Cobra Kai (Season 4 Review): Hope it Never Dies

The stakes are raised yet again. I don’t know how this series remains consistently fantastic! Read on for my Cobra Kai season 4 opinions…

*Minor Spoilers for Cobra Kai season 4 ahead– Just a few surface-level plot points*

Cobra Kai S4 picks up following last year’s cliffhanger. Who does John Kreese (Martin Kove) call for help? None other than his old buddy Terry Silver (from The Karate Kid Part 3– Thomas Ian Griffith)! Meanwhile, Daniel and Johnny (Ralph Macchio and William Zabka) struggle to co-exist within one dojo. Miyagi-Do, Eagle Fang, and Cobra Kai’s also strain their temporary truce ahead of the All-Valley tournament. The stakes are higher than ever! Whichever dojo loses the All-Valley must close down forever.

Due to the aforementioned truce, there’s fewer physical brawls this year. So the kids rely on passive-aggressive comments and pranks to fight their battles. It’s not so exciting as Karate but it still makes an emotional impact if you care about these characters. Tension remains high throughout. You’re always anticipating who (if anyone) will snap first and break the cease-fire.

The kids are tense. The adults are tense. Everyone’s tense…

Cobra Kai S4 builds on its already complex array of relationships. By now most of the characters have beef with one another, or have otherwise mended fences (then painted them, up and down). New or growing friendships/ romances result in ever-shifting character allegiances. But part of Cobra Kai’s charm how its cast changes teams more than Chang in a Community paintball episode… This keeps things tense and opens up new storytelling possibilities.

But I dunno how they can keep this formula fresh for another season. Then again, I didn’t think CK could stay interesting this long. So I’m bound to eat my words come Season 5.

Cobra Kai‘s biggest biggest new plot points concerned the merger of Eagle Fang and Miyagi-Do. It was expected that Daniel and Johnny wouldn’t see eye-to-eye as Senseis. Anyone who thought they’d magically be best friends was kidding themselves… But what surprised me was how receptive the students were to learning new styles. Dare I say they were even curious!

And with this major shift in status quo came a new set of character relationships. A highlight of this plot came of the newfound bond between Daniel and Miguel (Xolo Maridueña). I, like Johnny, was freaked out by their dynamic at first. It’s just weird! JOHNNY is Miguel’s pseudo-father-figure/ mentor. There is room for no other! So I fully understood Johnny’s Jealousy of the situation. But Johnny ended up closer with Sam (Mary Mouser), so I suppose it evened out: nobody was happy.

Daniel LaRusso and Miguel train together in Cobra Kai.
Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2021

On a more fundamental level: Johnny and Daniel’s rivalry hurts their students, and all the kids know it. In fact, they try to reconcile differences between their Senseis. Their efforts were simultaneously heartwarming and concerning. Characters like Miguel wanted a stable training environment to continue doing the activity he loved. But characters like Sam seemed inclined to learn the most abilities for active combat (against Tory specifically). So it makes sense they’d each gravitate towards the Sensei who gave them what they emotionally required.

As much as I like Sam, she was the biggest bully this year. Tory (Peyton List) frequently complains that Sam is a spoiled brat who always gets her way, and Tory comes out looking justified for that belief. See, Tory is evidently at the disadvantage in their rivalry now, both legally and in the court of public opinion. She’s been kicked out of school, she’s on probation, and can barely hold down a job. Yet Sam picks fights with her at every opportunity!

Cobra Kai went a long way to making me sympathetic for Tory. She’s easier to root for now that she’s the underdog. I was actually hoping she’d kick Sam’s ass in the All-Valley! Tory even earned the aid of an unexpected ally this year. Maybe that relationship will seem weird to some, but I was all here for it. That story-line was my favourite of S4!

Robby (Tanner Buchanan) maintains his upward trend towards the mantle of Cobra Kai’s (arguable) best fighter. He’s the only combatant to fully immerse in both dominant forms of Karate– so he takes the clear advantage in each fight. Robby’s soul is the real prize of this series. Can he overcome his pain and abandonment issues to become his best self, or will he succumb to his hardships and become an unmerciful “Champion”? He spends the whole season straddling the line between good and bad– mostly maintaining his morality whilst tapping into his aggression when necessary.

Cobra Kai even succeeds in deepening a formerly 2-dimensional villain like Terry Silver. Silver was the best part of The Karate Kid Part 3, so I was glad to see him return. He got the “Old soldier who’s finally found peace gets dragged out of retirement for one last job” plotline. Sounds cliché on paper but I enjoyed how they pulled it off. His slow evolution in personality is unnerving and genuinely unsettling. The deeper they delved into his psyche the more messed up S4 became!

Terry’s back and scarier than ever!

I don’t have many remarks about Johnny and Daniel which I haven’t already said: they continue their rivalry whilst building a dojo together. Though Johnny satisfyingly continues his redemptive journey. And this season even vindicates his world view with Daniel in multiple ways! It’s nice when he gets the moral high ground once in a while. Far as I’m concerned, William Zabka remains the series’ MVP.

NOTE: A drunken Johnny gave me an emotional crane kick to the face late in S4! What he did was the most unintentionally low blow of the series.

Daniel’s biggest plotline concerned his loss of control over his world. His kids don’t listen to or respect him anymore. And Miyagi-Do is no longer accepted, even amongst his students, as the “only” way to do Karate. So Daniel is forced to seriously examine his relevancy to the world. I love the answers he finds!

The young Kenny Payne (Dallas Dupree Young) made a good first impression in S4! He’s a new kid at Anthony LaRusso’s school and becomes the target of cyber bullies. So he joins Cobra Kai to defend himself. One intriguing element of this story-line is how Kenny’s abusers slowly begin to show remorse. The way this plotline resolved leaves the door open for future conflicts (once Kenny and his bullies get to high school). Cobra Kai tries to ensure its longevity through characters like Kenny. ‘Cause there needs to be SOMEONE left in West Valley once Miguel, Sam, Tory, Robby, Demetri, and Hawk graduate high school.

NOTE: Cobra Kai brings back some characters who were sidelined or abandoned in Season 3! I was glad to see a few familiar faces.

All in all, “Balance” is the name of the game this year! Every character realizes they’ve grown too extreme in their respective outlooks– whether those outlooks concern martial arts, personal relationships, or philosophies. By season 4’s end, everybody becomes more well-rounded human beings. ‘Twas a great forward momentum for the show!

Some final positive thoughts: Cobra Kai has always featured great action scenes. And they’ve still got it! For my money, this show maintains better choreography and cinematography than most modern blockbusters! Those final fights at the All-Valley tournament may be the best they’ve ever done.

A few critiques now… Hawk is mostly sidelined till’ back half of S4. And I don’t think Demetri even got a storyline this year. Oh well… There was a lot going on, and multiple new characters, so something had to give way.

The Daniel/ Johnny rivalry continues to be fun but it’s starting to wear thin. So long as each season continues to shift them towards a fully-fledged partnership (or at least mutual toleration), it will be OK. But I hope Cobra Kai doesn’t drag out their feud till the show’s bitter end…

Cobra Kai remains a blast! Why does simple fun seem like a foreign concept in most modern entertainment? It’s like every other show and movie competes to make audiences miserable. They ruin or kill of classic heroes, make everything as “dark” or “serious” as possible, and seem afraid to incorporate any joy or optimism. Perish the thought! Cobra Kai is my medicine for the rest of that junk…

Cobra Kai remains one of TV/ Streaming’s best shows out right now and something you ought to Watch ASAP.

Which character has the best Cobra Kai storyline and why? What did you think of Cobra Kai Season 4? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know. Also be sure to Like this article on Facebook and share if you enjoyed!

Till next time,

Joe Morin

By Joseph Morin

Joe's passion for film and entertainment began at 7 years old when his younger brother demanded to watch Duel of the Fates every day for weeks (on DVD). Joe admired the sequence so much, he decided to dedicate his life to film-making and storytelling. He has a degree in Cinema and Media Studies from York University. Joe loves DC superheroes (especially Superman), the first six Star Wars movies, and arguing about media with anyone who will listen.

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