Why ‘Cobra Kai’ is dominating Netflix with no mercy
Cobra Kai never dies.
It’s alive and well in 2020. “Cobra Kai” — which debuted on YouTube Red in 2018 — resurfaced last weekend on Netflix and remains the No. 1 trending show on the streaming service as of Wednesday morning.
The series revisits the “The Karate Kid” franchise and brings the rivalry between Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) and Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) to new generations. The first two seasons are on Netflix, and a third is coming in 2021.
For those bingeing the new series, it’s easy to see why that “Karate Kid” popularity has been reborn. Here are five reasons why you should watch “Cobra Kai”:
Johnny vs. Daniel
“The Karate Kid” debuted in 1984, and “Cobra Kai’s” premise of a near 40-year-old grudge based on the All-Valley Karate Championship might seem absurd. Then again, start up a glory-day high-school football conversation with your friends. This show is perfect for those who grew practicing a crane kick in the backyard in the mid-’80s. (“Cobra Kai” has the soundtrack for that.)
The roles of Johnny and Daniel are played to perfection, and it puts fans in that tough spot. You rooted for Daniel as a kid, but there are YouTube wormholes second-guessing whether Johnny was the actual villain. That was before “Cobra Kai” was released.
The new show explores that dynamic even more in a role reversal of sorts. It’s hard to tell when Johnny is the good guy or when Daniel is the bad guy. And vice versa.
In other words, these two are conflicted adults who cannot let go of a grudge. Almost every scene that features both actors is perfect, and that is no accident considering that they are the yin-and-yang of the franchise.
The problem with reboots is the die-hard fans like to pick apart every inconsistency. Ask “Star Wars” fans how that goes. Well, don’t do that. We don’t have time for that.
“Cobra Kai” provides more than enough fan service for those who remember the originals. There are flashbacks — almost too many flashbacks — to pick from.
There are multiple tributes to Mr. Miyagi, who was portrayed by the late Pat Morita. Martin Kove resumes the role of John Kreese. Speaking of grudges, Kreese fought in the Vietnam War and is still after LaRusso. Yes, that is absurd.
The series finds a way to take you back while pushing the series forward.
When Daniel’s daughter Samantha (Mary Mouser) asks for “Bananarama pancakes” in Season 1, you might roll your eyes. Then you’ll listen to “Cruel Summer.”
Talks about bullying
The central theme of the old and new franchises revolves around bullying. According to StopBullying.Gov, around 20 percent of adolescent children aged 12-18 have experienced in bullying.
The original showed LaRusso being bullied by Lawrence and his Cobra Kai friends. Who could forget Dutch and Tommy? That centered on physical bullying.
“Cobra Kai” focuses more on the effects of cyber bullying, which is more prevalent on social media today and equally dangerous.
Johnny, who is blisfully unaware of the internet, has lessons to learn there, too.
Despite stronger language than the original movies, the series does offer talking points for parents to address with adolescent children about the negative effects of bulllying.
Isn’t that what good TV shows are suppposed to do?
Closes generation gaps
“Cobra Kai” is a rare TV show with the ability to connect Generation X and Generation Z, and Generation Y can come along too if it wants.
Just don’t ask Johnny to separate the Millennials from the Xennials. That shines through in several NSFW speeches to his students that the “get off my lawn” types are going to rewind.
The show supports the viewpoints and pokes fun at all sides. Johnny and his new pupil Miguel (Xolo Mariduena) make that happen, and so do Daniel and Robbie (Tanner Buchanan), who has a family tie to the other side. It also shows an empowered Samantha, the daughter who is drawn back to karate and pulled into the rivalry.
Yeah, there’s a “90210” feel to all this, but there’s a reason why that show has been popular on reboots, too.
Searches for balance
The series thrives on a lesson Miyagi gave Daniel in the original “Karate Kid.”
Morita was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in 1984, and that’s not an accident. The lessons live on today.
That is why “Cobra Kai” works. All the protagonists are struggling to find that balance in karate and life, and each half-hour episode spills into the next one with ease.
So binge the show and enjoy it. You’ll be left with questions for Season 3.
Will Ali (Elisabeth Shue) show up and add to the drama?
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