Nostalgia sells. It’s a heck of a drug. Audiences love revisiting their favorite movies and shows from childhood. It’s an escape from the stresses of the mundane routine that comes with adulthood. Bills. Jobs. Relationships. Netflix’s original series Cobra Kai harnesses nostalgia while weaving a new story that feels fresh and relevant. It takes viewers back to one of the most beloved franchises of the 80’s, The Karate Kid. The series, which began as a YouTube original series before moving to Netflix, is going strong and Season 4 keeps up the momentum. Like an illegal crane kick to the face.
Ralph Macchio plays Daniel LaRusso. He IS the Karate Kid. Sure, Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby) had her go at it in The Next Karate Kid. And Jaden Smith (After Earth) filled the role in 2010. But Macchio is the OG and the role has always been his. Back in ’84 he was the new kid in town. The outsider who was bullied by Johnny Lawrence and some other karate students from the Cobra Kai Dojo. But after befriending a wise old Karate Master, Mr. Miyagi, Daniel learns about karate and, more importantly, about life. Macchio and Zabka reprise their roles of Daniel and Johnny in Cobra Kai. The hit series takes viewers back to the All Valley Karate Tournament. With all of the cheesiness and poorly performed karate kicks you could hope for.
People in this town sure do love karate. Like, a lot. Too much really. And in season 4 that obsession continues. However, the fighting and the choreography are improved upon from earlier seasons. The martial arts still don’t look great, but they don’t need to. People aren’t tuning in to watch John Wick level action sequences. They want to see characters they love consumed in drama, struggles and mishaps. And Cobra Kai delivers exactly that. It’s like a soap opera where everybody wants to sweep the leg and perform double spin kicks to the face. And who doesn’t love that?
Last year’s amazing conclusion to season 3 saw Johnny and Daniel uniting for the first time in history to battle a greater foe, Sensei Kreese. It was a monumental moment that had fans bowing to their televisions out of respect for how amazing it was. The new season picks up from there. The decision to combine Johnny and Daniel’s dojos is the driving point to Season 4’s plot. The two former rivals have differing opinion on… well, everything. And the students, including Daniel’s daughter Sam, struggle to adapt to the new ways of doing things.
Cobra Kai keeps the original film trilogy close to its heart. Through the use of flashbacks and returning characters the series manages to feel like a direct extension of the movies. At times, it feels too reliant on the movies. This was primarily the case with Season 3. Watching Daniel and Johnny fall back into their love of karate, and share that passion with their own children and students makes this show work. It succeeds where others have failed because it knows exactly what it is and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Season 4 continues the series’ winning streak and continues to develop not only the main cast, but the supporting characters in ways that are meaningful and fun to watch. 8/10 leg sweeps.