Starring: Ralph Macchio, William Zabka, Courtney Henggeler, Xolo Maridueña, Tanner Buchanan, Mary Mouser, Jacob Bertrand, Gianni DeCenzo, Peyton List, Vanessa Rubio, Dallas Dupree Young, Thomas Ian Griffith, and Martin Kove
Cobra Kai has consistently been one of the most entertaining and exciting shows in the last few years. It may be deeply rooted in nostalgia for the 1980s films, but the show still manages to bring enough new ideas to the table to keep it feeling fresh and vital. The fourth season is the first that was produced since changing to Netflix from YouTube. The third season, which was produced for YouTube but aired on Netflix, was released on January 1st 2021, and bringing it full circle, the forth season aired on December 31st 2021. The show is still one of the most entertaining shows around and hasn’t lost any of it charm since moving to the streaming giant.
Season four startsexactly where season three left off with Johnny (William Zabka) and Daniel (Ralph Macchio) joining forces to defeat Cobra Kai at the next All Valley Karate Tournament. Sensei Kreese (Martin Kove) seeks out his own help, with old army buddy Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith) who was the main antagonist of The Karate Kid III. The rival dojos prepare for the tournament while also trying to avoid spats throughout the year. Tensions are riding high, and the alliance between Johnny and Daniel starts to see cracks forming.
Just as season three felt like a follow-up to The Karate Kid II, with the recurring characters and a trip to Okinawa, season four is the follow-up to The Karate Kid III. It marks the return of Terry Silver, the borderline psycho villain of the third film. He’s just as menacing here as he was then and works well with Kreese as the antagonists of this season. One of the best moments is Kreese and Silver discussing what happened in the past and acknowledging how over-the-top and ridiculous the events of the third film were. A grown man mentally torturing a teenager, and yet history is starting to repeat itself.
The fourth season is just as ridiculous with the adults using the teenagers to essentially fight their decades old rivalry, even if they don’t believe in it completely themselves. Kreese, Johnny and Daniel have always thought their way is the only way and seeing the younger characters reject their mentor’s ideas and start to find their own path is really entertaining. Just as in previous seasons, there are plenty of twists and turns. Each episode ends on a beat that makes you want to watch the next one straight away and that doesn’t stop right up to the final episode. Let’s hope the wait for season five isn’t that long.
Cobra Kai is a unique show in that it can be extremely funny one moment, deeply moving the next, and then have you on the edge of your seat as characters battle it out on screen. It’s completely over-the-top silliness and yet still manages to excel at whatever tone it’s striving for with ease. After all this time we’ve spent with these characters, we all deeply care about them and seeing them switch alliances, struggle with their own insecurities and come out on top in battle is beyond captivating at this point. It’s pure adrenaline and excitement.
With The Karate Kid, there was the good guy, Daniel, and the bad guy, Johnny. There was very little grey area, and it was clear who you should be rooting for. Right from season one, Cobra Kai has managed to blend the good and the evil into very human characters. You sometimes don’t know who you’re rooting for and everyone watching will have their own favourite characters. The show works perfectly in this regard, and it keeps it up again throughout season 4. The final two episodes showing the tournament is tense, because you don’t know who should win, and it’s anyone’s fight. Even with Kreese and Silver being the clear villains, their students are at points conflicted with their teachings, and their internal conflict is what makes the show so entertaining to watch.
The characters are all still excellent, with none of them faltering at all. Cobra Kai has a large cast and they’re all given their chance to shine throughout the ten episodes. The rivalry between Daniel and Johnny is still entertaining, the way Daniel struggles with the modern world is just as funny as ever, and the next generation finding their own path and almost rejecting those of their elders is great. Martin Kove shows that he can still be just as scary, if not more, than in the original film with one chilling scene in particular where he confronts Silver. Xolo Maridueña continues to show that he’s the heart and soul of the series and his bond with Jonny is excellent.
There’s also enough room for some cameos from legacy characters that feel completely natural. There’s nothing quite as close to Elizabeth Shue returning for a couple of episodes of season three, but it’s still a treat whenever an older character reappears. On top of that the new addition of Dallas Dupree Young to the cast as Kenny Payne is great. Payne is a geeky teenager who’s bullied relentlessly until he joins Cobra Kai and starts to defend himself.
Through melodrama that could rival a soap opera at points, exciting and thrilling action and some never-ending rivalries, Cobra Kai season four manages to keep the fight going, with pure entertainment throughout every episode. The cliff-hanger ending proves the fight is far from over and that’s the best way to start 2022.
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