Cobra Kai: Season 5

STREAMING REVIEW:

Netflix;
Comedy;
Not rated.
Stars Ralph Macchio, William Zabka, Courtney Henggeler, Xolo Maridueña, Tanner Buchanan, Mary Mouser, Jacob Bertrand, Gianni Decenzo, Peyton List, Martin Kove, Vanessa Rubio, Thomas Ian Griffith, Dallas Dupree Young, Paul Walter Hauser, Yuji Okumoto, Robyn Lively, Sean Kanan.

The “Cobra Kai” creative team continues its efforts to rehabilitate The Karate Kid Part III with a thoroughly entertaining fifth season that brings multiple storylines to a head while weaving together several disparate threads from the “Karate Kid” mythology into a grand saga.

The season kicks off with the maniacal Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith) expanding Cobra Kai dojos throughout Los Angeles. But he has bigger plans in motion and won’t let anything stand in his way, even his old partner Kreese (Martin Kove), who he frames for a crime to have him locked away in prison.

Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio), refusing to surrender to Silver’s ambitions, and haunted by Silver’s torment of him the 1980s, enlists the help of his old adversary Chozen (Yuji Okumoto) from Karate Kid Part II, to bring down Cobra Kai once and for all.

Meanwhile, Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) heads to Mexico to find Miguel (Xolo Maridueña), who has run away south of the border to find the father he has never met.

As for the rest of the newer generation of Karate Kids, both Daniel’s daughter Sam (Mary Mouser) and her main rival, Tory (Peyton List), are troubled by their match in the finals of the All-Valley Tournament — Sam because she can’t understand how she lost, and Tory because she learns that Silver bribed the referee to guarantee her win.

A few timely appearances from even more Karate Kid III characters bring all the storylines into alignment and set the emotional stakes for an epic final confrontation with Silver.

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Obviously the idea of the youth of the San Fernando Valley being so swept up in karate that they take to brawling at public swimming pools is pretty absurd, but that’s the fun of the series. We love the characters, and we love the strange world they inhabit, so it’s easy to invest in their development.

It’s a lot like pro-wrestling in that regard, in that there are heel turns and face turns (i.e. characters switching sides), clearly defined stakes for the characters, and showdowns that reset the cycle of confrontation. It doesn’t need to be taken too seriously beyond the core lessons of right vs. wrong, and good vs. evil.

And for “Karate Kid” fans in particular, the writers pay such attention to detail that even the most obscure references from the films become salient plot points for the show.

Though a lot gets resolved in season five, there are still several dangling plot threads to tie up in a potential season six, not to mention plenty of ways to bring The Next Karate Kid into the fold as well.

Cobra Kai: Season 4

STREAMING REVIEW:

Netflix;
Comedy;
Not rated.
Stars Ralph Macchio, William Zabka, Courtney Henggeler, Xolo Maridueña, Tanner Buchanan, Mary Mouser, Jacob Bertrand, Gianni Decenzo, Peyton List, Martin Kove, Vanessa Rubio, Thomas Ian Griffith.

The creators of “Cobra Kai” have the show firing on all cylinders in its fourth season, bringing to a head storylines dating back to the original “Karate Kid” trilogy from the 1980s.

In fact, season four of “Cobra Kai” is so good it retroactively makes The Karate Kid Part III almost watchable.

The third season ended with the stakes set for an epic showdown, as the rival dojos agreed to let the next All-Valley Tournament decide their fates, with the losing factions shutting down. Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) broke free from Cobra Kai and his former sensei, Kreese (Martin Kove), to form his own dogo, Eagle Fang. He reluctantly forms an alliance with his old rival, Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) to take down Kreese, who turns to help from his old pal Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith), the main villain from The Karate Kid Part III.

Silver, a wealthy industrialist who has mellowed out with age, needs some convincing to return to the fold, in one of many scenes in which the show knowingly, necessarily and hilariously picks apart the absurdity and stupidity of the awful Part III.

Meanwhile, Johnny and Daniel’s clashing styles threaten to upend their partnership as the rivalries between their students and those of Cobra Kai only grow more intense, particularly the feuds between Daniel’s daughter Samantha (Mary Mouser) and “Queen Cobra” Tory (Peyton List), and Johnny’s own son (Tanner Buchanan), who joined Cobra Kai to take on Johnny’s prized student, Miguel (Xolo Maridueña).

However, the show doesn’t paint the characters as simple heroes and villains, but offers shading to their personalities to make them sympathetic regardless of which factions to which they belong. When the tournament finally plays out over the season’s epic finale, there are so many angles culminating that it’s nearly impossible to figure out how they are going to play out, which only adds to the palpable excitement of the episodes.

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As with the previous seasons of the series, the abundant references to “Karate Kid” lore and its tangents, and 1980s culture in general, make this an easy sell to franchise fans, but the show is also developing into a decent character piece with a lot to say about bullying, parenting and the power of self-reflection.

While the season provides some satisfying payoffs to story arcs and conflicts that have been years in the making, it also sets the stage for some intriguing new directions, steering the story in a way that’s just begging for a certain Oscar winner who starred in The Next Karate Kid to show up in season five.