Why Youtube’s Cobra Kai Is Worth Bingeing

This post contains mild spoilers about the YouTube series Cobra Kai.

Some old rivalries never die. Cobra Kai’s Johnny Lawrence and Daniel LaRusso are legendary adversaries. 34 years after the pair squared off in The Karate Kid, the two characters have not settled their differences. Thanks to the YouTube series Cobra Kai, we get to indulge in the martial arts rivalry one more time.

Cobra Kai is a good summer TV binge watching series. Like a summer blockbuster, the show gives the people what they want.

The story is just solid enough to keep me entertained. It involves zero intellectual investment and I can’t turn away from it. Even though I will never feel compelled to view the first season again, the series is worth watching for fans of The Karate Kid. The nostalgia is too good to turn away from.

The series does not shy away from schmaltz. Its two main characters live in the past. The  karate trophies, bonsai trees, and ex-girlfriends still factor into their lives. Both William Zabka and Ralph Macchio reprise their roles from the original Karate Kid, allowing Cobra Kai to be an authentic reboot.

Johnny Lawrence is now an alcoholic handyman living in a dumpy apartment complex. Daniel LaRusso is a successful car salesman whose dealerships promise to “kick the competition.”

Ralph Macchio and Zilliam Zabka in Cobra Kai
(L-R) Ralph Macchio and Zilliam Zabka in Cobra Kai

Despite having taken different paths, neither man has forgotten their high school rivalry. Middle-aged machismo has allowed the All-Valley Tournament match to remain a definitive event in their lives. Their paths cross after Johnny’s car gets into an accident and his car is towed to LaRusso’s dealership.

From their first meeting it is evident that their rivalry was never really put to rest. The men still despise each other. As the series progresses Johnny Lawrence reopens the Cobra Kai dojo.

The vibe of the new dojo is a modern era after school special. The mantra of “strike hard, strike first, no mercy” is still in play. Cobra Kai’s drawing card for the new age karate kids is learning how to stand up to bullies in 2018. The series employs contemporary issues like cyber bullying as an everyday reality for teenagers.

Even though the teenage story lines are not as interesting as the 50-something men dusting off old feelings, the series does a good job of weaving both plots together.

William Zabaka and the new Cobra Kai class
William Zabaka and the new Cobra Kai class

Johnny struggles to harness the aggressiveness of Cobra Kai without making his own pupils into bullies. As this is going on, LaRusso unknowingly trains Johnny’s son in the Miyagi form of karate. That brand of defensive martial arts continues to be a stark contrast to the “body bag” days of Cobra Kai. The duel dojos later meet in a reprisal of the famous All-Valley Tournament.

This is the only episode that Cobra Kai had to get right and they did. The drama, vibe, and graphics from the franchise’s defining scene all return. Fans of The Karate Kid will not be disappointed in All-Valley 2.0. The episode is filmed well and justifies the time spent wading through the show’s teen drama.

This is the first YouTube-developed series that I have watched. I saw the series as a YouTube TV subscriber. The show and its production quality were fine, although not compelling enough to sway my decision-making on different streaming services. Cobra Kai is a good binge watch for people who are looking for light entertainment.

Cobra Kai And The Karate Kid

I liked that Cobra Kai frequently referenced The Karate Kid. It also brought the story up to date. Even though it was not the most exciting part of the series, the old guard’s dealings with the new wave of high school drama made the show relevant. Watching Johnny Lawrence and Daniel LaRusso passing the lessons from their own rivalry to a younger generation also gave Cobra Kai a fresh vibe.

(L-R) William Zabka and Ralphi Macchio in The Karate Kid

Cobra Kai also made me rethink the character of Johnny Lawrence. His character was given a sympathetic backstory that explains why karate played a necessary role in his adolescence. As I evaluated his character more closely I reconsidered his place in The Karate Kid.

Johnny was led astray by the bad influence of his karate teacher. That was obvious in the film. As Mr. Miyagi said “No such thing as bad student, only bad teacher. Teacher say, student do.”

This makes its way into the series, as Johnny watches his students take his own instruction too far in the All-Valley Tournament. Just like he did in 1984, Johnny is presented with this obstacle as the first season reaches its climax. How he deals with these familiar issues in Cobra Kai’s second season gives his character a shot at redemption.

Yeah, Johnny did some bad stuff. After watching Cobra Kai it is now obvious to me that the only true bad guy in The Karate Kid is sensei John Kreese. He is the little league coach who orders his pitcher to throw at batters to channel his own insecurities. Johnny Lawrence’s struggles in Cobra Kai reveal that he is not his old teacher.

How Can I Watch Cobra Kai?

You can watch the first two episodes of Cobra Kai for free on YouTube. The full series is available for YouTube Premium (formerly YouTube Red) and YouTube TV subscribers.

Cobra Kai Season Two

It would not be The Karate Kid if there was not a sequel. Earlier this year YouTube announced that Cobra Kai would be returning for a second season. Season Two of Cobra Kai will be ten episodes long and begin filming this year. The series will return in 2019.

This is the first post in a recurring series on summer TV binge watching. You can catch The Flat Circle’s posts on TV, music, and movies by subscribing via e-mail at the bottom of the page.


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