Cobra Kai has no right to exist, let alone be good.
It’s a spin-off of a move franchise whose third installment limped out of theaters thirty years ago. It’s centered on the villains of those movies. And because Pat Morita has passed on (RIP), it can’t include most people’s favorite character.
How did this happen? Who greenlit this? Who had the audacity to even suggest it?
And how the hell is it this friggin’ good?
Because seriously, if you put the first two seasons of The Mandalorian up against the first two seasons of Cobra Kai, Cobra Kai is the better show, hands down. It’s got funnier lines, better acting, and better characters.
Cobra Kai’s surprisingly deep, willing to show us good and bad sides of all the characters. As a result, for its first two seasons, there’s no real villain. There’s conflict, sure, and tension, hell yes, but you can sympathize with everyone. Root for everyone. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a TV show where I liked every character, but Cobra Kai pulls it off.
…for two seasons. The third season drops the “no villain” posture, and switches genres entirely. From a grounded, complex show, exploring the adult lives of Johnny Lawrence and Daniel LaRusso while also examining how their rivalry impacts their kids’ lives, Cobra Kai switches over to a YA love-triangle plot in a universe with martial-arts movie logic. Which is fine, as things go, but isn’t nearly as interesting, and is a jarring switch, after two seasons of being a rather different show. You’ll want to see all three seasons (season two ends on a bit of a cliffhanger), but be prepared for the tonal shift.
Still, if you liked the Karate Kid movies, I highly recommend Cobra Kai. It’s clearly made by people who love those movies, who could recite them line by line, because of the way they weave the backstory from the trilogy into the plot of the show. They even manage to make good plot fodder out of the third movie, which is something I didn’t think was possible!
They took their love, and built this beautiful show, that for its first two seasons stomps everything else I’ve seen recently.