With season two of the You Tube Red original Cobra Kai wrapped up for a few weeks now, it’s the perfect time to discuss what makes the show so great. Cobra Kai takes place many years after the original Karate Kid trilogy, and while the original trilogy’s second and third movies were questionable, Cobra Kai brings the franchise back better than any of its predecessors. The show captures the feel of an 80’s drama but places it in the modern world, while also practicing one of the show’s (and martial art’s) most crucial lessons. Any art, ranging from Muay Thai to Tai Chi teaches us some form of a balanced life, especially in the case of karate, where zen ideology is a pillar of the art. Another thing karate teaches… at least the type of karate we see in Cobra Kai is that balance is applied to every area of life, in order for those who practice karate to become their best selves possible. The Karate Kid’s Mr. Miyagi even lectures a young Daniel on the importance of balance in the original films. So where does this concept of balance fit into Cobra Kai’s narrative?
First, let’s start where it all began… the original film’s ending where Daniel beats Johhny in the all-valley tournament. The movie paints this as a clear bad vs good where the bullies are defeated and the hero prevails, yet cobra kai offers us a new perspective. Johnny is our first character introduced in season one and we see the fight has ruined him for all of his adult life. He’s a drunk while Daniel has become a wealthy car dealership owner. Right away, the balance has been introduced, bully becomes the worse off one and bullied becomes successful, but it gets much more complicated than this. Eventually, Johnny re-opens cobra kai to get his life back together and begins to take on students… while Daniel eventually becomes the next Miyagi and takes on a student of his own, who happens to be Johnny’s son. Johnny’s first student also happens to be in a relationship with Daniel’s daughter, making the core characters perfectly balanced. Eventually, we hear Johnny’s side of the original movie and learn that he considered Daniel the bully, and claimed to be fighting in self-defense, we also learn that Daniel is trying to sabotage the modern Cobra Kai, causing good and evil to do a perfect 180 in the narrative. When both sensei’s pupils enter the all-valley tournament at the end of season one, Johnny’s student is the aggressive one, despite Johnny being the “good” at this point in the show while Daniel’s student is the calm one, balancing the “bad” of Daniel with the good of his student, and the opposite with Johnny.
Season two balances the rivals further with a warring dojo plot that acts as a base the entire season is built on. By this point, Johnny’s old sensei is reintroduced; and because of Miguel’s (Johnny’s pupil) actions in the last season, Cobra Kai is considered “evil” again, shifting the balance. But like the concept of Ying and Yang, there is evil in good and good in evil and Johnny’s dojo begins to split between followers of Kreese and the students who stay loyal to Johnny, leading to a balance between evil and good within an already balanced narrative. At the same time, Miguel learns from his actions last season and changes back into a “good” guy, and to balance this, a love triangle between Robbie, Daniel’s daughter, and Miguel turns Robbie into the “bad” character at this point in the story. The dojos clash at the end when the students (both Daniel and Johhny have taken on many more by this point) disregard their teachings and clash in a massive final battle in the season’s last episode, shifting the balance to Johnny and Daniel versus their misguided students and the consequences of their actions at both dojos. The season ends on a lost Johnny and Daniel, both trying to find balance within themselves to cope with the destruction their old rivalry has caused. Balance is really the key to accomplishing something amazing, and Cobra Kai’s critic reviews are only a testament to that. Or… in the words of Mr. Miyagi
“Lesson not just karate only. Lesson for whole life. Whole life have a balance. Everything be better.” – Mr. Miyagi