30 years after the events of the 1984 All Valley Karate Tournament, Daniel LaRusso, Johnny Lawrence and the Cobra Kai gang are back for a 3rd season.
Earlier this year, Cobra Kai migrated from its original home YouTube Red to Netflix which was probably the best move for the show. Immediately after the switch, the show got a resurgence of new fans, young and old. It stayed on the Top 10 trending page on Netflix for weeks if not months. Season three was originally scheduled to debut January 7th but the good folks at Netflix decided to push it up to New Years Day, giving fans a special treat to welcome them into the New Year.
Season three of Cobra Kai finds everyone dealing with the aftermath of the violent brawl between their dojos at the end of season two, which has left Miguel in a precarious condition. While Daniel searches for answers about his past and Johnny seeks redemption, Kreese further manipulates his vulnerable students with his own vision of dominance. The soul of the Valley is at stake and the fate of every student and sensei hangs in the balance.
The first two seasons do a good job of introducing the new generation of Karate Kids like Miguel, Samatha, Robbie, and the others while still catching us up on what the OG characters have been up to since we last saw them 30 years ago. Now that the show is on its third season the kids have been fully established for the most part of course while still leaving much room to grow. This season focuses a bit more on the adults and how their actions impact the kids and the valley as a whole.
As someone who was late to the original Karate Kid movies, I can say you do not need to watch the original films to become invested in or understand Cobra Kai, however, it would help to understand the world at large in which the show takes place. Although, for the third season, I’d highly recommend watching the films before you dive into this story. The writers do a great job with the storylines from season one and two while beautifully weaving more callbacks and characters from the original movies without making it feel like just a glorified cameo or fan service.
It has already been revealed that Tamlyn Tomita and Yuji Okumoto will reprise their roles as Kumiko and Chozen, and they are amazing. I really wish I could say more about it but you will just have to watch it for yourself.
Much like the previous seasons, this third one is an easy binge, that will play well on repeat if you want. The the progression of the season is easy to follow and become fully invested in. The writers really outdid themselves in creating a narrative that is simultaneously epic and relatable. It is so easy to get swept up into this narrative, one that obviously sustained a film series. It is not difficult to immerse yourself in a the show for many more year, luckily season 4 was already greenlit.
Although the series doesn’t have one specific main character, we’ve gotten to see Miguel’s hero journey into this whole karate endeavor from the beginning, so the finale of season two truly hit. So, I was interested to see how his storyline would play out over the course of this season. I really enjoyed Miguel’s arc as he dealt with recovery and trying to find his way back. The ramifications really do resonate with all the characters in different ways right up into the finale. Miguel may not be the lead, but he is who audiences will identify with the most.
Xolo Maridueña did an incredible job with handling all the heavy scenes he was given this season. One of the strongest dynamics in the series is Miguel and Johnny and that rings especially true in this season. From Season one, Johnny has been Miguel’s in a relationship that is reminiscent Peter B. Parker and Miles Morales mentor-student type relationship from Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse.
Another protagonist also on their own journey is Samantha Larusso (Mary Mouser). Besides Miguel, she is probably the most shaken up from the events especially with her encounter against Tory (Peyton List. Watching her slowly find her way back with her father as her sensei, I thought her character arc was awesome. Don’t want to say too much about Robbie’s character arc this season, but I will say he probably has the most complex story out of the new gang. It is clear they are building towards a bigger redemption arc for his character.
This season does a great job of showing that although the kids might be jerks most of them aren’t inherently “evil” or “bad” people, they are kids being lead by adults with actual lived experience. I think this is shown the most through Tory (Peyton List) and Eli (Jacob Bertrand). The focus on Tory and Eli is minimal, however, the slowly grow in prominence throughout the story.
As I mentioned before, this season the adults take center stage, with Ralph Macchio and William Zabka really stepping up. Although, their characters are the source of great nostalgia and callbacks to the original films, there is still so much to learn about them. Especially, as they grow into their roles as mentors and senseis.
These two characters probably have the most character development over the course of this season and when Kreese and his crew start to affect both of their lives they get more involved in each others lives whether they like it or not. Neither of their arcs are anywhere near finished but there is major growth which culminates into one of the most badass finales from this year.
This season has a bunch of intense moments (nothing too heavy) but some of the most enjoyable and light hearted moments come when callbacks or references to the original films happen around key characters, it would help to watch them beforehand.
From the trailers and the end of season 2 it is no secret that John Kreese is the main antagonist of the season and, oh man, is he. There is more to know about his backstory that fleshes out his character, and we learn more about why he is top dog. Martin Kove brings such a menacing presence to the character just like from the original movies that definitely leaves its mark across this season and on all the kids (good or bad).
I cannot praise this season and the show enough. The work in place to make a beloved film franchise into an endearing and exciting television show is not easy, but the Cobra Kai team has done it. My only complaint is that season four is too far away. Cobra Kai season 3 is a great start for Netflix going into 2021. The future is bright for the series due to a incredibly ensemble of characters played by exceptional actors. The story is rich and gives you what was beloved and something new too. There is some much to look forward to from this series.
The original Karate Kid trilogy is on IMDB TV via Amazon Prime Video for free if you need to catch up!