ALRIGHT, so I do have to brag a little bit here. I was one of those people you heard about back in 2018 who cheekily subscribed to YouTube Premium on a free-trial just to be able to binge on the first two series of Cobra Kai and then promptly opt out of the subscription just as quick.
Having seen the show reignite in popularity when it appeared on Netflix recently, I’ll admit I couldn’t help but dip back in for a second look.
To the unfamiliar, Cobra Kai is the follow-up modern day series to the classic 1980s trilogy of The Karate Kid movies. Rest assured though, it’s no quick-buck spin off series by any means.
Some 34 years after the original first film, we meet the instantly recognisable faces of Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawerence (above). Both are still portrayed by their original actors.
Their teenage youthfulness may have long diminished but their underlying rivalry certainly has not yet.
Upon reacquainting ourselves with these arch-enemies in the show, we see that their lives have taken fairly—but not entirely different—paths.
Daniel is the proud owner of a successful auto dealership and has all the splendours of a beautiful home and family to go with it.
Johnny, on the other hand, lives in squalor, has issues with the booze and seems to hate his place in the contemporary world. To him, the 1980s were just a simpler time.
What makes the show work however is much more than that. The characters are brilliantly complex individuals and nowhere near as one-dimensional as your typical good guy versus bad guy storyline often goes.
As opposite as Daniel and Johnny may be on the outset, we quickly learn that they have more in common than they did back in the olden days.
Amid the octane and nicely-paced drama, there’re plenty of times for laughs.
In essence you could be forgiven for thinking this was a pseudo-comedy about two young lads who were transported directly from 1984 to 2018 with no clue about how the world has evolved in that time.
Both main characters, despite the difference in how their position in society is represented, share a common sense of utter bemusement with the newfound millennial generation they feel alienated in.
Another thing which unites the two is their sense of family, with all the ups and downs that comes with those ties, and for they share an often spoken fondness of the nostalgia they drift to.
Even amongst their own sometimes petty, sometimes serious quarrels and squabbles with each other, the viewer can’t help but enjoy the ‘will they, won’t they’ roller-coaster aspect of their possible—just possible—unlikely friendship.
While the tension between the two is the prime story, their narrative does take the occasional step back to run plot lines of how their actions set new dynamics for the students they instruct in their respective dojos.
The best part of all is that no prior knowledge of the movie trilogy is necessary but there are some visual and soundtrack flashbacks to those times intercut throughout the series for older fans to enjoy. A few subtle Easter-egg references dotted throughout too.
And the jewel in the crown of it all will make you ask the million dollar question: “Is it Johnny or could Daniel, the Karate Kid himself, have been the real bully all along?”
You’ll have to see for yourself there, but in the meantime, stick the show on. Strike first, strike hard, no mercy! You’ll be glad you did but just mind the language for some of the younger viewers though.
Follow Johnny Foley on Twitter: @JohnnyFoley1984