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09 May 2018

Home Video Review: YouTube Red's 'Cobra Kai' Successfully Continues the Karate Kid Saga After a Hiatus of Almost 30 Years

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William Zabka and Ralph Macchio in Cobra Kai. William Zabka and Ralph Macchio in Cobra Kai.

Nearly 30 years after last donning the headband in Karate Kid Part III, Ralph Macchio returns to the role of Daniel LaRusso, and old nemesis Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) is along for the ride.

As a 10-part series on YouTube Red, YouTube’s premium service, Cobra Kai gives us a chance to see how things turned out for Daniel—he’s a rich owner of a car dealership. While that’s fun, the real charm of the series is learning more about Johnny, who isn’t doing so well three decades later.

Prone to drinking, estranged from his son, Robby (Tanner Buchanan), and constantly beating up on himself, Johnny hasn’t adjusted well after taking that kick to the face in the karate tournament. Yes, it looked like Johnny learned his lesson and tried to be a good sport in the aftermath, but the defeat ate away at him over the years. Now, while pounding beers and stuck in the past, Johnny decides to reopen the Cobra Kai dojo, much to the chagrin of Daniel, who doesn’t want his kids, especially his young daughter, Samantha (Mary Mouser), exposed to its bad teaching ways.

Cobra Kai adds a great chapter to the Karate Kid saga by not making Johnny a cardboard cutout villain. In fact, the story allows Johnny to recount his side of the story. (He was sucker-punched; his girl was stolen, etc.) He becomes a surprisingly sympathetic character when he’s not acting like a complete asshole.

Macchio looks like he’s having a lot of fun, and the series is much better than anyone could’ve expected it to be. Among the myriad reboots currently happening, Cobra Kai counts as one of the best.

Cobra Kai is currently streaming on YouTube Red; the first two episodes are free to all.

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