As many of us find ourselves indulging in the guilty pleasure of a Netflix binge sesh, many hidden gems become engulfed in the sea of the streaming site’s 15,000 watchable titles. That’s exactly the category “Cobra Kai” found itself in until recently, although now all generations are indulging in the undeniable nostalgia and wittiness of “The Karate Kid” (1984) film series continuation.
Successfully crafting a reboot can be a hard stunt to pull off, and many roadblocks may appear that can halt one’s success. Coming after the “The Karate Kid” (2010) remake — starring a young Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan as his sensei/mentor — which received mixed reviews from fans and critics, “Cobra Kai” was left with even more to live up to. Despite the quality of the flicks it stands beside, “Cobra Kai” is not even slightly overshadowed by its predecessors.
The showrunners (Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg and Josh Heald) made it known they have an immense appreciation for the “Karate Kid” film franchise. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Hayden Schlossberg addressed the skepticism about resurrecting the classic, telling the Hollywood Reporter, “Ever since Cobra Kai premiered in 2018, I have heard some version of the following, I can’t believe how much I loved your show because whenever Hollywood attempts to bring back a classic movie franchise, it almost never works out.”
Schlossberg adds, “Having grown up in the 1980s, we are the target audience for many repackaged/revamped/rebooted movie franchises we grew up with. We know what it’s like to get lured by nostalgia, only to feel let down by a cash-grab that takes advantage of childhood memories. But that did not stop us from bringing back one of our favorite film franchises.”
The showrunners’ tender admiration for the classic franchise and its future is reflected in the magical effort put into the onscreen product. Through jaw-dropping cameos and heartwarming nods to the life lessons taught in the original films, the essence of “The Karate Kid” gets passed down to the younger generation and to the show’s audience.
Before “Cobra Kai” kicked its way to the head of Netflix’s top 10 list, it resided somewhere else. The fun-loving karate series initially premiered on YouTube Red, YouTube’s subscription streaming service, back in May 2018. The show ran for two seasons with the premium YouTube platform before Netflix adopted it in 2020.
The handoff from YouTube Red to Netflix was shocking since the series was beloved by fans and well accepted by critics, who typically tear reboots of classics to shreds. However, YouTube decided to go back on its decision about taking on the original series, which ultimately led to the platform saying goodbye to its binge-inducing creation.
Moving on can be a hard adjustment to endure, but “Cobra Kai” settled into its new home with ease, with the show becoming available on Aug. 28, 2020. After Netflix re-released the first two seasons, the show was streamed by over 50 million viewers worldwide in the first month of its availability.
The third season of the show kicked off with no shortness of success. Premiering on New Year’s Day 2021, the show again reclaimed its rightful spot in the top 10 in over 28 different countries.
Carrying the narrative of the “Karate Kid” film franchise 34 years later, “Cobra Kai” reacquaints the world with Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) as they find their way back to their one true love: karate.
The past karate rivals are now dealing with the anguishes of adulthood. LaRusso lives a shiny life, owning a thriving car dealership with a picture-perfect family to match. In contrast, Lawrence’s life is anything but glamorous, and he often juggles random gigs to make a quick buck to fuel his steady drinking problem. Lawrence also must deal with the cracks that reside within his relationship with his only son.
However, after coming to the rescue of young Miguel Diaz (Xolo Maridueña) while facing brutal harassment by a group of teenage bullies, Lawrence lands himself a chance to continue the teachings of Cobra Kai Karate. Lawrence also changes the life of Miguel Diaz and other kids like him who often feel utterly powerless. The reemergence of Cobra Kai makes waves that inevitably reach LaRusso, reigniting the rivalry between LaRusso and Lawrence. This provides the basis for the show’s main conflict.
Aside from its action-packed moments and comedic gold, the show focuses its lens on the life lessons that accompany the Japanese martial art. “Cobra Kai” follows this path directly with Lawrence, the bully in the past film franchise. The character regains a new sense of life while mentoring his students and patching up his relationship with his son.
These lessons are also challenged with Daniel LaRusso’s character. Confined to the karate rule book he learned decades ago, LaRusso struggles to shed his “it’s my way or the highway” attitude. However, as he familiarizes himself with Lawrence’s teaching styles and morals, he finally opens up to the idea that bending the rules a little bit can work in one’s favor.
This sense of relatability allows for audiences to connect even deeper to the show’s subject matter and truly take the onscreen lessons into their day-to-day life. This is one of the series’s greatest strengths and ultimately aided in its success.
The fourth season of “Cobra Kai” launched on Netflix, with all 10 new episodes available on New Year’s Eve 2021. The action-packed revival’s success continues unabated, receiving positive reviews with its striking 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a smashing 92% Audience Score. Once again, the show found itself beating out its competitors as it climbed to the top of the site’s global viewership charts after being available for only three days.
With the show already renewed for its fifth iteration and production recently wrapping up in late December 2021, it seems that the dojo doors of Cobra Kai will remain open for a while longer. Fans desperately remain on the edge of their seats, awaiting what could be next for the decades-long journey of battles for Daniel LaRusso, Johnny Lawrence and their budding karate prodigies.