Julien Neaves, Editor
Greetings RedMangoReaders. So it’s been more than a week since the third season of Karate Kid sequel series, action comedy and best show ever Cobra Kai came out, so I presume we would have all watched it by now. What? You haven’t watched it? Seriously? This article is SPOILER ALERT CENTRAL, population YOU. Fine! Go and watch it and come back. Sheesh! Dragging the flag people. Dragging the flag!
Now that you are all caught up let’s get into it. The Season 2 finale left our characters literally and figuratively shattered. Miguel broke his back and is in a coma after the epic school brawl. Robbie is on the run. Carmen blames Johnny for Miguel and their promising romantic relationship is in the toilet. Amanda has banned Daniel from karate. Samantha is physically and mentally scarred from her battle with the vicious Tory. And the psychopathic John Kreese has fully taken over Cobra Kai. So yeah, things are looking pretty bleak. But once their life there’s hope, I always say, and in Season 3 our heroes rise up to the challenge of their rivals. Wait, why am I quoting “Eye of the Tiger”? That’s Rocky, not Karate Kid.
Anywho, here’s my SPOILER-FILLED review of Season 3 in three made-up fighting styles.
Style 1: Backwards Bonsai
Truth be told, I have never been the biggest fan of old Daniel LaRusso. Like Tom Welling’s Clark Kent in Smallville, he has this kind of annoying, cocky, Boy Scout manner about him that rubs me the wrong way. I don’t hate the character but he has been pretty low on the totem pole. That said, I actually enjoyed him this season. The Tango & Cash scenes in the early episodes were a lot of fun. Daniel as the straight man and Johnny as the wild man is the perfect odd couple, buddy cop mix, even if it lasted as long as the time Johnny takes to down a Coors Banquet.
But even better was Daniel’s surprise trip to Okinawa. Now a few months ago I rewatched The Karate Kid Part II for a planned trilogy retrospective review and the movie is not very good. It’s overly long, the action is meh, the Daniel/Chozen rivalry is weak, and the climax is all style but no substance. But two things that did work was the interesting setting and Tamlyn Tomita’s effervescent performance as love interest Kumiko. And it was great seeing Tomita back as the older, wiser Kumiko and she and Macchio had great chemistry together.
Yoji Okumoto also came back as former bad guy Chozen and I enjoyed how they redeemed the character. And seeing Daniel back in a student mode gave me some lovely nostalgia chills. And Kumiko reading Mr Miyagi’s letter was just the touching icing on the cake of the trip. I’m not crying, you’re crying! So two enthusiastic thumbs and big toes up to the whole Okinawa subplot. You made me enjoy spending time with Daniel, which I was beginning to doubt was possible.
In contrast to Daniel, I have loved the Amanda LaRusso character from the word go. In the crazy world of Cobra Kai she has always been a voice of a reason, a voice peppered with her signature wit and dry humour. And seeing her stand up to to Kreese and slap him in his big smug face just made me love her more. She ain’t afraid of no sensei!
The other LaRusso lady, Samantha, had an interesting arc as well. In the beginning I was concerned about her reckless behaviour with the Miyagi-Do students, culminating in poor Demetri getting his arm broken by Hawk while she was frozen in terror. But her unusual behaviour was due to her trauma from her fight with Tory. And she overcomes that trauma with some tender scenes with her father and by tenderising Tory’s behind in a pretty good rematch. Good for her. But we’ll chat more about the Christmas brawl in our third style. Now on to our second.
Style 2: Crouching Eagle
I’m just going to come out and say it — Johnny Lawrence is the best character in Cobra Kai. And if you want to fight me on that, just tell me the time and place. Just kidding; I’m a lover, not a fighter. And the start of Season 3 finds Johnny both out of love and out of fight (man, that was a good segue!) and back to hitting the bottle and guys’ fists with his face. But just as training Miguel in Season 1 helped him get his life together, helping to rehabilitate Miguel helps him get his life back on track.
And that rehabilitation process has to be some of the funniest scenes in the show so far. To call Johnny’s technique “unusual” is an understatement. From repeatedly dropping Miguel, to inspiring him with a girlie mag, to setting his shoe on fire, I busted numerous guts laughing at his shenanigans. Actors William Zabka (Johnny) and Xolo Maridueña have wonderful chemistry together and it was thoroughly enjoyable seeing them together again, and watching Miguel literally get back on his feet again. Oh, and the Dee Snider concert and seeing Miguel tapping his foot was just rocking man!
And speaking of Miguel, I was glad to see him front and centre again after getting sidelined last season. He does well in the role of protagonist and spiritual successor to the original Karate Kid. And I was also very happy to see the Samuel (Samantha/Miguel) ship sailing again. Those two kids are just super together.
And speaking of ships, Johnny does some sailing of his own with Carmen. Isn’t that what the kids are calling it these days? But then he spots a new vessel on the horizon (I swear this is the last nautical metaphor) with old flame Ali. Elisabeth Shue (who I last saw being very good in The Boys Season 1) reprises her role after 36 years. Wow, that is a long time. Ali and Johnny spend some good time down memory lane and then get awkward with Daniel and his wife at the gala event. It was cool having Shue but the return was not as impactful as I thought it would have been. But at least it provided some much needed closure for Johnny. And I am glad after some old flame-fanning the two of them don’t actually get romantic because I enjoy Johnny and Carmen together.
Moving from kissing to karate, Johnny also returns to the role of sensei and he realises it is the role he was born to play. And what does he name his new post-Cobra Kai karate school? Why, Eagle Fang Karate of course. You know I really wanted a Cobra Kai tee shirt, but now I need an Eagle Fang Karate one in my life. And did you know that eagles don’t have fangs? Well you know more than Johnny, whose ignorance about modern technology appears only matched by his ignorance of animal anatomy. Classic Johnny. And both he and Miguel realise that the answer to the Cobra Kai issue is not to retake it but to build something new, something better.
Style 3: Rising Serpent
Going back and moving forward is a main theme in Season 3, and we see it both with Daniel and Johnny. We also spend some time going back with Kreese as we get some unexpected back story of his time as a Vietnam veteran. And while the trips to the past do humanise him somewhat, the true purpose is to explain why he is such a raging psychopath. It also shows the origin of his “no mercy, survival of the fittest” philosophy, how he got into karate and the fact that he is a stone cold murderer. Heck, we even find out why he is so fixated on snakes.
But I found modern-day Kreese more compelling than young soldier Kreese.
Martin Kove is such a delight in the role. He has this quiet, pleasant arrogance that is even more unnerving than a shouting, out-of-control bad guy. And through his machinations and domineering personality he forges Cobra Kai into its most dangerous form yet. And like Frieza form Dragonball Z, I have a feeling this is not even it’s final form.
On the Cobra-lings, I must say that the absence of Aisha was deeply felt. She was one of the better characters on the show and she was missed. But keeping up the female representation was Tory, who returned to the Cobra Kai fold. We get a little of her backstory and her struggles with her mother, but she remains an unlikable, dangerous B and that is just the way we like it. And Kreese “helping” her with her rent situation shows just how far he will go to assemble the team he wants.
Kreese also assembles two of the bullies from Season 1 into Cobra Kai and brings in the lost Robbie into the fold. And yeah, I still hate Robbie. I find the character super annoying (yes, way more than Daniel) and Tanner Buchanan’s portrayal has all the charisma of dry wall. The black guy in the juvenile centre, however, was even more annoying though, so I was glad when Robbie smashed his face in. But yeah, no surprise that Robbie eventually joins Cobra Kai because he is an idiot.
What was a pleasant surprise was Hawk’s redemption arc. He has gone from being a bullied nerd to a karate bully, and was one of the show’s strongest antagonists. But I was glad that he saw through Kreese’s BS and returned to the side of light. His rescue of Demetri was easily the highlight of the Christmas brawl. And how did this climactic battle stack up to the school brawl? It was decent enough and had a cool soundtrack but it couldn’t compare to that epic, all out battle royale. And overall the action in Season 3, including the Johnny versus Kreese fight, was serviceable but nothing mind-blowing. Daniel using the new limb stun technique on Kreese, however, was so 80s that you just have to love it.
From the end of Season 2 I knew that Daniel and Johnny would have to come together to take Kreese down, but it was still a magical moment seeing both of them wearing their gis and standing in front of their combined students. And we learn that the Miyagi-Do/Eagle Fang Karate and Cobra Kai rivalry is going to be settled at the All Valley Championship, taking things full circle both to their series and the films. A tidy bow on the show’s best season so far.
And while I love Cobra Kai like my mother’s home cooking , I have been thinking the next season should probably be the last. I mean, where would they go next after defeating Cobra Kai? Another revived Cobra Kai? An international tournament? The series concept is not really suited to go on for six or more seasons in my most humble of opinions. And I love this show so much that I want it to go out on top and not go on so long that it gets watered down and lame. #justsaying. With that said, my score for Cobra Kai: Season 3 is an impressive 8.5 out of 10.
So what would you rate Season 3? And how many more seasons should they make? For my review of Cobra Kai Season 1 and 2 you can click here.
Julien “Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”.
I can also be found posting on Instagram as redmanwriter and talking about TV and movie stuff on Facebook at Movieville.