Cobra Kai: Season 4

STREAMING REVIEW:

Netflix;
Drama;
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.

Cobra Kai: Season 3

STREAMING REVIEW:

Netflix;
Drama;
Not rated.
Stars Ralph Macchio, William Zabka, Courtney Henggeler, Xolo Maridueña, Tanner Buchanan, Mary Mouser, Jacob Bertrand, Gianni Decenzo, Peyton List, Martin Kove.

With its third season, “Cobra Kai” continues to deliver everything a “Karate Kid” fan could hope for, and more.

With the confidence of two hugely popular seasons behind them, and a fresh move to Netflix, the show’s creators have taken the deepest dive yet into the franchise’s history, revisiting beloved characters while continuing to build upon the storylines for its new generation of characters.

The show even finds time to poke fun at itself and the admittedly goofy premise that enough high school kids nowadays would be into karate that worrying about the casual violence of roving karate gangs becomes a necessary issue of local civic leaders and school board members.

The season picks up in the aftermath of last season’s all-out brawl between the students of the Cobra Kai dojo trained by Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) and those of Miyagi-Do trained by Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio), the two rivals from the 1984 original The Karate Kid.

With his ace student, Miguel (Xolo Maridueña), seriously injured and in the hospital, Johnny questions the “No Mercy” underpinnings of the Cobra Kai way just as his former sensei, John Kreese (Martin Kove), outmaneuvers him for control of the dojo.

Meanwhile, Daniel travels to Japan, setting of the second “Karate Kid” movie, in hopes of saving his car dealership, and learns valuable life lessons from some old friends.

The season also delves into Kreese’s backstory, derived mostly from the third movie, showing flashbacks to his time in Vietnam when he first embraced the ruthlessness he has been preaching ever since.

The result is a delicious 10-episode meal of nostalgia. I suppose one doesn’t have to have seen the “Karate Kid” movies to enjoy the show, but familiarity with them will certainly make one appreciate it more, particularly in the final two episodes and the return of the one character who could possibly put Johnny and Daniel’s feud into the proper perspective, and put both of them in their place.

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Looking at the structure of the storylines, the creators seem to be taking almost as much influence from professional wrestling as they are “Karate Kid” movies, with characters forming factions, teaming up and switching allegiances to set up the next big pay-per-view-style confrontation.

The battlelines drawn in season three provide the set-up for what should be an explosive fourth season with the All-Valley championship on the line.

To coincide with the Jan. 1 premiere of all episodes of the third season, Netflix has bowed a new half-hour interview/sketch-comedy show called “The Netflix Afterparty,” hosted by David Spade. The first episode features cast-members from “Cobra Kai” discussing the new season.