Cobra Kai is not only a totally excellent show on Netflix, but it’s also a kick @$$ name for a dojo. Based on events from the 1984 movie The Karate Kid, Cobra Kai picks up decades later, expounding on the lives of Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) and Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio). What Netflix doesn’t know yet is that Cobra Kai should be transformed into their best sci-fi series ever.
Cobra Kai focuses on Johnny Lawrence, whom we last saw literally getting kicked in the head by bully Daniel LaRusso. Netflix, attempting not to allow history to be written by a kid performing an inappropriate, illegal kick, seeks to right the historical record.
For more on how Daniel LaRusso was a childhood bully, please see this informational video:
Unfortunately, that devastating kick somehow injured Johnny’s brain, forcing him to rely on social skills and stereotypes from the 1980s. As a result, he has fallen on hard times and has since been forced to rely on his pure awesomeness, Coors Banquet, and the wisdom of Iron Eagle to make his way through life.
Meanwhile, LaRusso, like a 2008 Wall Street banker, has leveraged his lawlessness into capitalistic gain. He now owns a regional automotive empire that seeks to publicly advertise his misdeeds and persistently remind all of humanity of Johnny’s humiliation. It gets worse; not only did he break Johnny’s spirit with that kick, he also directly caused the collapse of the famed Cobra Kai Dojo, a mentoring hotspot for many local youth in need.
Despite all of these obstacles, being the flawed hero that he is, Johnny somehow finds a way to overcome the mental anguish he has endured and commits to restarting Cobra Kai to mentor bullied youth Miguel Diaz (Xolo Maridueña). After being beat up and tested numerous times, Miguel is forced to display the awesomeness with which he has been anointed by Sensei Johnny Lawrence. Then, by overcoming unthinkable odds, Miguel justly becomes a regional karate champion. Witnessing this and recognizing the greatness of Sensei Johnny, hoards of bullied and outcast youth flock to the program, and once again, Cobra Kai becomes the number one center for disenfranchised adolescents.
Amidst all of this heart touching narrative that Netflix masterfully brings to life, the viewer is also treated to a montage of unforgettable ’80s memories, tapping into the childhoods of the show’s viewers. Stylistically, from remakes of videos like Whitesnake’s classic “Here I Go Again” to a Cobra styled shifter and a soundtrack for the ages, Cobra Kai gets it right. It’s a true redemption story.
Well, that is, until LaRusso shows up again.
LaRusso–who has everything anyone could ever want including riches, family, multiple homes, his own business, a fleet of Porsches, classic cars, and an apparent Fountain of Youth (Ralph Macchio is 58 and looks 45)–still cannot let Johnny have even this one win. So, invoking the spirit of the now deceased “demon sorcerer” Mr. Miyagi, LaRusso opens a competing dojo, “Miyagi Do Karate” (perpetual eye roll), seeking to decimate Johnny once and for all while sending those needy children back to the streets and securing a tyrannical monopoly on everything in the valley.
Even in the midst of this atrocity, Johnny still finds a way to woo LaRusso by buying him his favorite drink. He even learns to dance when LaRusso intrudes on Johnny’s first date with the only girl that he’s had feelings for since LaRusso stole the love of his life in high school. Of course, LaRusso, full of himself, discarded her as soon as he saw that Johnny had lost interest. But now even LaRusso’s current wife Amanda (Courtney Henggeler, and who knows how many wives he’s had by this point) has to constantly point out what a whiny baby he’s being. He is neglecting his family to focus on childhood rivalries that he created, forcing his children into life-threatening combat, and upcharging car buyers inflated prices so that he can “give” them a “free” bonsai tree after he has ripped them off. He is absolutely insufferable, and yet Johnny is STILL trying to make it work.
That is, until then end of Season Two, when LaRusso’s daughter Samantha (Mary Mouser), who has enlisted into the demon sorcerer dojo ranks of perpetual destruction that her father has necromanced, does what LaRusso spawn do best: she stirs up some $#!+, turning the local high school into a real-life Mortal Combat death arena of doom. So, in attempt to defend the honor of the dojo that has given their lives purpose and ceased their perpetual harassment by their peers, Cobra Kai’s finest spring into action, literally fighting for their juvenile lives.
The scene is so brutally enacted that the heroic hope coursing through Johnny’s champion veins, fueling the entire show, seems to be roundhouse kicked over the balcony of despair, sending viewers into an emotional plummet of devastation. Can our hero Johnny once again find meaning in the midst of chaos? Will LaRusso’s minions finally be sentenced to juvie? Will MoonHawk (Hannah Kepple & Jacob Bertrand) go the way of the TomKat? (Yes, that’s an early ’00s reference.) Can the evil curse of Miyagi Do wizardry be exorcised? We just don’t know yet.
But I think that there is a way forward Check back next week to learn how…
Reality Changing Observations:
Q1. Exactly how long, from the start of The Karate Kid movie, did it take for you to realize that Daniel LaRusso is a bully?
Q2. Do you think that the fact that Ralph Macchio is only 58 years old, but only looks slightly taller than he was in 1984, suggests that may be is secretly related to Ponce De León?
Q3. Standing in the shadows of Sensei Johnny Lawrence’s impeccable taste in music: What are your top 25 favorite 1980’s rock songs?