As mentioned, normally I wouldn’t review series, but as a lifelong fan of the Karate Kid franchise, I began to review the sequel series Cobra Kai. After two seasons on the now defunct YouTube Red, Cobra Kai moved to Netflix and we finally have the third season, which premiered on New Year’s Day!
After the major fight at West Valley High School, Miguel Diaz is fighting for his life as he lies comatose and in a halo after being paralyzed. Robby Keene, Daniel’s former student who is responsible for Miguel’s paralysis, has disappeared. Johnny Lawrence has left Cobra Kai, now run by his one-time ruthless Sensei, John Kreese. Daniel LaRusso has closed Miyagi-Do Karate and his business has dropped since the incident.
Johnny and Daniel temporarily work together and eventually find Robby, who ends up going to juvenile prison. With support from Carmen, Miguel’s mother, and Johnny, Miguel awakens and finds himself in a new fight. Samantha, Daniel’s daughter, secretly trains her fellow Miyagi-Do students with the intent to seek revenge on Cobra Kai but gets a panic attack when it comes to confronting Cobra Kai student Tory Nichols. Cobra Kai’s Hawk begins to question Kreese when a band of new students arrive with one being an old bully.
Daniel, in a last ditch attempt to make his business booming again, heads to Japan but soon discovers the only way he can recover himself is to return to Okinawa, where old friends and rivals await. Johnny decides to form his own Dojo, Eagle Fang Karate, which consists of former Cobra Kais kicked out by Kreese. Nearly a week before Christmas, everything is set to change for Daniel and Johnny, as well as those close to them.
As mentioned, after a move to Netflix, Cobra Kai has found its home and ground. There are a few changes in the mix in terms of cast. Nichole Brown, who appeared in the first two seasons as Aisha Robinson, Samantha’s best friend turned dojo frenemy, is no longer on the show. The first episode “Aftermath” has Moon explain to the returning “Mean Girl” Yasmine that Aisha’s parents had sent her to a private school and they sold their house. Another missing face? Stingray, played by Paul Walter Hauser. It is revealed that his character got in serious trouble for his part in the season 2 finale brawl and is not allowed within 500 years of any minor.
So while it is sad to see these two fan favorites leave, we do get some returning characters who weren’t seen in Season 2. There’s the aforementioned Yasmine, played by Annalisa Cochrane. She goes from being the one-time “Mean Girl” to someone who finds herself attracted to the very last person someone would expect. You can pretty much guess who and it is because Yasmine finally realizes the consequences of being a bully and what it is like to be bullied. The other returning characters? Season 1 bullies Kyler and Brucks, reprised by Joe Seo and Bo Mitchell respectively. Kyler becomes a member of Cobra Kai while Brucks’ appearance is brief as to earn his spot on the team, finds himself against one of his former targets, Hawk, played by Jacob Bertrand.
The second half of the series takes us to a backstory we never imagined. It is that of Sensei John Kreese. We learn that he wasn’t always the complete jerk he is today. A 60’s flashback shows us that he was once bullied by a duo of jocks. One of those jocks, David, is played by Martin Kove’s real-life son Jesse. Barrett Carnahan does an amazing job of showing Kreese’s change from sensitive guy to the no mercy soldier when we see him serve in Vietnam alongside Karate Kid Part III villain Terry Silver, seen here as more of a scared puppy compared to the ruthless manipulator we all know him for being.
Those who have seen the trailer will be excited to see that we have the return of Kumiko and Chozen from Karate Kid Part II. It is great to see Tamlyn Tomita return to this iconic role as we learn what has happened not just to her, but Tomi Village as a whole since the events of the sequel. The big surprise is Chozen, once again played by Yuji Okumoto. He seems intimidating again, but it is clear that after their now famous fight, Chozen not only has some respect for Daniel, he even goes as far as help him on his path of redemption in the fifth episode. Just keep waiting as the ninth and final episodes will have the return of another familiar face…one fans have waited for and it was definitely worth the wait!
Hiro Koda once again does a great job with the fight sequences. The cast had trained with the iconic martial artist and stunt coordinator Simon Rhee prior to shooting and boy, you can see how amazing the youngsters improved. Their movements are more refined and in the case of one, during the season finale fight, a brawl between Cobra Kai and the alliance between Miyagi-Do and Eagle Fang, a very close contender to dethrone the high school fight, we get to see some of the cast pull off some shocking kicks and acrobatics that look great with no CGI or wire use. The season finale really changes things with some very shocking moments…and this will just make Season 4 even more worth waiting for (Season 4 begins production on January 20 for possibly a late 2021/early 2022 release).
Cobra Kai: Season 3 is definitely a turning point for all involved. New alliances are formed, new shocking betrayals are revealed, and to see the backstory of the ruthless Kreese is one that really holds out. Not to mention a lot of returning characters from both the series and film franchise. If you haven’t gotten the chance to see Season 3, then what are you waiting for?
WFG RATING: A+
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment present a Hurwitz and Schlossberg Production in association with Overbrook Entertainment. Directors: Various. Producers: Various. Writers: Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, and Hayden Schlossberg; based on the characters created by Robert Mark Kamen.
Cast: Ralph Macchio, William Zabka, Martin Kove, Xolo Mariduena, Tanner Buchanan, Courtney Henggeler, Mary Mouser, Jacob Bertrand, Gianni Dicenzo, Peyton List, Ron Thomas, Tamlyn Tomita, Yuji Okumoto, Barrett Carnahan.