By Nolan P. Smith
One of the most iconic film franchises from the 1980’s has to be the Karate Kid. Seeing a young upstart take on the world with a wise mentor by his side was the ultimate underdog story. When the franchise was rebooted with Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan, it lost its magic, its sense of belonging. With Cobra Kai, a ten-episode series exclusively on YouTube Red, we get the sequel the world deserves and never knew it needed.
Thirty years have passed since that infamous All Valley Karate Tournament where Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) took down his bully Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) to take first place. Life has indeed changed, as Johnny does handyman work where he can, and Daniel is living the wealthy life, being the owner of LaRusso Auto Group. When young Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) and his family move in next to the down on his luck Johnny, we see a role reversal of sorts, with Johnny becoming the sensei, and becoming a ray of hope for a new generation of students.
The series feels like it belongs in the 80’s, from the soundtrack to the homages to the original film: it’s a fantastic feeling. Cobra Kai is about Johnny finding himself, finding a new purpose, and trying to fix the past, like being a deadbeat dad to his high school son Robby (Tanner Buchanan). For Daniel, it’s coming to terms with the fear he’s held onto for Cobra Kai, and how he lets it wreak havoc on his seemingly happy life.
What made the original Karate Kid so successful was the connection with the characters. Whether it was the hatred for John Kreese, the envy of the inspiring Mr. Miyagi, or the never give up attitude of Daniel. We get a whole new look at Daniel and Johnny here, where you are actually pulling for Cobra Kai. Johnny grows into the role of helping his league of losers become confident in who they are, but in a very brash, Cobra Kai style. Daniel, on the other hand, has kids that don’t want to be a part of the karate life and are most interested in video games and being popular. The tides have indeed turned.
This. This is the Karate Kid sequel I wanted to see. I am in amazement over this whole series. The unpredictable nature of the show, the “oh crap” moments, from Johnny taking out a group of punks in the first episode to the last scene in the last episode, this series strikes first and knocks out the expectations. The new group of kids, from Miguel, Hawk (Jacob Bertrand), and Aisha (Nichole Brown) on the Cobra Kai side, and Robby, Daniel’s daughter Samantha (Mary Mouser) and others to fill out the incredible cast. But, of course, it’s the depth of the rivalry between Daniel and Johnny that catapults the show to greatness. I can only hope this series gets a second season, especially after the way this season left us wanting more.
If you haven’t checked it out yet, I highly recommend heading to YouTube Red and watching one of the best new series you will see this year.
Rating: 10 out of 10.