Cobra Kai Season 3


Differently paced third season has some incredulous plots but remains a delight to watch

The climax of season two was so visually and dramatically shocking that it set a benchmark for subsequent seasons. Series in this position can sometimes struggle to match the excellence of what has gone before so Cobra Kai’s third season dials back to effectively reset the show.  Behind the scenes there was also a change with Netflix taking over after the first two seasons had been produced by YouTube. Would these changes make a difference? If this sometimes makes the third outing seem a little less focussed and a notch down on the excitement of last time, the series remains in great shape, as lively and fluid as before. The writers manage to skilfully ease matters out of a potential cul de sac in a variety of ways and move forward. Worth remembering too that the series is billed as a comedy drama so perhaps not to be take too seriously. 


It opens with as a shocked Johnny has gone back to the drinking and brawling lout he was when we first met him in the first season. Miguel lies in hospital, initially in a coma, and if he survives it is in some doubt as to whether he will be able to walk again let alone take part in any kung fu fighting. Robbie has gone AWOL while the Le Russo business is under pressure after word spreads thorough the community that it was the Miyagi Dojo who were responsible for the brawl at the school. Unfeasibly chirpy rival dealer Tom Cole is ready to swoop in and buy the business out. Samantha is having trouble even going back to school after the trauma of what happened while the place itself has become something of a high security institution  albeit one where staff are encouraging pupils to hug rather hit each other!.

 The theme of the season is about how people fight back from either bullying or setbacks or disappointments by learning from the past but not making the same mistakes or repeating the same behaviour. Bullying is seen in all it’s forms and provides the backbone of almost all the main storylines.  The series does a good job of making these scenarios seem fresh even if the messages across multiple narratives are roughly the same.  

 So there’s a lot to unpack but surprisingly in the midst of all these earnest plot lines the writers tease some lighter moments, principally when Johnny and Daniel go looking for Robbie. Sequences with the two of them together are always so well written and played and these are no exception as their differing outlooks and behaviour clash often with amusing results. William Zabka and Ralph Macchio are so good at being, respectively, untidy and fastidious you could almost re-cast them as a modern day Odd Couple. Their on screen chemistry always gets both laughs and drama.

The season also takes the franchise further back to its roots as Daniel take a trip back to Japan. Initially this journey only reveals a modern shopping mall has been built where the village from the original film was (though watching now even this seems out of date post pandemic!) but when he bumps into former love interest Kumiko it leads to a poignant reconnection with his past via a previously unread letter from Mr Miyagi. Why didn’t he send it to Daniel himself? Well because it makes for a lovely scene here. This is a show that does retro fitting rather well, unlike some, so you are absolutely convinced Mr M did pen these wise words back in the day. Mind you there’s also an astonishingly cheeky bit of plotting that enables Daniel to rescue his business which perhaps is a little too unbelievable! There are more clips than ever from the 80s films often acting as a narration to underscore what is happening now.

This works especially well when Ali Mills returns to the area. Its perhaps a little unlikely that she has never come back until now or if she has that she never got in touch with either Daniel or Johnny but you can forgive it because her presence adds more fuel to the rivalry between them. Elisabeth Shue is only in two episodes but perhaps she could come back more often.

The series frequently creates new flashbacks too going back to the past to underline character traits or reveal more and Kreese also gets the treatment. This is a worthwhile addition to the narrative as its often hard to discern his motivation. So we are shown scenes of the younger Kreese before he joined the army and also what happens when he does to explain the character’s determined credo of strength, of striking first and showing no mercy which he is drilling into his pupils. We see him in action in Vietnam but he ends up being captured and it goes some way to explaining his psychotic side. The climax as he fights to the death over a pit of snakes may seem like it comes from another franchise but it provides much needed background.  The suggestion seems to be that this is where he got the idea for the name Cobra Kai.

With the focus more on the adult characters early in the season, the kids snipe and scrap with each other as occasions allow, these are clearly building to something. Every time you see Hawk scowl you know there will be trouble! Pleasingly the other kids are less willing to be walked over this year and a football match is full of great digs and deliberate ball kicking that turns out be quite funny. Taking money the Miyagi Do kids have raised for Miguel’s hospital treatment and claiming it as their own gift is low though.

Miguel’s slightly miraculous physical rehabilitation continues apace though you wonder how much time is supposed to have elapsed between him being unable to move his legs and then walking around as normal. Plus how come the hospital offer very little physiotherapy? Instead it’s left to Johnny in a very funny series of scenes as he tries to coax Miguel into recovery including by taking him to a rock concert which manages to get his foot moving! It’s a punch the air moment for sure even if younger viewers might be baffled by the appearance of Dee Snider, a rock star from the Eighties.

Kreese is now filleting out weaker Cobra Kai kids as the dojo continues to terrorise the neighbourhood and despite attempts by the Le Russo’s to evict him. William Zabka is proving to be a realty good deadpan comedian, Johnny’s no frills approach to life enable him to develop what could have been a one note character into someone more interesting. Johnny’s approach to life, his lack of technical savvy and even his choice of name for his new dojo- Eagle Fang- are amusing additions that stop the plot becoming too po faced.

The end of episode seven sets the stall for further confrontation with Kreese offering Johnny one final chance to rejoin Cobra Kai which he rejects. Interestingly for such a series some of the more graphic results of the fights has seemingly been self -censored by the production. One notable scene is when some of Cobra Kai’s new recruits face the established members which looks to be more cautiously cut than usual. Hawk’s demolition of a former tormentor doesn’t show us any of the damage he does which must be considerable considering how long it goes on. Later during episode ten’s keynote fight similar edits are apparent.

All this violence has seemingly incensed the local authorities whose decision to cancel the All Valley tournament creates a fun scene wherein unknown to each other Daniel, Johnny and Kreese all turn up to make varied cases for its re-instatement only end up trading insults like children. Its left to two of the kids- Miguel and Sam - to put forward a more mature, heartfelt reason that sways the council to reverse their decision. Mind you by the last episode kids and adults have reverted to type!

People change sides a lot in Cobra Kai, sometimes with good reason, sometimes not and sometimes inexplicably as Hawk does in episode ten. Sure, he’s shown moments of doubt whenever about to hit former friends and allies. However that’s a bit different to orchestrating, along with Tory, a daring attack on kids from the other two dojo as they attempt some sort of alliance and then suddenly changing sides. Still I was wondering just how they were going to get out of it and who would pay for all the damaged furniture in the Le Russo house. The set-to is one of the best the series has done although it does feel like the writers have had to struggle a bit to create situations for a dust up which has given the season more of a stop/ start feel than the first two. Mind you Peyton List is terrifying when Tory is in full on aggression mode and that’s before she’s even kicked anyone! If you ever wondered how popular this show is though a clip of this sequence on YouTube has had seventeen million views!!

The episode may not quite match the stunning climax to season two but its not for want of trying. There’s a great dichotomy between the literal fighting the kids are undertaking and he verbal parrying as Johnny, Ali, Daniel and Amanda have dinner and discuss all those old times. When the respective senseis find out what’s been going on they finally team up to face Kreese and battle lines are drawn.

While this ultimately can make season three seem more like a long introduction to season four it definitely ends strongly and there’s plenty to interest audiences of all ages.



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