This show really brought back some good childhood memories, as it is the sequel of the famous Karate Kid trilogy, famously known for the bond between Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) and their rivalry between John Kreese (Martin Kove) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) of the Cobra Kai Karate Dojo. Although Zabka was only casted in the first movie and appeared briefly in the second, the show follows the full trilogy. Zabka and Macchio reprised their roles as we get to see how their lives unfold after the trilogy events.
The show starts off with Daniel enjoying the life he has always dreamed of, owning a fancy dealership, happy family, and seemingly free of problems. On the other hand, Johnny is in a world of anguish, as he has nobody in his life, losing his mother at a young age, his sensei forcefully abandoning him after the tournament, and failing his relationship with his divorced wife and his son, Robby Keene (Tanner Buchanan). However, Johnny’s life changes when he meets his neighbor, Miguel Diaz (Xolo Maridueña), who is struggling to fit into this new city. Johnny later saves Miguel after a group of bullies led by Kyler (Joe Seo) pick on Miguel, leading to Johnny interfering and using karate to defend Miguel. After some convincing by Miguel and a run-in with Daniel at the LaRusso dealership, Johnny decides to reopen the Cobra Kai dojo under his name. Although Johnny is cold at first, he decides to take his relationship with Miguel more seriously and treats Miguel like his son, leading Miguel to be his star pupil and helping Johnny become a better person. However, Daniel later sees Johnny’s dojo open and, out of fear due to past trauma experienced in the trilogy, opens his own dojo, Miyagi Do Karate, and even taking in Robby, Johnny’s son, as his first student. The show follows with classic high school drama and similar patterns in the rivalry between Johnny and Daniel, with characters such as John Kreese coming back later on in the show.
Personally, I believe that the most interesting aspect of the show is how each side believes that they are fighting for a good cause, however each side has their flaws. For example, Johnny wants to teach the kids to defend themselves against their bullies and conquer their fears, however his disconnection with the modern world blinds him to how corrupting Kreese’s style of Cobra Kai is until Miguel wins the All-Valley tournament against Robby dishonorably. After witnessing Miguel’s actions, however, Johnny tries to implement principles of honor into his class, but fails due to Kreese later influencing the kids. On the other hand, Daniel tries to teach his class how to find balance in their lives, fight honorably, and defending others with good intentions, however he often becomes too obsessed with his rivalry with Johnny and goes against his own advice. Finally, Kreese also wants to help the kids in defending themselves, but he has been traumatized by his time in the army and life events to implement restraints in real life situations, causing the kids to become more violent.
Also, another interesting aspect of the show is the personal growth relationships of the show. In the beginning of the series, Johnny only takes Miguel in because he needs a line of work after being fired from his previous job and a stable source of money. However, after failing to repair his relationship with Robby, Johnny later realizes that Miguel still has faith in him and he cannot give up on Miguel like he did with Robby, and begins teaching Miguel seriously while treating Miguel like a son. Alternatively, Daniel only teaches Robby to create a star pupil to combat Cobra Kai, but after realizing Robby is Johnny’s son and making a rash decision to separate himself from Robby, Daniel later comes back to Robby and tries to mentor Robby to a similar path given by his former sensei, Mr. Miyagi. However, Robby seems to get the worst of the relationships, as he feels betrayed by both sides and is sent down the wrong path, finding a new sensei in the corrupting influence, John Kreese.
Overall, this series is worth watching, whether you’re a fan of the Karate Kid trilogy or someone looking for a good show to watch. The numerous references to past movies, growth in relationships, and exploration of each side and going deeper into their motivations and past makes the show an interesting watch. Even the high school rivalries between the students of each dojo allows teenagers currently in high school to relate to the show in a personal way. At the time of writing this review, there are currently only 3 seasons to watch, however there are only 4 days until the premiere of Season 4, which only looks to improve on its previous seasons.