Angelina’s ‘80s Archive: Cobra Kai, Seasons 1 + 2

Are you tired of The Karate Kid yet? If you are, don’t worry, because after this I’ll have no more to cover for a while (sorry, The Next Karate Kid (1994) and The Karate Kid (2010)). In my case though, as much as I can complain about the original movie’s sequels, I am never tired of The Karate Kid. I had been waiting a long time to watch Cobra Kai before I finally got the chance just a couple of weeks ago. I couldn’t find it in my heart to pay for YouTube Red when the show first began, so my sister and I had been impatiently checking for both seasons to come out on DVD together. We had read somewhere that it might be moving to Netflix, but we didn’t know when. Then, suddenly, in August 2020, the skies opened up and down came from the heavens a trailer telling me just what I needed to hear: Cobra Kai was, in fact, coming to Netflix. And soon. Even though the series is not from the ‘80s, I felt the need to write about it given its direct sequel status. Was it worth the wait? Let’s turn to the Bitchin’ Bio to find out.

Season 1 Release Date (YouTube Red): May 2, 2018 

Season 2 Release Date (YouTube Red): April 24, 2019

Netflix Release Date (S. 1+2): August 28, 2020 

Overall Synopsis: Almost 35 years after the All Valley Karate Tournament that will live in infamy, Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), following a string of bad luck, decides to reopen the Cobra Kai dojo thanks to his new “nerdy” teen neighbor, Miguel (Xolo Maridueña). Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio), now a successful auto-dealer and family man, is having none of it.  

Season 1 Overview (may contain spoilers): On one side of the story, Season 1 follows Johnny and his growing group of students as they improve in karate (and decline in their capacity for healthy conflict resolution) while training for the latest All Valley Tournament. Though he’s very rough around the edges, Johnny tries to better himself and begins to form a father-son relationship with Miguel. On the other side, Daniel is trying to cope with the resurgence of the dojo that haunted his late teen years while also looking out for his daughter, Sam (Mary Mouser), and his new employee/karate pupil, Robby (Tanner Buchanan), who he doesn’t know is Johnny’s estranged son. 

Season 2 Overview (contains spoilers): Season 2 starts after the tournament, where Johnny realizes that perhaps he has trained the Cobra Kais too intensely. As much as Johnny may want to fix his mistakes, Kreese (Martin Kove), his presumably dead former sensei, has returned and wishes to teach the kids his version of Cobra Kai karate—the kind he almost killed Johnny with back in 1984. Meanwhile, Daniel has started his own dojo, Miyagi-Do, which teaches balance and karate as self-defense. He becomes distant from his business and his wife, Amanda (Courtney Henggeler), as he takes on the role of sensei. Drama between the teens in the two dojos reaches its boiling point. 

How I Watched It: Netflix—all 20 episodes within a few days. 

Degrees of Kevin Bacon: 2, the same as The Karate Kid III, through Ralph Macchio’s role in The Outsiders. 

Come For: A Johnny Lawrence redemption story that I never thought I wanted and didn’t see coming. 

Stay For: Easter eggs that will make any fan of The Karate Kid trilogy jump for joy. (My sister and I almost died from excitement over the use of the song “Young Hearts” by Commuter in the date scene at Golf n’ Stuff.)

Had I Seen It? As I said above, no—and I’m glad that was remedied. 

Did I Like It? YES! I loved watching this show, and my sister and I started rewatching it right away after finishing it with our parents. However, Season 1 is generally better than Season 2, which definitely focuses too much on the teenagers. Also, there are few things I hate more than Kreese, but the introduction of Tory (Peyton List), the constant misunderstandings between almost-friends Johnny and Daniel, and seeing sweet Eli Moskowitz (Jacob Bertrand) become the nostril-flaring, tattooed, human karate monster that is “Hawk” may take the cake. 

Least Favorite Episode: 2.10, “No Mercy.” It’s all just too much and ruins the show’s sense of reality. 

Favorite Episode: It’s a tie between 1.9, “Different but Same” and 2.9, “Pulpo.” Both episodes show the potential Johnny and Daniel have for becoming friends and showcase how funny William Zabka and Ralph Macchio are when playing off each other. Whether the two senseis are reminiscing about dating Ali Mills (Elisabeth Shue, The Karate Kid) and making fun of her husband’s Facebook, or very vocally sharing the belief that waiters should write down orders, I cannot get enough of the two of them together. That said, as much as I love Cobra Kai, I might have to stop watching it if Season 3 doesn’t finally show them teaming up for the long run. 

I definitely recommend Cobra Kai. Whether or not you are a The Karate Kid fan, the TV series’ theme of the struggle of finding yourself and the strength to be a good person is universal. Just like I hope for Sensei Lawrence and the kids at the Cobra Kai dojo, I hope you all find balance in your lives.  

The time? End of the school year, 1988. The place? San Dimas, California.

Get in your time-traveling phone booths and prepare for next week’s feature: Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)! 

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