic battle for the soul of karate is forthcoming, and it won´t be as cheesy as that sounds. Though, knowing those Miyagi students, they may find a peaceful resolution at the end of the day.


CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 9/10


Thank you for reading our review of Cobra Kai Season Three. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.


Check out our Cobra Kai Season Two review HERE.

Read IMDB information about Cobra Kai HERE.

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Cobra Kai Season 4 – Review

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Cobra Kai Season Four image
Netflix

Cobra Kai season four is out now on Netflix and the All Valley is back and better than ever. Here’s our review.

SPOILERS: If you’re reading this then you’ve probably seen the show, but if not there are spoilers ahead.

It’s January, and new shows are popping up everywhere. This brings us to the show that I and my friends have been holding our breaths for: the fourth season of the hit Netflix series Cobra Kai! After three seasons, I wondered if there was anything left to mine from the Karate Kid lore or the Johnny/Daniel dynamic. I am happy to report that this might be my favourite season yet! It manages to not only expand upon the universe it has created, but to bring in a new villain, who is so bad that he threatens to outdo even John Kreese!

Alliance

Season four sets us off where the third left off, with Johnny and Daniel having joined forces to fight Cobra Kai. Their friendship arc is the glue that holds this season together. The story focuses largely on whether they will be able to pull it together and make their partnership work. As in previous seasons, their relationship has its ups and downs. The stakes are heightened, however, as the season leads up to the All-Valley Tournament. A bet between the three senseis – Kreese, Daniel, and Johnny – means that losing the All Valley is losing the title of sensei.

This season explores the ways that both Johnny and Daniel work with the kids. It also examines the kids’ struggles as they prepare for the All Valley while dealing with conflict within the ever-changing network of friends and enemies in the dojos. Robbie has left juvenile hall and decided to join up with Cobra Kai as a means of inflicting revenge on both his dad and Daniel. Tori and Sam continue their rivalry. And John Reese’s old friend Terry Silver (of Karate Kid 3 fame) shows up to kick Cobra Kai into high gear.

Daniel’s son, Anthony, who has largely been absent until now, faces his own dilemma when his friends begin bullying Kenny, the new kid in town. This soft-spoken middle school character brings us into the world of the younger kids, setting up yet another storyline. Kenny becomes the victim of a gang of kids (including Anthony), enduring round after round of bullying before Robbie takes him under his wing. After his induction into Cobra Kai, the formerly shy middle-schooler becomes a bully himself.

Shades of grey

This brings me to one of my favourite things about the show. The constant back and forth dynamic between characters makes us feel that anything is possible. There is no black and white in the world of Cobra Kai. Where the Karate Kid told us that Daniel was good, and Johnny was bad, this show gives us a very different point of view. It’s a world where we’re never sure who to root for. In this season, we even see Hawk make a return to the “good guys” side after giving up his spot at Cobra Kai.

With Eagle Fang (Johnny’s new dojo) and Miyagi-Do teaming up, the kids – and the adults – have to learn to work together. Of course, complications ensue. Johnny becomes jealous of what he perceives as Miguel’s preference for Daniel over him. Sam wants to learn both her dad’s karate style and Johnny’s, despite her father’s discouragement. Meanwhile, at Cobra Kai, Kreese is losing his grip on the dojo. His former war buddy, Terry Silver, puts off a rather benign appearance in episode one, growing more and more evil with each episode.

This season is lacking in many of the big fight scenes of the previous seasons, instead choosing to focus their energy on the characters. The All Valley Tournament features several great karate matches and offers a satisfying conclusion to Johnny and Daniel’s arc. In the end, Cobra Kai takes the tournament win, but Johnny and Daniel have reached an understanding.

New champions

Tori defeats Sam to take the women’s All Valley trophy but later overhears her sensei paying off one of the referees. It’s clear that Cobra Kai has pulled yet another fast one. But the season ends on an even more ominous – and unexpected – note. Terry Silver assaults the over-aged former Cobra Kai member, Stingray, sending him to the hospital. He then makes a deal with Stingray to blame the crime on Kreese. We end the season with Kreese in handcuffs, Terry Silver set to take over Cobra Kai, and the future of Eagle Fang and Miyagi-Do uncertain. In a last shocking twist, Miguel leaves town in search of his biological father.

Although some may miss the school hallway throw downs, I found this one satisfying in a different way. It just goes to show that the ever-expanding Cobra Kai universe can keep bringing surprises season after season.


CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 9/10


Thank you for reading our review of Cobra Kai season four. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.


Check out our Hawkeye episode one and two review HERE.

Read IMDB information about Spider-Man: No Way Home HERE.

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