At this point, you almost have to expect greatness from the Cobra Kai series. It took the simplest of concepts in terms of its return via “Make Johnny Lawrence The Good Guy” and then turned it into this massive interconnected universe of things where the past, present, and future keep colliding in great ways. Cobra Kai Season 5 had to pick up the threads of arguably the best cliffhanger that happened in the series so far, so the question was, would it run with it well? As my Cobra Kai Season 5 Review will show you, the answer is a definite, “Yes”.
To recap, at the end of Season 4, the All-Valley tournament went Cobra Kai’s way, and as a result, both Miyagi-Do and Eagle Fang Karate had to shut down for good. Terry Silver convinced Stingray to lie about who beat him nearly to death in order to put John Kreese in prison, and thus Cobra Kai runs the valley. A fact that they setup very well in its initial set of episodes. As Terry Silver makes commercials showcasing the “new age” of Cobra Kai as well as going to great lengths in order to expand his reach. Grand openings, new sensei, and so on were just some of the ways that he was using his power and influence to try and make his mark on the valley, and the world. But that was only part of his plan, more on that later.
Easily one of the best parts about this season was that the viciousness and brilliance of Terry Silver. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed watching John Kreese work from seasons 2-4, and he’s a great villain too (as proven in many epic scenes in Season 5), but Terry Silver was just another thing entirely. A breath of fresh air from the villain side of things if you will. He was the literal snake in the grass. The one that’ll make you think he’s doing nothing, then lash out at you.
In fact, the first five episodes of the season are dedicated to the initial attempts by Daniel LaRusso and the newly brought-in ally of Chozen trying to take down Terry Silver, and finding out the hard way the cost of doing that. Terry went after Daniel in such simple ways that it made him lose almost everything. His family, his health, and his sanity, it was all on display. You were only halfway into the season and yet you KNEW that Terry had to be taken down and taken down hard, and the back half of the season only compounded that in the best of ways. So when he DID get taken down at last? It felt deserved, it felt great, and for Daniel to use Silver’s own methods to put him down for good…it felt redemptive.
But another great thing about Silver’s story was his never-ending ambition. One thing that season 2 lacked if you will be an “endgame” for everything. Yes, we got the school riot, but that was something else entirely. Here though, it seemed like it was just about making sure Cobra Kai was all over the valley. But it wasn’t. Bringing in the international tournament in order to make Cobra Kai synonymous with all of Karate? That felt like a “next level villain” move, and it was great to see how that played out…even if we’re still going to have to wait to see what comes of it.
Now, you might be confused by the subtitle I had in my review, “6 Degrees Of Karate”, it’s something I thought of a few episodes in when it became clear that at this point in time…just about everyone in Cobra Kai has interacted with one another in some way. Or new people that come in are always connected to one or two of the people involved. This “6 Degrees Of Separation” was beautifully touched upon here as many of the major characters arcs dealt with these characters, these friends, these rivals, these allies, these family members, and so on not just interacting with one another, but building off of their own past experiences in order to help the other.
A great example of this is Tory and Devon. The former beat the latter in the tournament last season, so the latter joins Cobra Kai to be as good as the former. But Tory knows the truth about what Terry Silver did, and wants to save Devon from the fate she almost had. That plays out huge in the end, and it’s really well done. Another great example is that of Amanda, who shines in the early part of the season (where she had a lot to do to be clear) as her 6 degrees made her realize that her life would never be “normal” because of all of Daniel’s past enemies coming out to get him.
Her initial reaction of leaving so Daniel could “deal with it” alongside Chozen was well-handled and brought in ANOTHER DEGREE via the arrival of Jessica Andrews, who happens to be Amanda’s cousin, and the woman whom Daniel not only was friends with in Karate Kid Part 3, but she introduced the two to one another! See? It’s all connected. And her revealing what Daniel went through with Terry helped show Amanda the true depths of pain that he endured, and thus ensured she was always by his side when the time came. Again, feeling very earned.
They even use this six degrees technique to make you feel bad for Stingray when he confesses to his former friends (in a D&D way no less) that everything was indeed a lie. By using all the connections between these characters and their histories, we got some really cool stories and moments that helped the season shine in many ways.
And now, it’s time for this Cobra Kai Season 5 Review to talk about the two MVPs of the season. Starting with Johnny Lawrence.
At the end of season 4, after losing his dojo and reconnecting with Robbie, he set out to get back Miguel. Is Johnny still an idiot stuck in the 70s and 80s? Yes, yes he is, and at times it still is too much. But throughout much of Season 5, he matured and became something more (even using his own 6 degrees to get better). Not to mention, he’s going to be a father again! That was definitely something unexpected, and it definitely helped bring out the more grown version of Johnny. From babyproofing his house to doing everything he could to get Robby and Miguel to a good place, to even getting help from his ex in order to get a job and such. It was great.
The best part though was when Daniel was unraveling and he said things to Johnny that in Season 1 would’ve sent them into a full-blown fight. But instead, Johnny asked, “What are you doing, man?” Showing that he was tired of the fighting (for now) and wanted to know what was wrong with his ally. Plus, after getting entrance into the international tournament, he willingly said that the dojo’s name was Miyagi-Do, putting his own ego aside because he knew that without Daniel they wouldn’t be there.
Don’t worry, he still kicked a LOT of bad guy butt, but we needed more than that from Johnny, and we got it.
As for Chozen, he was definitely MVP worthy. I was legitimately curious when the season began how much of a role Chozen would play. He had a very small part in Season 3, and they could’ve ended his story thereafter making up with Daniel. But here? We got to see more from him in various ways. We got to see the Sensei side, we got to see his friend side as he consoled Daniel through his downward spiral, and we even got to see his vulnerable side. Oh, and he totally laid waste to many bad guys and eggs. Chozen is the man.
Seriously, this is yet another great example of Cobra Kai bringing in the past to enforce how great this universe can be, and to give great arcs for former one-note characters. Speaking of which…
Yep, let’s talk about Kreese. While he had a smaller part this time around (and didn’t even show up until the end of episode 5), it was still impactful. He tried his “usual tricks” to get out of jail early, but it didn’t work. That’s when we got to see a more emotional side of Kreese during a therapy session. As his past literally came back to talk with him for better and for worse. And then just when you thought he was down and out, he wipes out a whole prison gang and then, later on, fakes his own death to get out of prison in a very Kreese way, or “My Way” if you will. The team noted after the finale that Kreese has an option now to just “go away” or “go out swinging”…what do you think he’ll do?
You might have noticed I haven’t talked about “the kids” that much. That’s not to say all of them were bad or had annoying story arcs, it’s just that in certain ways, their stories ran parallel to what came before. Such as how Cobra Kai and Miyagi-Do/Eagle Fang students couldn’t get along…anywhere…and thus would fight all the time. Sam went through a crisis of conscience about “who she was”, and of course, there was relationship drama. More on that later.
There were some great things though from them. I mentioned part of Tory’s story, but she had a lot more going on. She was a “mole” for Kreese and then she tried to atone in various ways and almost always came up short because of others until the end. Robbie and Miguel finally working out their issues via their epic 1-v-1 fight were well-handled. They even talked about why Robbie went full-tilt on Miguel in Season 2 in the school riot. Then not just connecting in their own way, but being there for Johnny when he admitted he’d be a father again was very heartwarming.
A really standout moment was when the kids came together to try and put Silver down themselves in order to save everything. It was honestly a clever plan, and a great pivot by Tory when the original plan couldn’t work. Also, the Miyagi-Do/Eagle Fang kids lesson with Chozen, and them coming together to “protect the egg” was great, as well as how that paid off later on in the final fight.
Oh, and let it be known, the fight choreography for Season 5 was top-notch. You honestly wonder at times how they’re going to top the previous season, and then they do. There were great training fights, 1-v-1 fights, the team battle at the Cobra Kai dojo, and of course, the adult battle at Silver’s house was everything one could hope for in certain ways. Complete with a sword vs. sai fight that definitely went the distance. If we are going to the international tournament next season? I look forward to the fights we’ll get there.
So, where did the season go wrong? Well, it wouldn’t be a Cobra Kai Season 5 Review without some nitpicks, right?
The first thing I want to mention is that while this show is really good at doing drama, they at times go REALLY hard on the melodrama, or the “teen angst” as I like to call it. Sam and Miguel broke up, again, which naturally broke Miguel’s heart. And then when he was kissing another girl a few episodes later, she was ticked at him for it. She also kept saying that “she wanted to get things back to normal”, but from different perspectives every time. That’s not how it works, plus, she of all people should know that “normal” doesn’t exist. Plus they got back together in the end so did we really need all that drama?
Also, while the “Miguel in Mexico” storyline was fairly wrapped up in Mexico, it played out rather predictably, including learning the truth about his father, and Miguel “dodging the bullet” multiple times in terms of the man not knowing who he was.
A rare misfire in my opinion though was the inclusion of Mike Barnes. Why is that? Because he was brought in early to possibly bring down Terry Silver, then we find out he had turned his life around after his film ended. Which was great! Another redemption story. But then, his store gets burned down, he vanishes until the last episode and suddenly he’s a broke wreck? Also, it doesn’t take him long to change sides and go after Terry Silver…where he gets KO’d pretty quickly and then only makes the save RIGHT at the end. I’m not saying we needed the deepest story ever with him as we got with Chozen and Johnny, but it would’ve helped. It also would’ve made a lot of it more believable in terms of what happened after Daniel got back in his life.
Not so ironically, Mike Barnes is a great example of the biggest flaw in this season, “suspension of disbelief”
We all know that this show has a LOT of moments that could be labeled as “convenient”, but here? It goes beyond logic at times to really try and make some of their plot points happen. For example, Mike Barnes talked about how great his life was. He had a successful business, a great wife, and so on. But then Terry Silver burns the store down, his wife apparently left him and he’s broke? Huh? Granted, we never met the woman or saw his life outside of that, but that’s a big leap to do, wouldn’t you say?
Here’s another one, Kreese clearly cared for Tory, which is why he had her be the mole for his plan against Silver. But when he realized his plan was foiled, he basically told her “do what’s best for you, we’re done”. He KNOWS how hard it is for her to trust people, and now he just burned her, really?
The two biggest ones were moments that truly could not have happened. Tory was set to fight Sam in the qualifier for the international tournament. But at the last second, Tory bails. We know WHY she bails, she couldn’t handle the ref cheating again and causing her to live with more guilt. That was fine. What wasn’t that she was back at Cobra Kai THE NEXT DAY as if nothing happened? There’s no way Silver would’ve allowed that, or the other Cobra Kai students would not have questioned why she bailed on them in their moment of need. Remember, “no mercy”.
Then there’s Chozen, who I truly felt was going to die in the final episode of the season by Silver’s hands. Or in this case, his sword, and in one epic battle scene, he got sliced open and left in a pool for MINUTES on end, bleeding out as he did. But apparently was merely “flesh wound”. No, just, no. I didn’t WANT Chozen to die, but that death would’ve had true meaning and given more motivation to take down Silver for Daniel and the others. Or to “honor him” by winning the international tournament. but he was alive, and fine, and walking. In the words of One-Punch Man, “Ok.”
Finally, and I’ll admit this was a personal grievance. There was just so much cussing and trash-talking in this season that it was almost comical. To the extent that when one of the Eagle Fangs betrays them, they ask him why while also calling him his very offensive nickname and he replies, “Gee, I wonder why?” Bullying was a key thing in this storyline, and the last one, and while some of it was handled fairly, others were kind of just there or ignored (see: Anthony’s “redemption”). Plus, I definitely don’t remember there being F-Bombs in the show before, and there were a LOT of them here. So…were they just turned loose for whatever reason? I don’t know, but it definitely stood out.
To be clear, Cobra Kai Season 5 was a great season and definitely ranks as one of the higher-tier ones. It built up a lot of characters well, showcased the various interconnected histories and how it helped save the day more times than not, and the fight sequences were incredible. It did go a bit beyond its reach at times, but you better believe I’m excited for season 6, and with where it could go from here, the potential for ever more greatness is there.
Cobra Kai Season 5 Review
Cobra Kai Season 5 delivered on many things, including building up a lot of characters in surprising ways. Not everything hit, but when it did, it was great. If you’ve loved the first four seasons, you’ll love the fifth!
- Cobra Kai Season 5 Review