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(COLUMN) Rice: Just Another Gal from Casper – Watching ‘Cobra Kai’

Kate Rice


Re-watching the first three classic ’80s Karate Kid movies led to me getting hooked on Netflix’s Cobra Kai. This series catches up with our hero, Daniel LaRusso, and his O.G. nemesis, Johnny Lawrence, 30-plus years later. 

Cobra Kai is full of ’80s nostalgia – from characters to music — but it doesn’t just live there. It’s incredibly fresh, too. Is it cheesy at times? Yes. Predictable? Sometimes. But I’m all in — I’ve just finished season 5 and can’t wait for season 6.

When the series begins, Daniel and his wife own a successful car dealership; Johnny’s just been fired from his crap handyman job. Daniel lives in a beautiful house with his wife and kids — Johnny lives in a crap apartment and has one delinquent son he barely knows. 

When Johnny and Daniel meet up after all these years, Daniel’s delighted — Johnny is not. But that delight soon sours as the two once again rub each other the wrong way. And when Johnny reopens Cobra Kai — his old karate Dojo — old rivalries reignite. 

Some communities are centered around football. This Cali community is all about karate; specifically, the All-Valley Tournament. To counter Cobra Kai, Daniel opens Miyagi-Do, a nod to his late mentor Mr. Miyagi — he of the “wax on, wax off” wisdom. The fight is on — and not just during the tournament. In five seasons, they’ve brawled bare-handed and bare-footed, with swords and knives…I mean, if you wanna watch folks getting down and dirty, Cobra Kai’s the S#!%!

This show also really knows how to create compelling characters. It knows how to make you empathize with a character…then wanna slap ’em silly…then feel for them again. Or, the opposite. I mean, back in the ’80s, Johnny was the bad guy. Now, he’s my favorite character! Is he a hero? Um…no. He’s crass, he’s livin’ in the ’80s — but you know what? He’s authentic. And he has a good heart.

Daniel, who was definitely the hero back in the day, is just as flawed as Johnny, getting too caught up in the past. Sometimes he’s self-righteous and sometimes he’s naïve, but like Johnny, he really cares about people — his family and his students. 

Other characters flip-flop, too. Victims become bullies, and sometimes change back. John Kreese — another O.G. bad guy — is still around, but there’s more depth to him than in the old days. Chozen, Daniel’s nemesis in the second movie, features prominently in season five. Terry Silver, the baddest of the bad dudes, also slithers back to town. Practically every side character from the original three movies hits the canvas, and there are plenty of fantastic new characters, too.

If you like the Karate Kid movies, you’ll probably like Cobra Kai. If you’ve never seen the Karate Kid movies, there are plenty of flashbacks to bring you up to speed, and a host of new characters to keep you hooked. Stream Cobra Kai on Netflix, but be warned: You might want to set aside an entire weekend…or week.