“Cobra Kai” is a show that just won’t die, as it’s been stronger than ever since it transitioned from YouTube Red to Netflix. Season 4, which sees Daniel LaRusso’s (Ralph Macchio) Miyagi-Do dojo team up with Johnny Lawrence’s (William Zabka) newly-minted Eagle Fang Karate against John Kreese’s Cobra Kai, after three seasons of Daniela nd Johnny being frenemies. On the line is a bet that the losing dojo has to close.
Seeing that his enemies have joined forces, Kreese enlists the help of Cobra Kai co-founder and “Karate Kid III” villain Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith), who has been living a life of wealth and luxury since Kreese disappeared years ago. Silver says that he has moved on from Cobra Kai, and that he is ashamed of his actions in “Karate Kid III”, but Kreese doesn’t buy it, and ultimately convinces him to join him as another sensei for the current version of Cobra Kai.
Silver really raises the intensity of this season, as he’s a more sophisticated villain than Kreese. He has less honor than Kreese, who still has some affection for Johnny and still wishes to get him to rejoin Cobra Kai, and unlike Kreese, he has unlimited resources, which allows him to tip the scales in favor of their version of Cobra Kai.
Back at Miyagi-Do/Eagle Fang, the group spends much of the season trying to work together, though the main source of drama is from Daniel and Johnny and not their students. The two just have too much history and ego to realize that they need to both make a concerted effort to make their arrangement work, and that involves both sides making confessions.
In fact, the kids are more than willing to learn both styles, with Daniel’s daughter, Samantha (Mary Mouser), going behind his back to learn the more aggressive style of Eagle Fang, and with Johnny’s best student, Miguel Diaz (Xolo Maridueña) fully embracing Daniel’s defense-based approach. But unfortunately, the arrangement is filled with volatility at every turn; multiple times the dojos almost split, just to be brought together by a random act of unity from their students, and just as things go well, the show usually throws them a curveball. I won’t spoil what ultimately happens, but it does directly affect what happens in the finale.
In the show’s secondary plots:
Eli “Hawk” Moskowitz (Jacob Bertrand) and Demetri Alexopoulos (Gianni DeCenzo) reconcile after Hawk gets his mohawk forcibly shaved by a bunch of Cobra Kai students.
Cobra Kai student Tory Nichols (Peyton List) tries to rebuild her life after being expelled, as she struggles to care for her younger sibling while also holding down a job. She finds an unlikely ally in Amanda LaRusso (Courtney Henggeler), who starts the season off wishing that she pressed charges after Tory injured her daughter, Sam.
Anthony LaRusso (Griffin Santopietro), Sam’s technology-obsessed little brother, bullies Kenny Payne (Dallas Dupree Young), a new kid at his middle school, which leads to him turning to Cobra Kai. Johnny’s estranged son, Robby Keene (Tanner Buchanan), who joins Cobra Kai this season, mentors him, but in the process learns how toxic Kreese and Silver’s teaching are. Robby goes through a slow realization this season that, while his father is not perfect, he’s not out to get him or use him like Kreese and Silver are.
Johnny and Miguel’s mother, Carmen (Vanessa Rubio) officially date, which brings up his complicated history of being a father to Robby. It’ll be important by season’s end.
Stingray (Paul Walter Hauser) gets off of probation, and tries to rejoin Cobra Kai, unaware that it’s under new management. He has a very small role this season, but it becomes important by season’s end.
The show really heats up during the All-Valley tournament, which has a format change; this year, there’s a boys and girls division, as well as a skills section, and the overall winning dojo is determined by a points system. So, for the first time ever, there’s two champions.
Season 4 is the best the show has ever been. Every original “Karate Kid” character has been elevated and developed into complex characters with competing interests, ideologies and methods. Their work with Silver’s character, who was a bit over-the-top and cartoonish in “Karate Kid III”, was masterful, as he surpasses Kreese as the series main villain this season.
Rivals and allies constantly change sides, and that not only keeps the show fresh, but it also adds layers to each character’s relationship with one another. All of the older “Karate Kid’ cast members are great, but the younger cast is also just as good and completely hold their own; this is as much their story as it is their senseis’.
The action has also been just as good as it has ever been — I love how grounded it is, yet layered with tension. The All-Valley fights in this season are among the best in the franchise, resembling more of a duel of wills amongst fighters, rather than a test of their martial arts prowess.
“Cobra Kai’ is truly the caviar amongst martial arts series. Nothing compares to it, and I love how it was able to find such rich, fertile soil in a franchise we thought was long barren years before the “Karate Kid” series was ultimately rebooted in 2010.
“Cobra Kai” Season 4 gets a 9.5/10