Cobra Kai is the Wendy’s of television: it’s junk fast food, but it’s really good junk fast food that goes down easily and is a nice treat.

Film Review: Cobra Kai: Season 4

Film Reviews

Cobra Kai: Season 4
Created by Jon Hurwitz, Josh Heald and Hayden Schlossberg

Sony Pictures Television
Streaming on Netflix 12.31

The holiday blockbuster season is over, but in the age of streaming there’s no such thing as an off season: A new season of Cobra Kai, the series follow-up to the ‘80s pop culture phenomenon Karate Kid trilogy, is always a big event.

As loyal viewers will remember, Cobra Kai: Season 3 ended with Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) joining forces and bringing their respective dojos, Miyagi-Do and Eagle Fang, together to face the toxic Cobra Kai dojo run by Jon Kreese (Martin Kove) at the All Valley Under 18 Karate Tournament … with the agreement that the losing dojo closes their doors forever. In Cobra Kai: Season 4, Daniel and Johnny find that despite their best efforts to get along—which are usually pretty meager—it’s not easy working together given their vastly different philosophies. The stakes become that much higher when Kreese brings in his old friend Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Grifffith) to help him lead Cobra Kai to victory.

Bringing in Silver was a risky choice. He is the most over-the-top character from The Karate Kid Part III (by far the weakest film of the trilogy), but Griffith gives it his all and the sly showrunners choose to embrace the nuttier elements of Silver’s volatile personality and delve deeper into the backstory between him and Kreese. As always, the show reaches its guiltiest of guilty pleasures whenever it gets into the teenage angst rivalries, and the 90210–meets–Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles dynamic ranks among my most shameful addictions. The acting is more hit-and-miss than ever, but when it works it really works. 

Perhaps the most welcome element this season is the increased screen time for Anthony LaRusso (Griffin Santopietro), Daniel’s son who has been a problematic and one-note character in the past and is now getting his own storyline following his last year before high school. Anthony isn’t the most likable character, but what makes him interesting is the underlying fact that Anthony’s problems stem in no small part from bad parenting. While Cobra Kai: Season 4 doesn’t go deep enough into that fact, it takes a big step toward addressing it. 

As always, the fight sequences are a major highlight, but the show is always at its best when exploring Johnny as a person rather than as a villain or a joke, which is really the heart of the series’—along, of course, with reveling in ’80s nostalgia. Zabka has some great moments, as does Tanner Buchanan as his son, Robby, and in fact, the latter arguably makes the strongest impression this season as an actor (with the possible exception of Jacob Bertrand as outcast-turned-bully looking-for-redemption Hawk, who is overdue for Emmy consideration). Peyton List also impresses this season as Tory becomes a more layered character.

Cobra Kai is the Wendy’s of television: it’s junk fast food, but it’s really good junk fast food that goes down easily and is a nice treat. Cobra Kai is still the smartest dumb show on TV, and while Season 4 certainly increases the feeling that this can’t go on indefinitely and is wearing thinner and thinner, I binged it in two days and I’ll probably binge Season 5 in one. I have a problem, I know, but admitting that is the first step toward doing absolutely nothing about it. –Patrick Gibbs