In the 80’s there was a movie that was a boost to every kid that experienced bullying in some form or other (myself included). The name of that film was The Karate Kid. A classic movie and one that redefines the word feelgood, it spawned three sequels (not counting a modern day remake) and is regarded by many people as one of the best films from the roaring 80’s. As much as I loved the original, the sequel for me was the one I loved the most (and you can read why by pressing on the link). But one can’t help but smile when the young hero of the film Daniel LaRusso takes revenge on his childhood bully Johny Lawrence by beating him in a karate tournament in part one. It was a moment that was edged in my memory as around that time I experienced the effects of bullying in a very bad way. Seeing someone actually turn the tables on his tormentor, even though it was a film, gave me some much needed hope. Late last year rumors started to spread about a sequel to the original Karate Kid franchise in the form of a television series. I really had severe misgivings about this, thinking that pretty much nothing is sacred anymore.
And then…the first trailer arrived. I could not stop myself and had to satisfy my curiosity. If nothing else I could at least have a laugh about how bad it probably would be. But it wasn’t. In fact the trailer managed to actually convince me that there was a small chance this might actually be a fun sequel. But…this was a trailer, and a trailer always shows the best bits right? Let’s be honest: how can a tv series based on a 34 year old movie reignite that same feelgood feeling I had when I watched the original film in the 80’s? Naw, this would probably suck. But boy oh boy was I wrong, and a lot of people with me. Cobra Kai, as the new show is called, has become an overnight succes. It has an unprecedented 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes, something no television series has ever managed to pull off. Yes, you heard that correctly. Not even juggernauts like Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead. People are going absolutely crazy over this YouTube Red series and rightfully so. What exactly make this series so much fun? Well…relax: wax on, wax off. I’m going to try and bring across why you absolutely have to watch this, if you haven’t already.
Cobra Kai takes place exactly 34 years after the events of the first film. Daniel LaRusso has grown up and been doing incredibly well for himself. He has a wife, two kids, and is the owner of a very succesful chain of car dealerships in the San Fernando Valley. Life is not without it’s challenges though and Daniel tries to make the best of it, without the help of his former mentor mister Miyagi who has sadly passed away. Meanwhile the life of his former nemesis Johny Lawrence has been steadily going downhill. He lives in a rundown appartment, has trouble keeping his job, and is drunk most of the time. One night Johny saves a young man called Miguel from a bunch of teenagers that are about to beat the crap out of him. Having seen what Johny can do, Miguel begs him to train him, but the former karate champ declines. In a strange turn of events Johny and Daniel run into each other again after this. Even though Daniel welcomes him with open arms, it’s pretty clear that the old rivalry is still there. After his run in with LaRusso, Johny has a new plan at which he is determined to succeed. He will reopen the Cobra Kai dojo, and bring it back to it’s former glory. But if Daniel has something to say about it, that will never ever happen…..
Cobra Kai is a tv series that will have you grinning from ear to ear right from the start. Even if you haven’t grown up with the Karate Kid films, I guarantee that you will love this show. For fans of the original movies though, it will be an even more special experience. One of this show’s biggest strengths is the way it portrays it’s characters. All of them have a depth to them and are more than just empty airheads made out of cardboard. William Zabka who reprises his role as Johny more than steals the show here. He is without a doubt the best thing this series has to offer and he turns his character into someone who you will grow to love. Huh? Wait wasn’t he the bad guy? Well…without giving too much away here, all I can say is that this series manages to offer quite a few surprises. It really turns the tables on quite a number of things and plays with your emotions in so many ways. Seeing Ralph Maggio returning as Daniel (seriously does this guy ever age), and settling back into his character that he last played almost 30 years ago now, is just incredible. It’s almost as if he has never even quit playing the Karate Kid. Seeing the banter on screen between the two rivals makes for some of the best scenes this show has on offer.
So how about the new characters? Glad you asked because they are just as must fun as the original cast. From Daniel’s daughter Samantha to the new hero (but is he really a hero) Miguel, they all fit in perfectly. Some of them act as comic relief, some act up as the villains, and just as with Daniel and Johny, you will constantly shifting who you are rooting for. Cobra Kai has managed to do something that very few other shows based on older properties have pulled off. It brings back the feel and spirit of the original franchise into a modern day world, while at the same time giving it a new and fresh spin. It will probably not come as a huge surprise that a second season has already been given a green light, and in the way the series ends, it promises to be every bit as good. Well…at least I hope it will be just as much fun as this season. But that’s the future. For now, just go and check this show out when you have the time. With only 10 half an hour episodes in this season, you will bingewatch this in one day. It’s one of the rare exceptions where the hype really is real. So put on your black belts, and watch this. Or go and catch flies with chopsticks…whatever preference you have.
I give Cobra Kai season 1 a 10 out of 10 score.