Cobra Kai S5: kicking charts

Jessica Rios, Open Canvas Manager, Staff Writer

The anticipated 5th season of Cobra Kai finally launched on Netflix on September 9, 2022, and is a “crane-kick” of suspense, drama, lightheartedness, and cheesy one-liners.

Created by Josh Herald, Jon Hurwitz, and Hayden Schlossberg, the television series Cobra Kai is the sequel to the nostalgic Karate Kid franchise that remains iconic to this day. Originally a Youtube series, Cobra Kai has been renewed annually without delay since its launch date on May 2, 2018. With a larger budget and growing cast, season 5 of Cobra Kai proves to be successful as critic and fan scores are both stellar.

Despite it being weeks since its release, it remains #1 on Netflix’s top 10 television series in the United States. The season contains heart-warming themes of overcoming grudges and embracing friendship, returning characters from Karate Kid 3, and 80s music nostalgia, featuring songs such as “Mony Mony” by Billy Idol.

The stakes are higher in season 5 as the problem is no longer about winning an “All Valley Tournament” for the sake of a bet. Season 4 ended with Kreese (Martin Kove), who was the antagonist for seasons 2-4, being arrested as he was framed by his best friend Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith) who he met during the Vietnam War and is a recurring character from Karate Kid 3.

Now with season 5, the cunning Terry Silver puts Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) and Daniel Larusso’s (Ralph Macchio) students’ karate skills to the test as he attempts to expand the dojo beyond the Valley through his masterful plan: having his students compete in the Sekai Taikai tournament, the most prestigious karate tournament in the world. By competing in it, he is eager to establish “Cobra Kai” on the global stage. The conflict? Each lesson used to train the students has negatively impacted their decision-making and transformed them into delinquents. One in particular being Kenny Payne (Dallas Dupree Young) who was Robby’s (Tanner Buchanan) apprentice in season 4. His characterization takes a pivotal turn when he ceases to become a push-over and instead becomes his own leader, viewing his peers as pawns to manipulate his next move toward landing a point on the mat. 

As many fans of Cobra Kai know, the series is notorious for its incorporation of existing characters in the Karate Kid universe as well as instilling inspiring themes of overcoming adversity, setting your pride aside, and making the right choices. Albeit these themes continue in this season, it is displayed through impressive choreography and emotionally-driven acting.

One scene highlighted in particular is the fight scene between Robby Keene and season 1’s All-Valley champion Miguel Diaz (Xolo Maridueña). Given their intense history and rivalry on the mat and the school balcony, it is a poignant and suspenseful brawl as they both unleash their frustrations and anger on each other. Flashbacks from when Robby had perpetuated Miguel’s paralysis are briefly shown as Miguel swings at him, hence a meaningful scene input by the writers. Shockingly, Johnny was responsible for this fight as he believed it was a solution to have them move on from their respective grudges against each other.

Another moment is when Chozen (Yuji Okumoto), Daniel’s ex-rival from Karate Kid 2, provides words of wisdom to Samantha Larusso (Mary Mouser): fight for, instead of against. As fighting for family and loved ones is more compelling and motivating than harnessing anger against one’s enemy.

Although Cobra Kai is also known for its cheesiness as the plot is built upon old rivalries and grudges between middle-aged men, there are many prevalent themes that are applicable to many viewers’ lives. Karate is merely the foundation of these themes, but can be substituted for any passion and still be relatable.

Another note-worthy aspect of season 5 is the impressive “deep-fake”  that can be fleetingly seen in the scene where jail-bound Kreese confronts a vision of young Johnny Lawrence in his prison therapy session. With the cooperation of a body double (Logan Coffey) and VFX supervisors, teenager Johnny Lawrence became a possibility and creative asset to provide a deeper connection between Kreese and his past errors. Moreover, one cannot forget season 5’s most surprising cameos, legacy characters Mike Barnes (Sean Kanan) and Jessica Andrews (Robyn Lively), who were both introduced in Karate Kid 3.

Hence, with its engaging drama, captivating fight sequences, and sentimental moments, Cobra Kai season 5 is an entertaining experience and thus can be enjoyed by parents (particularly those who were teens in the 80s), adults, and teenagers galore. The showrunners and production team certainly did strike first and strike hard this season!