Kobra Kai, which follows the title Karate kind Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and one of his many enemies, Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) plus thirty years after the events of the movie trilogy, abandoned his fourth season on New Year’s Eve. If you’ve slept on the series so far, you really should not have. The program has great parenting lessons and balances nostalgia pretty well with a great Netflix binge. But, there was always something wrong Kobra Kai, until now. Here’s why his excellent fourth season solved the program’s biggest problem and why the next season will be even better. Spoilers ahead.
It takes place in the San Fernando Valley where Daniel is now a successful car salesman and Johnny is… less so, the 1980s machismo and cultural appropriation are common through the first few seasons of the program, especially, told from Johnny’s ignorant perspective and is definitely a Choice.
So many cultural commentators has adopted, It’s probably baked into the nostalgic franchise run both behind and in front of the camera by white men, despite it being a sport that has deep roots in Asia. From season three there was no Asian writers in staff, and the lack of racial diversity on the program, especially in central roles, is glaring.
Despite this, the show has a legion of dedicated fans responsible for driving it to the top of Netflix’s most-watched rankings since the fourth season dropped. I’m not a fan at all yet, but I appreciate how season four started to fix some of the show’s issues.
In addition to following Daniel and Johnny, Kobra Kai let’s in the lives of a new generation of karate kids, especially Daniel’s daughter Samantha (Mary Mouser), Johnny’s estranged son Robby (Tanner Buchanan) and Johnny’s neighbor Miguel (Xolo Maridueña), who are all naturally enemies, and multiple karate power measurements follow. By highlighting his younger stars and female characters, including the bad girl Tory (Peyton List), Kobra Kai tackles his toxic masculinity, at least.
The feud between Sam and Tory is at the forefront this season, and serves as the climax of the All-Valley Karate Tournament, where Daniel made his name long ago. Sam was the most interesting, or at least most realistic character, of recent seasons, struggling with what she considers to be weakness arising from her PTSD after Tory was attacked at one of the aforementioned karate powerplays in season two. (Miguel’s physical rehabilitation after being temporarily paralyzed during the fight had potential, but of course Johnny ruined it by trying to scare the disability out of him.) Tory also comes to her senses and occasionally leaves the bad girl facade away. . shows focus on vulnerability, insecurity and distress.
It is through Sam that Daniel and Johnny can see that their rigid mentalities are not flying with the new generation. “We get stuck in our ways, but these kids can use what we teach them and create their own way,” Daniel says in the finale of the ten-episode season as a kind of subject sentence for the story arc.
He and Johnny decided to team up (lol) to fight Johnny’s karate school Cobra Kai, which was taken over by Johnny’s former sensei in the movies, John Kreese (Martin Kove), in season three. Needless to say, it’s not going well, and Daniel and Johnny continue to make up and break up like they did monotonously for most of the show.
Kreese was also pretty much a one-note early on in the series as a villain, but by building his background and with the addition of Karate Kid Part III enemy Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffin, who aged impeccably and suddenly made me much more interested in this show!), he gets a much-needed nuance. This is one thing Kobra Kai do more and more well: by bringing in even more reprehensible characters each season, it gives the previous Big bad something to play from, providing a focus on character rather than making Johnny’s ignorance and Daniel’s self-righteousness the driving force of conflict.
The cameo of another villain, The Karate Kid Part II‘s Chozen Toguchi (Yuji Okumoto), at the end of season four, suggests he will do well by playing a fairly large role in taking down Cobra Kai forever in the already renewed season five.
Another exciting prospect this season is the men taking into account their broken relationships with their father and taking into account the relationships they have built with father figures. Miguel is hung up with his father, whom he has never known, and has many feelings about father figure Johnny joining his mother. Much work has been done to peel back Kreese’s layers over the past two seasons, and how he tried to be a role model for Johnny and Silver, but led them astray. Even little Anthony LaRusso (Griffin Santopietro), who all grew up this season, gets a father-son bow, with Daniel and Amanda (Courtney Henggeler) struggling to be the one kid who has no interest in karate as a parent when everything they do is tied into it .
By really digging into these relationships rather than the honestly played out one between Daniel and Johnny, Kobra Kai season four moves to a reconciliation of nostalgia with today’s more diverse TV climate.