Cobra Kai Premiere Episodes Plot Summary:
Thirty years after losing the All Valley Karate Tournament to Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio), Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) is a complete and utter burn out at the end of his rope. After a chance encounter with his old rival, Johnny’s passion for karate is ignited once more as he plans to reopen the Cobra Kai dojo
If you only watched The Karate Kid in passing, you might like this fine, but make no mistake: This is for diehard fans. This is for people who lived and breathed that iconic film from 1984. It’s pure and utter nostalgia, and I loved every minute. It’s glorious.
The opening gave me chills. It begins with a flashback of the All Valley Tournament where our hero, Daniel LaRusso, wins the day with that legendary crane kick. Instead of ending on the hero shot with Daniel and Miyagi hugging it out, it locks in on our anti-hero: Johnny Lawrence.
They give you all the clichés: Johnny wakes up in an alcoholic stupor as he immediately goes for the bottle. His apartment sucks. He gets fired. He hasn’t seen his kid in years. He doesn’t even pretend to hide driving drunk. All he has is his classic red car that only plays 80’s music. It’s the biggest cliché in the history of television, but it completely works. If you were going to do this character on TV, it should be this guy. Johnny Lawrence is the iconic 80’s badass teenager who had it all, but lost it. He gave birth to this cliché.
William Zabka is all in. He completely embraces the role. He can be a little over the top at times, but this show demands over the top. It’s just the right amount of funny and sad. You remember how much of a jackass this guy was, but it’s rough to see him down in the dumps like this. Daniel says it best in this episode: It wasn’t you, Johnny. The Cobra Kai made you a jerk.
Speaking of Daniel, it doesn’t help Johnny that everywhere he goes he’s reminded of the kid who ruined his life – Daniel LaRusso. Daniel has a crazy successful car dealership. His billboards, radio ads and commercials are everywhere. It drives Johnny mad. When the two finally meet again, Daniel is perfectly nice, but still manages to get his subtle licks in as only Daniel can. It’s really incredible how seamless Ralph Macchio fell back into this character. Their dialogue exchange is awesome. And yes, they address Daniel’s illegal crane kick.
In the midst of Johnny’s downward spiral and hatred for Daniel, he develops a reluctant bond with a teenager (Xolo Mariduena) who just moved into the building. It’s eerily similar to Miyagi and Daniel from the first movie, but completely turned on its head. Where Miyagi was pure kindness, Johnny is completely harsh. It’s totally warped. Johnny is going to help this kid, but it certainly won’t be the Miyagi way.
What adds another layer to this is when Johnny goes through the standard Rocky IV “No Easy Way Out” style montage. Johnny thinks back to his glory days with glee and shame. There’s part of him that appreciates John Kreese’s old teachings, but also detests it. This will lay the foundation for the series. Will he fully commit to the Cobra Kai way, or just some of it? This is clearly what they want to explore.
My only regret with this series isn’t really a fault of its own. You can’t help but think this was born from a joke in How I Met Your Mother when Barney states Johnny was the hero and Daniel the true villain. That’s essentially what this is.
Nevertheless, if you’re a fan of The Karate Kid, this is required viewing. It’s full blown eighties nostalgia at its most eighties. Aside from the nostalgia factor though, it’s a unique way to look at a classic 80’s film from a totally different perspective.
<Rating: 8.5 out of 10 (Really Great)