Cobra Kai: Season 3 is a blast of nostalgia mixed with self-aware cheesiness that furthers the growth of the original and new characters.

Review: Cobra Kai: Season 3

Film Reviews

Cobra Kai: Season 3
Created by Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg

Overbrook Entertainment
Streaming on Netflix 01.01

I have few genuine addictions when it comes to current television, especially now that Schitt’s Creek is over. I never got into Game of Thrones, and I haven’t had a chance to see Watchmen yet. But when it comes to Cobra Kai, I will drop everything and binge a whole season straight through without even coming up for air. There’s something about the concept of using The Karate Kid to explore the themes of disillusionment and weariness that come with adulthood—not to mention yearning to return to one’s youth—that I find endlessly appealing. It’s like Lost in Translation, but with campier acting and a lot more kicking. 

Season 1 was a clever and surprisingly insightful character study that was, if anything, more intelligent than the movies themselves. Season 2 had a touch of sequelitis, in the sense that things got bigger, more intense and a bit sillier—but I still loved it, and it ended on one hell of a cliffhanger. As such, Netflix has been clear about the fact that reviews should not contain spoilers about this season, and therefore, I will reveal nothing about the Baby Miyagi that Johnny must keep safe from the evil galactic Empire, except that it’s an adorable little muppet, and everyone will, no doubt, want one next Christmas. Oops … Was that a spoiler?

Season 3 finds everyone reeling in the aftermath of the violent high school brawl between the Miyagi Do and Cobra Kai dojos, which has left Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) in precarious  condition. While Daniel (Ralph Macchio) searches for answers in his past, Johnny (William Zabka) seeks redemption through his former student, Miguel, and through his own estranged son, Robby (Tanner Buchanan). Meanwhile, Kreese (Martin Kove) further manipulates his vulnerable students with his own vision of dominance. 

The 10-episode season is more of what we’ve come to expect from the show. It’s a blast of nostalgia mixed with a certain, self-aware cheesiness, but is nonetheless committed to furthering the development of Robert Mark Kamen‘s characters from the original film trilogy, as well as the next generation of students.

Daniel LaRusso takes center stage a bit more this season, though Zabka’s Johnny Lawrence is still by far the best character, and the heart and soul of the series. He’s still not where he needs to be as a person when the season begins, but he’s trying to be better, and there’s nothing more engaging to me than watching a character who is difficult to like really try to do the right thing. This is a good season for Johnny.

Anyone who is a fan of The Karate Kid, Part II, which holds a special place in my heart, will get a big charge out of this season. One of the things that I love about Cobra Kai is the almost insane level of respect that creators Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg have for the source material—and the commitment they’ve made to treating all of the films as canon, even the more outlandish elements, which somehow makes it feel so much more genuine than if they only acknowledged the far more revered original. There are also some delightfully subtle references made to other iconic films that some of the actors appeared in, though they are easy to miss unless you’re really paying attention.

The season moves swiftly with plenty of comedy, drama and, of course, action, which is becoming more of an emphasis with each season. There are some strong character arcs, though I’m not going to get into any specifics except to say that I had the most mixed feelings  about what they’ve done with Kreese this season. Kove is wickedly entertaining in the role and doesn’t look like a man in his 70s, remaining credible as a badass. But while my favorite part of the series is seeing what makes these characters tick, I’m still trying to decide whether some of  the choices they made in regard to Kreese are just too over-the-top for me.

Cobra Kai Season 3 is likely to please fans, and certainly left me very excited for Season 4, though I do have to wonder how much longer they expect to keep it going. I suspect we’re getting close to a conclusion within the next season, maybe two. But until then, it’s going to be quite a ride. –Patrick Gibbs