Of all the continuations of popular movies and franchises coming out today (Star Wars, Blade Runner, Creed, etc.), here is one that took me completely off guard. Cobra Kai is a new series on YouTube’s streaming service, YouTube Red. The show is actually a sequel to the original 1984 classic, The Karate Kid, a movie that after one okay sequel, two bad sequels, and a 2010 remake that nobody has talked about for a long time, had seemed to be a bit forgotten about. I’ll admit that the trailers for this show did not really do it for me at first, as did the fact that it was a YouTube series of all things as opposed to something on Netflix. However, when a lot of critics on the site started talking about this show and how good it was, I decided to finally take a look. Were they right? I would say… one hundred percent.
Right off the bat, this series has an amazing premise. While another series like this would most likely continue the story of the hero from the previous film, this series actually focuses on the villain of the original Karate Kid: Johnny Lawrence (played by William Zabka). In the decades since Johnny lost to his opponent Daniel Larusso in the All Valley Karate Tournament all those years ago, he has now become a hopeless drunk down on his luck while Daniel (played by Ralph Macchio) is now a rich car salesman living with his wife and kids. However, when a kid named Miguel moves into his town and begs Johnny to train him in the art of karate, he eventually gives in and decides to re-open the dojo that trained him in his younger years: Cobra Kai. From there, it’s a tale of rivalry, nostalgia, revenge, and redemption.
The first thing that this series handled fantastically is its characters. All members of the cast do phenomenal in their roles and do not just paint these people as one dimensional (with a few exceptions). With Zabka and Macchio in particular, you get the sense that neither one of them is either the good guy or the bad guy. While Daniel was the hero of the original story, here he does have flaws that don’t automatically paint him as the hero of this story, such as having a bit of an ego here and there, letting his old rivalry push him too far occasionally, and struggling to be a good father and husband from time to time. The same can be said for Johnny, as his character is also very black and white. Do not get me wrong, he is still every bit the entertainingly insensitive and rough character from the original film, but the show still goes in depth about his struggles as a kid and his incredibly murky relationship with his son.
While there may be some cliches here and there (the bully characters, the misunderstandings here and there, etc.), Cobra Kai is still a fantastic series more than worthy of a binge. On top of having great characters, a phenomenal message, fantastic fight scenes, and great callbacks to the original Karate Kid, this show presents a natural continuation of the story that brings it to modern audiences while still treating the original with care. With a season two already confirmed, I cannot wait to see where this series goes next. If you need some shows to binge this summer, please add this one to the list!
Final Verdict: A