Since it’s been a minute since I reacted to the first three seasons of Cobra Kai, I’ll re-explain my approach to these articles. I’m too big a fan of the original movies and too emotionally attached to this TV show to presume that I could properly “review” it. So I am not even attempting that. Instead, I’m watching each season and then reacting to it for other fans to enjoy. For this season I will just give general thoughts overall instead of going episode by episode.
Cobra Kai As An Instant Classic
I’ll open by saying that even though I thought Season 4 was the weakest entry so far, it was still fantastic. The level of entertainment this show has reached is in the stratosphere with the greatest giants of fiction across every medium. That is not to say from an artistic perspective it is as good as, say,The Lord of the Rings, or even Stranger Things.
Just that it is exactly what we all want when we grab a remote or a book. I feel deeply. I stand up and clap. I weep. I cheer. I fall on the floor laughing. I think about the plots and characters long after I turn it off. It often leaves me consternated and drained. And yet I always, always, always Iong for more.
The Gold Standard For Legacy Sequels
Cobra Kai has set the standard for what can be called the “legacy sequel” to me. This relatively new genre of movies and TV has taken us by storm. There have been some terrible attempts at it (Scream and much of the Jurassic World trilogy to me). But there have been others who figured it out. Especially how to balance and mix the past with the present. Everyone who wants to bring anything back from the 80s or 90s needs to take notes from this show.
Cobra Kai IV Reactions
As far as Season 4, first I will say I love how they make things so complex in this show. Karate Kid in 1984 wasn’t overly simplistic as an overall story, but the ending was as simple as it gets. Daniel and Miyagi were the good guys; Cobra Kai was the villain. In this new series, Johnny and Daniel are as different as can be, but are both good guys. Tory isn’t black and white. Daniel’s son is a bully and a Cobra Kai student is initially a victim. In the last episode of IV, we even see Kreese show a bit of remorse for his actions in 1984!
Nowhere is this more obvious than how Miyagi-Do clearly isn’t always correct in Cobra Kai Season 4. Both it and Eagle Fang are what these new fighters need to figure out their own way. Sometimes you have to strike first and not just “play defense”. I love that one of the ways Daniel learns this is from disciplining his own son! Some of my favorite moments the whole season were when Daniel was training Johnny and when Johnny was training Daniel. Trying to explain all of this to 1989 Gowdy would be impossible.
They opened the door to this in Season 3 when Daniel was being schooled by Chozen in Okinawa. Daniel is convinced that Miyagi Karate is defense and that it always avoids the fight as a priority. But Chozen knows the history better and educates Daniel that sometimes the most merciful thing you can do is use violence. Notably when there is war.
This is true in world history, even biblical history (see the book of Esther), and I adore Cobra Kai for teaching this reality in the show. All of this is a far, far cry from the original movies. Where Miyagi is always right and karate is for defense only.
On that note, I continue to be blown away by how they work in the original trilogy for source material, but build on it in a magnificent way that I could never have imagined. The truth is Miyagi told Daniel 30 years ago that Miyagi-Do does not have to be the way Daniel always does karate. That he would find his own way.
And let me be quick to add, that this is from the third movie! As I said in my previous reactions, I used to hate Karate Kid III. Now, I love it. Cobra Kai has worked a miracle. And because of Terry Silver, there would be no Cobra Kai IV without Karate Kid III. And they make it all work. It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever witnessed on either the big or small screen. I have loved the addition of Silver this season. It’s perfect.
Another thing I love about this season, that I have loved every season of Cobra Kai, is the humor. It’s A+. Constantly. Nearly every joke lands. Especially with Johnny. There are too many “best/funniest” moments to list, but near the top is when Johnny reams out Daniel over how Mr. Miyagi spoke. “‘No be there?’ Don’t you mean, ‘Don’t be there’? The man teaches you centuries of his family’s karate and you can’t help him out with his English?”
I was rolling on the floor, literally, at that. Mr. Miyagi’s broken English was one of the most endearing things about him. So for Johnny to trash talk Daniel about it…brilliant.
And then Johnny brings it full circle when he leaves Daniel alone to fight at the hockey game! “Where were you???” “No be there.” ROTFL!!!! The writers of this show deserve all of the awards. That is a genius plot and genius dialogue.
A couple of other more subtle moments of phenomenal humor are one, when the karate council gets together to discuss anything about the tournament. That is always laugh-out-loud funny to me. And secondly, it’s only a few seconds long, but when Johnny comes across Anthony at the LaRusso house for the second time, their trash-talk exchange is hilarious. Their banter was great in their first face-off in Season One. I think this one may have topped it.
On the subject of Anthony, until the very end of this season, his character arc was about the only disappointing thing in the show. But I figured they were setting up something special with him. Otherwise, why have him be a screen-addicted, lazy, entitled brat for so long? The scene where he confesses that he has angst at Miyagi-Do because he never knew Mr. Miyagi was gold. Anthony vs. Kenny could be something great in the final seasons.
Lastly, I’ll add that I love some of the very subtle callbacks to the 80s. Two of which are from Rocky, my favorite movie series of all time. First, Johnny says, “Sue me for what?” That has to be Rocky V. And when Johnny is training to fight Daniel, he listens to one of the montage songs from Rocky IV in Russia.
And while this is from the 90s, I also loved the reference to Marissa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny. Daniel’s cousin pulled the ultimate Mona Lisa Vito by proving she was brilliant when everyone thought she was a ditz.
There are things I do not like about this season, like Sting Ray, and some of the bullying of Kenny, but any complaint I have will succumb to the weight of just how absurdly entertaining these ten episodes are. My anticipation of Season 5 is off the charts.
And I can’t wait to react to it. Bring on Chozen being the gasoline!
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