September 10, 2022 (NYC)–Cobra Kai Season 5 dropped on Netflix this weekend. The highly anticipated release of the former YouTube turned Netflix property delivers a less than engaging continuation of the Karate Kid series.
I hate to use the expression “Jumped the Shark”, but this show has clearly done so. The show is watchable because the characters are loved and you are vested in the story from the prior seasons; however, it has lost a lot. For one thing, it has become amazingly corny. Every scene and line seems a set up for a punch line, or quick quip. Part of the shows strength till now has been that it doesn’t itself too seriously; however the pendulum has swung to far in the comedic direction.
Yuji Okumoto, as we saw in The Paper Tigers, is a talented actor, and it is good to see him return as Chozen from the 2nd installment of the Morita films; but he is misused here. It seems to me that the creators have tried to turn him into the new Mr. Miyagi. While he is good, it doesn’t seem authentic here.
The other call backs to a lot of prior Karate Kid characters seems to be an acknowledgment that the show is coming to an end. Perhaps just one season too late.
The real appeal for me in the show when it came from YouTube was that it was edgy and thoughtful-that no longer exists. The Direction and cinematography are much more low budget. Some of the young stars are stand outs, including Peyton List, Xolo Mariduena, and Mary Mouser, in particular.
The Cobra Kai Series has clearly done more to excite interest in martial arts practice than any other project since the original film series that spawned this project. I have heard from numbers of Dojang owners that can trace new student enrollments, even during the difficulty of the pandemic, directly to Cobra Kai viewership. That alone says a lot about how the series has connected with a generation that wasn’t even born when Daniel LaRusso fought Johnny Lawrence in the All Valley Karate Tournament.
While the 5th season continues to develop its new story line and trade off its origins, it also continues to create back stories which attempts to make the characters more multi-dimensional than those created in the John Avildsen film. However, in this season it is not successful.
The show’s action and fighting sequences are improved over prior seasons. The years of training seems to have improved the cast’s skill level, except Macchio that seems to have plateaued in the 1980’s.
The strength continues to be the power of William Zabka to engage, interest, and entertain.
-by Marc Zirogiannis