So this is something that I never normally cover but yesterday and today, I needed to take a break from going nonstop and, for a change, took a few hours to watch TV, something I rarely ever do. Thus I ended up watching the entire first season of the new Karate Kid spin-off Cobra Kai on Youtube Red.
I’ll admit it, they suckered me.
The first two episodes are for free on the standard service and if you want the rest, you have to pay $10 more. Normally I wouldn’t do this but given that I listen to a lot of music via Youtube at work, I figured what the hell, I’ll treat myself.
The reason I’m writing this is mainly nostalgia. I was something like 3 or 4 when the original movie first came out and I remember going to see it with my older sister. Neither the movie or the series would be considered “classics” yet they still have a lot more heart than you expect. Yes, I caved into the whim of my inner child and it was worth every dime.
From the previews
I expected a lot of references to the films and I honestly thought it was a cash grab that was going to be thrown together without much thought. I was wrong since, while it might not win awards, you can tell that the writers put some effort into both respecting the source material while keeping the story fresh. They even go so far as to fill in certain plot holes from the original, namely that the “Crain Kick” at the climax was an illegal move and the Karate kid should have been disqualified. The series is filled with a lot of inside jokes that pay homage to the original without it feeling forced and it made me want to go back and rewatch the movies.
The basic premise is that the bad guy from the first film Johnny, time hasn’t been good to him and thanks to a late night prep talk via Lou Gossett Jr from the movie Iron Eagle (another underrated 80’s classic) decides to get his life back together. Meanwhile, the Karate Kid has gone off to live the good life and, unintentionally has turned into a bit of a prick.
Even at the very end of episode 10, you don’t know who to root for and the writers do a great job at providing a much different narrative of the events of the first film. While it’s hard to cheer for a guy who was such an asshole in the first movie, you also have to admire him for trying to turn his life around and fix his mistakes. The series is filled with a lot of grey area and shows that even the bad guys can redeem themselves and that the good guys can slip up from time to time as well.
If there’s one scene that ties everything together, it’s towards the end when Daniel (the Karate Kid) and Johnny (the asshole) end up drinking together and find out that their paths were not that different and they start to respect each other. Cheesy? Yes! But it also shows that two rivals can find common ground if they’re willing to listen to one another.
The bad news is that the series will no doubt inspire a lot of middle age guys to clean out their garages and hurt themselves thinking they can do a roundhouse kick.
Thank God I don’t have a garage.
The truth is I hate most of the reboots and remakes since most of them lack the heart that made the source material so good. The people who put this together were clearly fans and wanted to do this right and somehow they pulled it off. All and all, if you at all enjoyed the original, you won’t be disappointed with this series.
One last quick side note on product placement: I’m still trying to figure out if Coors paid to have their piss water featured throughout the series OR, did the writers use it to show how broke, damaged and destroyed Johnny is? Either way, it makes the point.