Cobra Kai emerged last year as a dark horse in the tv world. Nobody could have expected a Karate Kid sequel series 30 years on could be anything for a nostalgia fuelled heartless cash grab. When it was released however it turned out to be a phenomenal show. It also holds something of sentimental value for me as it was my first published review. By the time season 2 was announced expectations for it were through the roof. Could they possibly hit 2 successive home runs and deliver a solid second season?
Apparently yes they could.
This season was absolutely fantastic. Both returning and new characters shine in this season. The story picks up right where season 1 left off, with Martin Kove’s despicable John Kreese returning to the Cobra Kai Dojo while Daniel Larusso continues to try and halt the success of Cobra Kai. Kove plays Kreese masterfully, with the evil and deceptive nature of his character making him appear as though he never really left in the first place. Macchio and Zabka are still great as Larusso and Lawrence respectively, and their chemistry is one of the biggest positives of the series. Macchio’s depiction of Larusso as a holier than thou, obsessed man possibly in the midst of a mid life crisis is superb, while watching Zabka try and balance the tenets of Cobra Kai with his own failings is fascinating.
The younger cast are all also great. The whole relationship dilemma between Miguel, Tory, Sam and Robby feels quite real and adds depth to the characters. The secondary characters such as Hawk, Demetri and Ayesha are all great too. Hawk’s identity crisis is also quite prevalent and plays well into his conflict with former best friend Demetri. Larusso’s wife Amanda is also a stand out. Her penchant for calling out Johnny and Daniel on their frankly absurd Karate beef is fun to watch and provides brief moments of levity. This, coupled with scenes of Johnny Lawrence trying to figure out the internet help offset the darker tone for the latter half of the season. The brief appearance of the other former cobras from the first Karate Kid is perhaps the first element that introduces the tragic nature of the series. Former Cobra Tommy, famous for the “get him a body bag” line from the first Karate Kid succumbs to cancer after one final journey with his childhood friends. Seeing Johnny get emotional over his friend dying shows that underneath the karate facade there is a broken man trying to atone for his past. This leads me to the most tragic part of the season. The ending.
After tensions have been building between the Miyagi Do and Cobra Kai students things come to a head when they return from summer break. Tory, Miguel’s new love interest and all around dangerous person, attacks Samantha Larusso, culminating in a school wide karate brawl. Friends are pitted against each other while Robby and Miguel desperately try to quell the conflict before they too begin to fight. There is a certain brutality to this fight scene, with the use of long, sweeping takes adding an epicness to the whole scene. While Miguel decides to follow Johnny’s advice and show Robby mercy, Robby kicks him off a balcony leading to his hospitalisation.
As the season ends Miguel’s recovery is uncertain, Johnny’s budding relationship with Miguel’s mother is ruined and the Cobra Kai dojo and its students have been taken over by Kreese. Johnny is forced out of Cobra Kai and his relationship with Daniel is more hateful than ever. Johnny forsakes his car and nigh everything that he is, tearfully tossing his phone onto the beach before walking away. It is a truly tragic ending. While Miguel is unlikely to actually die from the incident his future is still uncertain. Seeing Johnny try so hard to be better than he was and to be a good person only for it to blow up in his face only deepens the empathy that we feel for him.
My only real issue with the season is the pacing seems to be a tad slow in the beginning, but once things get going they don’t stop.
VERDICT: This season of Cobra Kai was spectacular in every way, and I would highly recommend it to anyone. Even if you have never seen the original Karate Kid trilogy(The Next Karate Kid does not exist in this dojo) you will enjoy it and can likely gain enough context from the flashbacks and archive footage used. Overall I would rate it a 9.5/10.