Cobra Kai Season 3 Review

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Cobra Kai Season 3 Review – No better way to kick off a new year than with a new season of Cobra Kai

Netflix is striking first and striking hard with a brand new season of Cobra Kai on New Year’s Day! Before I get into my Cobra Kai Season 3 Review, I really want to applaud Netflix’s marketing team for how they used the early release of Season 3 as a gift. To sum up, on the morning of Christmas Eve, Johnny Lawrence tweeted that he figured out the internet and is releasing the season a week early on New Year’s Day. It was simple, elegant, hilarious, and overall just a great way to start Christmas and close out the year. The tweet is down below:

Cobra Kai Season 3

Now back to Season 3. I’m pretty much going to just sum up what’s in the trailer and episode one to avoid too many spoilers. The series returns a couple of weeks after the massive karate gang war of season 2. Miguel is in the hospital recovering from a coma, Danny is desperately trying to find Robbie, and Johnny is getting drunk and into confrontations at yet another franchise diner. The school has banned karate and put in a pacifist initiative known as “Hugs not Hits” and even featured a song circle in support of it. Sam has recovered from her bout with Tory, Tory is expelled and struggling to make ends meet with her home life, Robbie is on the run, Hawk is the big cobra in the pit, and Kreese is working to make sure his students are unequivocally the best.

Without giving any specifics away, Season 3 of Cobra Kai is great. It plays slower than the previous seasons, but not to any sort of detriment. The slow burn allows for more one on one with characters and more moments of levity. It really plays into the hurt and fear Johnny is going through, both with Miguel and Robbie, as well as Danny with Robbie and the growing presence and conflict of John Kreese. The karate gang war also affects Danny’s business which requires him to go to Japan. It also allows them to explain what happened to a number of characters who didn’t return organically.

Aside from all the character conflicts and continuing drama, we are treated with some great comedy, callbacks, nostalgia, and social commentary. The “Hugs not Hits” seems to be an obvious call out to the anti-bullying sentiment of the modern age. While we all agree bullying is bad, many, myself included, do not believe in this trying to make it PC. Bullying is real and serious, but it’s not going to go away with these “woke initiatives” that don’t allow the ones being bullied to overcome it. I also feel the karate gang war that closed out Season 2 was a shining example of that, as the teachers and everyone who’s supposed to be there stop bullying were nowhere to be found when bullying got out of control. The “Hugs no Hits” and other methods of anti-bullying are manipulated by the bullies to continue bullying, but real and effective techniques are presented and enacted. It’s done so in a way that doesn’t shame the PC approaches but pushes them in the direction they need to be to be effective.

I also want to give a nod to all the meta-commentary and callbacks. A news segment is used to cover the events of Season 2’s karate gang war finale. One of the people being interviewed says, “I thought karate died out in the 80’s.” Another favorite is when Danny is trying to defend karate to the board, claiming that he was bullied and karate helped him. Then someone in the crowd yells, “I heard you were the bully!” which is the story from the view of Johnny Lawrence (and Barney Stinson). Without saying too much, there’s also a scene that features William Zabka’s Tiger Beat photos that is absolutely hilarious. These call-outs of the series, of the movies, and on society really elevate the show for me.

Performance-wise, Billy Zabka and Ralph Macchio are phenomenal! Zabka is the ultimate golden-hearted douche bag. You can’t help but root for Zabka as he earnestly does what he can to be a great person, but unapologetically does not stop being the pretty boy douchebag. It is a hard line to tow, as this guy is aggressively reluctant to change his delivery to the PC standard but fights even harder to do the right thing and genuinely support others. He is constantly developing while refusing to develop and it is incredible to witness. Macchio on the other hand feels a bit opposite. He comes to terms with his role and actions in the mess and realizes he isn’t the hero he believes himself to be. At the same time, he knows he knows what’s right and works towards being the hero he thinks he is. While he acknowledges his mistakes, he continually finds blame and looks outside for guidance. Both Johnny and Danny are vying to be the hero of the story, both fighting to let go of the distant past and fix their mistakes of the recent past. It’s a beautiful yin and yang that definitely ebb and flow in hilarious, heartfelt, and hazardous ways.

Outside of the Karate Kid(s), the actual kids also bring their A-Game to our screens. Xolo Maridueña is definite the new Karate Kid. His performance as Miguel is earnest and endearing. His recovery arc is particularly well done. The physical performance was definitely Emmy -worthy, however I feel the foregone conclusion of his recovery weakened the dramatic impact. There are some potential-tear jerker moments in it, but you never get that definitive heart punch. Mary Mouser also delivers a great performance. She does a particularly great job of portraying Sam’s anxiety and trauma. Mouser and Maridueña definitely being to really expand their presence and quickly establishing themselves as stars of the show.

There are numerous other notable performances, such a Martin Kove’s incredibly menacing presence, Jacob Bertrand and Peyton List’s sociopathy, Tanner Buchanan’s want to belong, and Gianni Decenzo’s ever-more confident proud nerd. But there are too many to focus on. What I do want to mention, without actually mentioning, is that performers returning from the movies absolutely nail it. Each and every one of them. In particular another LaRusso rival (It’s in the trailer, but I don’t want to say it). The only downside to his performance is that he needed a little more screen time to really seal the deal. But he definitely made a meal of the performance, and it was magnificent.

The last thing I have to applaud is the creative team. In particular the writers. The writers do a great job of developing and progressing almost every character. Each of the mains have great arcs, and even the side characters are given great parts. For example, Joe Seo’s Kyler. Kyler is given no likability. AT ALL. Seo does an incredible job of making you hate this guy, and boy do the writers and Seo give you more and more reason to continue hating him. And of course, there’s what they do with Johnny and Danny, plus the backstory of Kreese, it’s just an extremely well written and put together show that works a standalone show, but elevates and continues The Karate Kid legacy. Lastly, I have to give it up to how well the show honors and keeps Mr. Miyagi’s presence throughout the series. It’s done in subtle, but hugely impactful ways that it really feels like Miyagi is a series regular.

I only have two critiques for my Cobra Kai Season 3 review. The first isn’t necessarily a negative and it gives me hope Season 4 will be out in 2021. But Season 3 doesn’t feel like a complete season, the way the first two seasons did. If I had to compare it, the feeling after Season 3 is the same as the feeling after episode 9 of the first season of Game of Thrones. It just feels like you need a little bit more so you can wait for the next season. Again, it’s not bad, it’s just an intense want for more. Then the next, of all the violence, the two smallest/youngest characters get MESSED up. Like these kids are getting mobbed. Not that it’s not organic to the story, but if I saw little kids getting beat up I’d expect the ones who are doing it to be put away because them some little kids. It just takes me out of the moment. It’s momentary, but of all the characters to be beaten up, those are the characters that really seem like there should be consequences for hurting.

Netflix strikes 2021 hard and fast with Cobra Kai Season 3. I can not think of a better way for Netflix to start the new year than with one of their most recent hits. The series continues to perfect blend of nostalgia and franchise elevation with incredible performances, a perfect blend of commentary and comedy, and impeccable writing. I found it impossible to not binge the season, and I already know I will likely binge it at least one more time before the year is over. It is an incredibly entertaining and layered show that continues to impress the more you watch it. My Cobra Kai Season 3 review gets a 4.5/5.

Cobra Kai Season 3 Premieres on Netflix January 1, 2021

 

Cobra Kai Season 3 Review
4.5

TLDR

Netflix strikes 2021 hard and fast with Cobra Kai Season 3. I can not think of a better way for Netflix to start the new year than with one of their most recent hits. The series continues to perfect blend of nostalgia and franchise elevation with incredible performances, a perfect blend of commentary and comedy, and impeccable writing. I found it impossible to not binge the season, and I already know I will likely binge it at least one more time before the year is over. It is an incredibly entertaining and layered show that continues to impress the more you watch it.

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