Cobra Kai is turning out to be the Karate Kid sequel no one knew that we needed until it actually arrived. The 10-part series dropped on YouTube Red, and according to statistics, more than 5 million people watched the debut episode over the course of its first day. The first two episodes were free, after which, you need a paid subscription to access YouTube Red. But it was at the end of episode two, titled “Strike First,” that we learned why longtime rivals Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) remain at odds.
There will be spoilers for Cobra Kai from here on out, so only read on if you want to find out what happened without actually watching.
Right from the get go, episode two of Cobra Kai shows just how in tune with the target audience this original series turns out to be. Dean Martin’s “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head” plays over the opening montage — ironic because the whole series explores how Daniel’s kick to Johnny’s head in the All Valley Karate Championship 34 years earlier changed the trajectory of both men’s lives. Daniel, the winner of that contest, is a family man who owns and operates a fleet of successful auto dealerships around Southern California. Johnny’s a divorced and deadbeat dad who can’t hold down a steady job and is barely holding his life together.
But Cobra Kai finds a way to cleverly reverse engineer the traditional Karate Kid formula, and it gives Johnny (William Zabka) a reason to mentor a kid. Miguel (Xolo Mariduena) is being bullied at school. Instead of finding his own Mr. Miyagi, though, Miguel runs into Johnny… who uses the kid as a reason to relaunch the Cobra Kai dojo — and all of the horrible lessons that came from Master Kreese (Martin Kove). At the end of this episode, Daniel figures out that Johnny has performed karate on a boy who is dating Daniel’s daughter. He arrives at Johnny’s new Cobra Kai to confront his former bully about the resurrection of the poisonous dojo. And the two men who locked wills as teenagers are back on the path to an epic battle.
There’s a lot more going on in Cobra Kai than you might have realized, and it makes me very excited to see how the rest of the season-long arc plays out. In Miguel, we see a kid who comes at karate for the same reasons that Daniel did, only, he’d ending up with a totally different mentor. The series, so far, has played with the fact that Johnny is the anti-Miyagi… even cracking jokes about how there’s no distinct way to clean a toilet, so take your Wax On / Wax Off nostalgia somewhere else.
But in Daniel, Cobra Kai also presents someone who can see right through Johnny’s scheme, and episode two lights the fuse that should eventually combust between all involved. In the next episode, I can already tell you that some familiar and haunting arrives into this new series, and the hooks of the past will pull both Johnny and Daniel further along on their destined path to face off, once again.
Cobra Kai is a 10-episode original series from Jon Hurwitz, Josh Heald and Hayden Schlossberg. For fans of the original Karate Kid movies, it’s a must. Have you checked it out yet? What are your thoughts?