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'Cobra Kai Season 5' review: Delivers the punches and ups the ante

Courtesy of Netflix


The saga that started as a turf war between “The Karate Kid” alums Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence has evolved into something much bigger in season 5 of “Cobra Kai” with no signs of slowing down. “Cobra Kai,” which started as an original series for the now defunct Youtube Red and found new life on Netflix, always knows how to mess with nostalgia and introduce new and familiar faces while keeping the show’s beating heart of loyalty and integrity whole. There’s a reason it’s one of the streamer's most consistent and celebrated titles: it doesn’t try mimicking anything else, wearing its cheesy one-liners, implausible karare brawls, and B-list character performers like a badge of honor. If you’ve already stuck around this long, there’s little reason to deviate because series creators Hayden Schlossberg, Jon Hurwitz, and Josh Heald have proven their cache. 

Season 5 picks up in the immediate aftermath following last season's shocking finale that saw John Kreese (Martin Kove) being arrested after Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith) framed him. Daniel (Ralph Macchio) has enlisted an old foe, Chozen (Yuji Okumoto) to help infiltrate and ultimately destroy Cobra Kai, now run by Silver, before they become unstoppable. As you’ll remember, Miguel (Xolo Mariudena) also skipped town and headed for Mexico to find his father. 

Throughout the 10-episode season, dozens of intersecting plot threads collide, including Johnny (William Zabka) and Robby’s (Tanner Buchanna) search for Miguel (yes, ass-kicking ensues), Silver’s campaign to make Cobra Kai the biggest and most dominant dojo not only in the valley, but nationwide plus Sam (Mary Mouser) is still dealing with her own defeat in the All-Valley tournament to arch rival Tory (Peyton List) who only won because Silver paid off the referees.

Plenty of surprises, betrayals, rampages, and throwdowns manifest during the season, complementing what “Cobra Kai” does best, and solidifying how it’s essentially a big soap opera set within “The Karate Kid” universe. Previous seasons had put much of the dramatic emphasis on the young teengers, but season five throws the spotlight on the adults, specifically Daniel and Johnny's creative and dirty methods of dismantling Silver’s ambitious plans. Zabka and Macchio remain a major highlight of the “Cobra Kai” series who, after several years, still maintain their rip-roaring chemistry and hilarious banter. A subplot this season involves Johnny, for reasons I cannot disclose, having to become an Uber driver and the results are hilarious. 

The fight choreography remains tight and concise as evident by a sequence set within a busy water park where the camps from Cobra Kai and Miyagi-Do collide and bystanders/adults do nothing (don’t they always?). “Cobra Kai” lays the groundwork for an expansive and, I’m assuming, larger sixth season, but the jury is out on how long this series can keep operating. Much of the relationship drama and character interactions are growing stale and it’s almost the same plotline each season: someone nefarious is trying to take over Cobra Kai and Johnny/Daniel have to get their squads to stop them. At least the camaraderie and dynamic among this hip, young cast is at its peak, but perhaps it might be time to start thinking of closing up the dojo before the nostalgia and patience eventually wears off. 

Grade: B 

All episodes of COBRA KAI season 5 debut on Netflix Friday, September 9th.  


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