- Nate Adams
'Cobra Kai' review: Stakes are heightened in chaotic and occasionally underwhelming new season
Courtesy of Netflix
Tracking familiar terrain and giving anyone who loves the show their yearly slice of “Karate Kid” nostalgia, season four of “Cobra Kai,” the first produced solely by Netflix leaving the remnants of YouTube Red in the dust, takes notable swings as it tries juggling the old school vs the new school dynamic. Convincingly lead, as usual, by series regulars Ralph Macchio and William Zabka with the larger ensemble playing a hearty role in the overall scope of the season, “Cobra Kai” might be running around in circles (the season, once again, concludes with the signature All-Valley tournament) but if you’ve already made it this far into the dojo, there’s no need to turn back now.
The battle for bragging rights and total Valley domination is at the forefront of “Cobra Kai” as the last season left viewers on a cliffhanger where the ruthless John Kreese (Martin Kove) overtook the titular dojo and vowed to unleash the pain. With the help of Sam (Mary Mouser) and Miguel (Xolo Maridueña), both of Miyagi Do and Eagle Fang, Johnny Lawrence (Zabka) and Daniel LaRusso (Macchio) try setting aside obvious differences to unite against their common foe, but that’s easier said than done and most of the fourth season is spent watching the two bicker about coaching styles (LaRusso is in the “defense” camp whereas Lawerence wants to strike first). It’s a headscrather why, after three seasons, “Cobra Kai” still fixates on the Johnny/Daniel feud despite uncovering every possible angle of their relationship. It’s a muted subplot that weighs down the series from expanding on newer horizons.
Of course, the series has been known to reintroduce characters from the past and season four proves no different. Enter Thomas Ian Griffith’s Terry Silver, the baddie who tormented Daniel in “The Karate Kid Part III,” and his emergence feels slightly different than Kreese’s at the end of season one. For starters, Terry is living a peaceful life having moved on from martial arts, but Kreese needs someone in his corner now that Johnny and Daniel have teamed-up. Their relationship is sour at first nor does it make sense Terry would enter the ring, but it gives the season a semblance of unpredictability that may or may not have major implications for where things are heading for its rumoured final season.
As for the rest of the crew, Tory (Peyton List) gets an expanded, meaty role, fleshing out her struggles and perhaps a new relationship; Hawk (Jacob Berthand) goes through a rebirth having been brainwashed and manipulated by Cobra Kai and now learning the methods of Miyagi Do for the betterment of himself. Both have a compelling seasonal arc that complements everything “Cobra Kai” has done so well up to this point.
For the most part, the new season maintains the series integrity and gives fans exactly what they expect with a few surprises along the way. There’s a certain suspension of disbelief and love for the source material required to embrace the hokeyness (and sometimes cringe dialogue) of “Cobra Kai,” but there’s plenty here to get folks excited and eager for what the next chapter in this sprawling saga has in store.
Season four of COBRA KAI begins streaming Friday, December 31st on Netflix.