Directors: Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg, Marielle Woods, Joel Novoa, Tawnia McKiernan
Writers: Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg
Cast: Ralph Macchio, William Zabka, Martin Kove, Thomas Ian Griffith, Xolo Maridueña, Mary Mouser, Tanner Buchanan, Peyton List, Courtney Henggeler, Jacob Bertrand, Gianni DeCenzo
Streaming on: Netflix
This includes spoilers from Seasons 1, 2, and 3
Sadly, it seems as though Cobra Kai has lost its verve this time. Compared to the last three seasons, the fourth one is bereft of all the snappiness that moulded the show. For a series that delivered well-strung episodes which demanded your attention, this season is a glitch in the Karate Kid matrix. Cobra Kai is essentially about a cohort of tweens and teens learning how to defend themselves (read: beat each other to a pulp) by taking to karate. This season gets the focus wrong — rather than having the kids tussle at each other, for the most part, they give us bickering adults. If not repetitive, it’s a tad outlandish.
Season 3 ends with Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) completely breaking ties with with his former sensei Kreese (Martin Kove). Lawrence’s son Robby (Tanner Buchanan), who suffers from a host of daddy issues, joins Kreese. Lawrence finally combines forces with his arch-nemesis Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and together, they take on Kreese’s challenge — the winner of the upcoming All-Valley tournament gets to retain his dojo, while the loser forfeits his. In Season 4, Lawrence trains his protégé Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) and LaRusso his daughter Samantha (Mary Mouser). Kreese reunites with his previous co-sensei Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith) and in a pure, army fashion, they train their karate-chopping underlings to lift the trophy that LaRusso held three decades earlier. To the uninitiated, this would seem like an elaborate, hot mess. To the acquainted, this is the hot mess they came for.
This show is marbled with dynamic allegiances — kids keep shifting to other dojos and break up with one another because they harbour clashing dojo ideologies (a whack reality but reality nonetheless). This season relegates this groove to the backseat. Everyone has finally settled after three seasons of unending tribulations. The sensei of the dojos even instate a moratorium on public brawls, and with it, a moratorium on the unbridled fun that we, viewers, derived from them. We end up bidding adieu to high-schoolers roughing each other up in food courts and car parks. This is where the season fumbles. It is one-note, scouring for the vitality it possessed earlier. In its attempt to sober up the show — by taking the children and their tussles away from the centerstage — Season 4 just convulses into a state of paralysis. There really is nothing happening, the season is just a glorified training montage.
Everything ramps up in the last three episodes — on the eve of the All-Valley tournament, the fledgling karate maestros finally hash it out, and later, in the tournament itself. The writers go against the grain here. They present the unexpected and manage to deliver — you do not anticipate who ends up competing with each other in the finals, but when it does play out, Cobra Kai’s signature beat is reintroduced. The ultimate showdown builds on the rhythm of Season 1’s All-Valley finale — it is a relentless karate opera that manages to surpass the awe of the crane-kicking we witnessed in the original Karate Kid, and even Season 2’s high-school street fight. This season requires a tremendous amount of patience — bits of it feel like fillers — but eventually, Cobra Kai restores its initial force of attraction with style. This one’s a weak season with a terrific conclusion.
All seasons of Cobra Kai are currently streaming on Netflix.