Julien Neaves, Editor
The fifth season of one of my all-time favourite shows, martial arts drama and The Karate Kid sequel series Cobra Kai, dropped a week and a half ago. And it delivered all the action, comedy and heart that the series is known for while upping the stakes in new and unexpected ways.
This review is striking hard with SPOILERS so if you are not caught up on the latest season then you may want to tap out right now. With that out of the way let’s take down Cobra Kai Season 5 in 5 Punches:
Punch #1 Once Upon a Time in Mexico
Now let’s talk about the Latin American country in the room. Last season ended with Miguel running off to Mexico to find the father he never knew, and Johnny heading off to find him with Robby in tow, though the latter would only find out the true purpose of their road trip later on. And I was muy emocionado to see this storyline but I was somewhat disappointed. Admittedly there were some highlights. Luis Roberto Guzmán as Miguel’s father Hector Salazar made for a deceptively vile creature. We got some funny lost-in-translation moments with Johnny as well as some nice bonding with Robby, including beating the snot out of those stealing surfer douche bags. And we had the tension of Hector learning Miguel’s identity.
But our teen hero escapes discovery by happenstance and then just leaves with Johnny and Robby (the latter reluctantly). It felt a little too quick and somewhat anticlimactic. I wanted to see Johnny, Miguel’s surrogate father, go up against his real father as part of a karate war against the cartel. If that isn’t 80s action I don’t know what is. Granted this plot or something similar could still happen, and that is a payoff that would be worth it. As it stands, the Mexico subplot felt undercooked, especially as the event didn’t resonate much with the rest of the season. Thankfully, everything else was pretty well done.
Punch #2 Trading Places
What a switch! Daniel has long been the guy who has it all together and Johnny the lovable loser struggling to get his life together. But in Season 5 the two trade places. We have Daniel spiraling over big bad Terry Silver, leading to his wife taking the kids and leaving him. And man, he was dropping more f-bombs than a drunk sailor. Take it down there, Danny boy.
On the flipside, Johnny learns that he is having a baby with Carmen (awww) and steps up to the plate while also laying down some Johnny-style wisdom to the eternally feuding Miguel and Robby (more on that later). In quite the twist, it is Johnny who has to talk sense to Daniel before he goes off the deep end in his quest against Silver. Thankfully Daniel also has the support of former rival-turned-bodyguard Chozen (Yuji Okumoto). Chozen was easily one of the highlights of this season, alternatively funny and kickass. Look back at some of the best moments of Season 5 and many of them have my boy Chozen right at the middle. And speaking of old rivals…
Punch #3 Burying the Hatchet
With the return of The Karate Kid Part III‘s Terry Silver in Season 4 it was only a matter of time until that film’s other villain, Mike Barnes (Sean Kanan), would put in an appearance. And the writers could have gone the predictable route of having Silver recruit Barnes to the ever-expanding Cobra Kai quiver (that’s a group of cobras, I looked it up). But instead old Mike is just an ordinary guy running his furniture making business and who quickly apologises for making Daniel’s life a living hell all those years ago. Kanan was great as the older Barnes and seeing him team up with Daniel’s other two film rivals (Johnny and Chozen) to go up against Silver was just surreal.
And speaking of burying the hatchet, I for one was glad to see longstanding rivals Miguel and Robby finally come to an understanding, though after kicking the crap out of each other first. I’ve never been the biggest fan of the Robby character (I always found him kind of whiny and bland) but the character has grown a lot and I was surprised to be enjoying him this season. Now the duo are fighting together on the side of good, and I like it. And even longtime enemies Samantha and Tori came to an understanding, though calling them friends now would be a stretch. I’m glad they didn’t drag on the rivalries indefinitely as eventually it would have started to feel repetitive.
Punch #4 Fear the Quiver
Now it’s time to talk about the man, the legend, Terry Silver. Now I enjoy Martin Kove’s John Kreese as much as the next Cobra Kai fan, and his prison shenanigans were entertaining. But Thomas Ian Griffith was just a next level big bad as Silver. He was so vicious, so calculating, scheming to the point of Machiavellian, and all of it hidden behind his fancy clothes and smug charm. His spreading of Cobra Kai felt like a genuine threat, and easily the biggest our allies have faced. And while he didn’t bring Barnes into the fold he did recruit a band of killer senseis. All of them are practically mute 80s-styled muscle save for Alicia Hannah-Kim’s Kim Da-Eun. This cold karate master is the physical embodiment of Cobra Kai’s “no mercy” mantra, and if there was anyone to take up the mantle from the imprisoned Silver it would be her.
In terms of the other Cobras, we have Tori’s redemption arc and befriending of Devon, which was well done, and bullied-turn-bully Kenny coming to see the light, or at least a flicker of it. Man, I loved-to-hate that kid last season and while he never got his comeuppance as I would have liked at least his Cobra Kai pride has been bruised. And speaking of bruises, give it up for my boy Stingray! Paul Walter Hauser puts in such good work, and I was fully on board watching him go from coddled coward to unlikely hero. Go Stingray!
Punch #5 Fight the Future
I didn’t get much into the fighting this review because if you’ve seen it you would know it was awesome. The highlights are easily in the finale—the former rivals versus Silver’s sensei squad, Silver vs Chozen, Johnny vs the senseis, Miyagi-do and Eagle Fang vs Cobra Kai, and finally the Daniel vs Silver rematch. It was an action bonanza and I loved it all. By the way, anybody else thought Silver had killed Chozen? Now that would have taken the show to a darker place. Glad to see he is still kicking around and can pursue his love for Kumiko.
There was so much wrapped up at the end of this season it almost felt like a series finale, save for Kreese doing his best Hannibal Lecter impression. So where exactly do we go from here? The show is called “Cobra Kai” so they will have to be involved somehow, whether with Kreese, Kim Da-Eun or someone else at the head. We still have the Sekai Taikai competition, which can take the karate action to other parts of America and the globe. And while this season showed us lots of Karate Kid Part III love with the return of Mike Barnes and Robyn Lively’s Jessica Andrews (Daniel’s former love interest and Amanda’s cousin) what about the black sheep of the series, The Next Karate Kid? Hilary Swank is in a new ABC series (Alaska Daily), so why not pop in as Julie Pierce and bring along her baddies the two Michaels (Michael Ironside’s Colonel Paul Duggan and Michael Cavalieri’s Ned Randall). The film was a hot mess but that doesn’t mean it can’t salvaged to add new heroes and villains to the series. Only time will tell, and it is time to wrap up this review. All that is left to say is, “Winner! Cobra Kai!”
Editor Jules Score: 8.5 out of 10
Julien “Editor 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 tabletop games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.
So what did you think of Cobra Kai Season 5? And you can check out my reviews from the previous four seasons below: