The original Karate Kid saga is sacred to many people, which is why when Cobra Kai was announced, let alone announced for Youtube Premium of all things, people were naturally very on edge.
We had seen reboots and spiritual successors in the past few years, and the last thing many wanted was for this to be a ploy to make a little money off a familiar name. But then, the first season was good! Really good even. And fans were begging for more, and that’s what we got. And as this Cobra Kai Season 2 Review shows, it may not have the same paths as the first season, but it doubled down on what made this show great.
No, seriously, I’m going to drop MAJOR spoilers here! Especially about the season finale, so if you haven’t watched it all the way through, DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW!
Ok, still here? Good.
To quickly recap, Cobra Kai Season 1 featured a down-on-his-luck Johnny Lawerence finding new meaning in life via his neighbor Miguel Diaz as he trained him in karate. At the end of the season, Diaz won the All-Valley Martial Arts Tournament, but at the cost of both Johnny’s son and fighting dirty. To make matters worse for Johnny, his old sensei, John Kreese, has returned.
Season 2 picks up immediately after that jaw-dropping arrival and immediately goes back into the karate action that made everyone so happy about season 1. From there, a complex rivalry between two masters and their students begins.
For Johnny, Miguel’s victory showed him a harsh truth. While he saves these kids from being picked on, he’s slowly molding them into hardcore bullies. Much like he was back in the day. This is expressed beautifully through the ever rageful Hawk, who shoots down any attempt to go back to his former self in order to be hard from top to bottom.
He wants them to be fighters, but he also wants them to be honorable, which is becoming ever harder because of Kreese’s involvement. Kreese wants nothing more than to bring Cobra Kai back to its “true” nature, striking first, striking even harder, and having absolutely no mercy. The conflict between these two is very palpable, and yet, they also have some very tender moments that make you remember that they were very much a father/son kind of thing at one time. But by the end of the season, Kreese makes Johnny pay for his kindness.
Moving onto Daniel LaRusso, he ended Season 1 with a defeat in the tournament. But he was inspired to do what he did with Robbie and turn it into a full-on dojo. This storyline for LaRusso is perfect, especially given all the twists and turns it takes. He fondly remembers everything that Mr. Miyagi taught him and believes it’ll go just as smoothly, especially when his daughter Sam joins in. But he gets several rude awakenings as he has to learn the hard way that patience is required in life and sometimes sacrificing everything for a dream means losing everything that made that dream special.
It’s very compelling to watch these two guys try and make their own goals happen while also screwing with the other. The episode “Fire And Ice” showed that beautifully as Daniel tries to get some time for his dojo at a festival to show what Miyagi-Do can be, and then Johnny hears about it and epically steals the show.
While the Karate Kid may have been 30 years ago or so, it’s good to see this rivalry still fueling the show in many ways.
But, if it were just two old karate guys battling one another (again), it wouldn’t be as compelling as season 1. Thankfully, Season 2 also doubles down on all the students. Miguel, Robbie, Sam, Alisha, Hawk, Dmitri, and newcomer Tory brings some much-appreciated story to the new season. Especially in regards to the love quadrangle (yes, that’s a thing) that is going on between Miguel, Sam, Robbie, and Tory.
Usually, I would hate these kinds of storylines because they’ve been done a thousand times. But there’s something about how Cobra Kai does it that makes it compelling. You believe that Robbie loves Sam and that Tory loves Miguel, and vice versa, but tiny scenes and spotlights show that Miguel and Sam aren’t over each other, which makes everything so heartbreaking given how the season ends.
Still here? Episode 10 spoilers coming!
Season 2’s finale, epically titled “No Mercy” focuses on the first day of school, with both Cobra Kai and Miyagi-Do returning to class and trying to get over what happened the summer. But, because of a shared drunken kiss between Miguel and Sam, Tory decides to start a brawl that goes from one-on-one to a massive brawl between both schools’ members. This fight was highly teased in the trailer for Season 2, and I’m happy to say that it lives up to the hype in many ways. I will say that I think the Miyagi-Do students won a few too many fights, but that’s just my take.
The big shocker, though, was the fight between Miguel and Robbie. It started as a case of bad timing and perception and then evolved into a personal war between two guys in love with the same girl. And just when you thought that things were going to end peacefully…Robbie kicks Miguel off a staircase! Paralyzing him probably and sending everyone into shock, and then some.
By the end of the episode, Sam is hurt via Tory, Robbie runs away, Daniel is destroyed at what happened and forced to stop Miyagi-Do at the behest of his wife, and Johnny not only losses Cobra Kai and his students to Kreese, but he has to live with the fact that Miguel technically got hurt because of him. As the ending scene grimly shows, Johnny is at rock bottom again, and he knows it, and he’s done with everything.
Leaving me (and others) DESPERATE to know what happens next.
All that being said, don’t read this Cobra Kai Season 2 Review and think that the season is perfect. Rarely does that ever happen.
One of the biggest flaws is one of direction. In Season 1, you understood that Johnny just wanted to get Cobra Kai back up and running, and then the All-Valley Tournament happened, and we all knew where things were going to end. With Season 2, we don’t get that. Granted, they say early on that the tournament was 11 months away, and the trailers stated that this season would focus on the Summer, and that’s fine. But, until the ending episode, you honestly had no idea where things were going outside of the escalation of the rivalry between Miyagi-Do and Cobra Kai. Usually, that would be enough, but certain events, including a very foreshadowing episode 9, proved that this was going to be anything but a typical ending. And it wasn’t. But that doesn’t mean we couldn’t have had a more focused goal at the end.
And while I LOVED many of the student stories, Dmitri’s was cringe-worthy at times. Yes, he’s supposed to the nerd, but they harped on that a bit too much. Oh, and his terrible GOT knowledge was hard to watch too. Am I really supposed to believe that Danny watches GOT? Come on…
Oh, and the much-hyped rematch between Danny and Johnny isn’t quite what you’d expect, so if you’re hoping for a massive throwdown like what the students did, you’ll be disappointed.
Finally, the ending tease of a returning character was meant to amount to the Kreese return from last year undoubtedly. But…it didn’t honestly work. Granted, I was happy to see it, and I hope Allie does return. But given all that happened, it would’ve been more interesting to focus on Johnny leaving everything behind rather than have another tease of who’s coming back for Season 3. And we better get Season 3!
All told, Cobra Kai Season 2 did a great job of showing why Cobra Kai works as a series. It features great characters, intertwining stories, and compelling arcs for many characters. Small gripes aside, if you loved Season 1, you’re going to love Season 2 just as much.