“The Karate Kid” (1984) is a classic movie that is still beloved by many. When I first heard that a series about the movies bully, Johnny Lawrence was in production, I was skeptical.
Originally streaming on YouTube Red, “Cobra Kai” was added to Netflix on Aug. 28. I jumped at the opportunity to watch it as soon as I found out it was streaming.
Set 34 years after “The Karate Kid,” “Cobra Kai” brings the original characters Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), back to life.
The show does a spectacular job at incorporating scenes from the original movies through flashbacks. One scene that particularly moved me was in the first episode when Lawrence revisits the location of the All Valley Karate Tournament. The scene also highlights one scene from “The Karate Kid Part II” where Johnny’s karate instructor, breaks his trophy. The show then highlights Johnny remembering the traumatizing event.
The way the scenes are cut together makes it look as if Johnny is a witness to the incident. The emotions Johnny portrays casts a new perspective onto his character.
Not only did my opinion of Johnny change, but I could see how Johnny’s opinion of himself changed. The perspective “Cobra Kai” takes on the character is enlightening.
In one scene, Johnny’s top student, Miguel Diaz, attacks his opponent in a weak spot, just as Johnny did to Daniel in their 1984 fight. Throughout Johnny’s character arc, this was his turning point.
Watching Miguel make the same mistakes as Johnny causes Johnny to see the error in his ways; errors that come from a deeply rooted dojo motto known as “No Mercy.” After taking up the mantle of sensei, Johnny realizes the misconception of this phrase. Johnny watches Miguel as he takes the phrase to heart and descends into what Johnny used to be. Rising above his past, Johnny reopens the Cobra Kai dojo as a way to move on and recreate both his and the dojo’s names.
After the failed 2010 “The Karate Kid” reboot, I had low expectations for “Cobra Kai.” However, after watching “Cobra Kai,” I was blown away by the plot, the characters and the acting. This fresh and innovative take on the character of Johnny Lawrence makes for one of the best TV shows I have seen. “Cobra Kai” is now streaming on Netflix and I highly recommend it to any fans of “The Karate Kid.”