Retro Review: Cobra Kai continues themes presented by The Karate Kid

BY John Carter JR

With Cobra Kai ranking in the top ten for multiple weeks after its launch on Netflix and season three just announced to be released on January 8th, TMN examines where the Cobra Kai story is now and where it’ll take viewers in the upcoming installment. The major theme established at the very beginning of the Karate Kid franchise in how found fatherhood was one of the driving factors of the franchise.


Thirty four years after the 1984 All Valley Tournament, Johnny Lawrence, like Mr. Miyagi before him, is simply a lonesome handyman. Not too long after his reintroduction, viewers meet his future protege Miguel, who like Daniel Larusso, is a poor kid from Reseda. As the show unfolds the parallels not only between the original trilogy and Cobra Kai begin to unfold, but the parallels between Mr. Miyagi and Dainel compare with that of Johnny and Miguel. Moreover, the emerging bond between Johnny’s estranged son Robby and original Karate Kid Daniel Larusso is introduced.

The first level of complexity Cobra Kai adds to what the original trilogy established is not only the original casts’ desire to find fatherhood but those very same characters acting as father figures for a new generation of young people. It’s increasing complexity comes from the fact that there are multiple characters looking to Johnny Lawrence and Daniel Larusso for that father-like guidance. 

Miguel and Johnny Lawrence’s relationship seems to begin in a similar fashion to how Mr. Miyagi and Daniel’s relationship started, to avoid needing help to fight back against bullies. However the difference between Miyagi and Johnny drives the story through the different schools of thought employed by Miyagi-Do and Cobra Kai dojos. These differences clearly represent how these men mentor the next generation. 

The first season introduces Robby Keene, the son of Johnny Lawrence and the next student at Miyagi-Do karate. Like a good chunk of the boys in this show, he is a troubled youth who not only uses his wit to his advantages, but also uses his ability to form relationships with people to gain similar advantages. He tries this with the Larusso’s but eventually grows to enjoy being with them and feeling like one of the family through his found fatherhood with Daniel. 

Johnny Lawrence won’t be winning any father of the year awards any time soon and it is Larusso who guides Robby. Sometimes it seems to fans that Daniel or Johnny’s teaching style mirrors the styles of Kreese and Miyagi’s teaching/mentoring styles as both men are a product of their respective teachings.

Daniel Larusso in season one is hot headed and responds impulsively to his detractors often, this is something true to the original films. His character conveys the ability to commit to petty revenge like trying to get Johnny’s Rent on Cobra Kai increased as a means to get back at him after graffiti is spray painted on a Larusso Auto Billboard. 

This type of revenge is not something the cool headed Mr. Myagi was known for and it seems apparent to the audience is that the while Daniel seems to deviate from his teachers modality Johnny seems to do the same from his teacher but in the opposite direction.

At the very end of season one and the beginning of season two viewers are reintroduced to Sensei John Kreese. We start to get more scenes with Kreese and Johnny showing they not only had a bond but that Johnny has a soft spot for his old mentor. 

More positive and vulnerable scenes between the two characters are shown, until Kreese reverts to his shady ways. It isn’t until season two Johnny even begins to consider mercy, an idea long seen by Cobra Kai as weakness, as an option. However this revelation seems to be too late as with Kreese’s influence the new Cobra Kai kids attack Miyagi-Do’s Dojo and even steal Miyagi’s Medal of honor. The very end of season two ends in a major fight —  a product of the failures of Johnny and Daniel as mentors and Father figures.

Cobra Kai and The Karate Kid are alike in the aspect of the stories being driven by found fatherhood and mentorship. While the original had two opposing views on how to teach kids, clearly allowing audiences to determine who is the good guy and who is the bad guy, Cobra Kai has three views.

The show presents Johnny’s way, Daniel’s way, and Kreese’s way as a spectrum of gray with each perspective leaning closer and closer to the morally wrong end of the spectrum. Cobra Kai teaches viewers with various characters that they can come from different world-views, but it is in how we live our lives and choose to teach it when it can be determined as generally good or bad. 

With season three set to release in January and season four in development we will be able to see where these mentors take their students next.

Who would you rather be your sensei? Did you binge Cobra Kai on Netflix? Tweet to us @TigerMediaNet

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