The first season of Cobra Kai was basically the perfect five-hour Karate Kid sequel, and, if the first two episodes of season two are any indication, that’s only going to continue.
Cobra Kai season two will debut April 25 on YouTube Premium but the first two episodes premiered this week at South by Southwest. They pick up right where season one left off, not just story-wise, but quality-wise as well.
When we last left the world of The Karate Kid circa 2018, Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) had led Cobra Kai to its first All Valley Karate Tournament win in years. Their victory grabbed the attention of Johnny’s former sensei, the evil John Kreese (Martin Kove), last seen in The Karate Kid Part 3 being humiliated once again by Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Mr. Miyagi (the late, great Pat Morita).
In its first season, Cobra Kai kicked off with a scene that immediately sucked you in, showing the climax of the 1984 original from a different perspective. It was a scene that almost instantly gave you hope that this seemingly impossible YouTube show could be everything you wanted and more. Well, without spoiling anything, the Johnny/Kreese showdown does that again for season two.
The show could have framed that encounter in so many ways, but the one it ultimately chooses doesn’t just buck your expectations, it leads to a scene Karate Kid fans will be gushing over. Of course, it’s difficult to judge a season of 10 episodes on just two outings—and I’m curious if the series will be able to keep up with the high expectations it sets — but it’s a great start.
After the big win for Cobra Kai in season one, Johnny is now faced with a level of success he didn’t expect, as well as a crisis of philosophy. Should he continue to embrace the old, “No Mercy” Cobra Kai, or implement a less evil method? It was something we saw Johnny struggle with at the end of the last season when his son, Robbie (Tanner Buchanan), was defeated and injured by his pupil, Miguel (Xolo Maridueña), and it follows through here.
From the other perspective, last season Daniel saw his pupil, Robbie, get defeated by the evil Cobra Kai, something he’s been dealing with in his own life. So, he’s decided to do something about it. As revealed by the season two trailer, Daniel decides to open his own dojo, Miyagi-Do Karate, something not even Mr. Miyagi did in the past.
And in the first two episodes, we see Daniel both thrive as a teacher, coming up with a few masterful lessons that would make Mr. Miyagi proud, and struggle with his own self-doubt about the whole thing. Daniel LaRusso is a car salesman who won a few karate tournaments as a kid. How could he possibly live up to the legacy of Mr. Miyagi?
The fact that so early in the season both Johnny and Daniel already have such interesting internal struggles is a testament to the show’s creative team lead by Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg, and Josh Heald. They’ve once again crafted the beginnings of a story that works really well dramatically but is also sprinkled with enough winks and nods to the original films to give fans a shot of nostalgia. In the first two episodes alone, there are about five or six winks back to the original movies that are simply joyous. (One in particular, at the end of the first episode, literally brought tears to my eyes, but I’m sappy like that.)
Plus, as all of this is happening, there’s also the Kreese storyline (which we won’t spoil) and the rising confidence of all the new Karate Kids, such as Miguel, Hawk (Jacob Bertrand), and Aisha (Nichole Brown) over at Cobra Kai, and Robbie and Daniel’s daughter Sam (Mary Mouser) at Miyagi-Do. Each is dealing with finding balance in the increasingly complex social world that is high school, all on top of the general Johnny and Daniel stuff.
If you liked the first season of Cobra Kai, it seems like season two is going to live up to that standard. At least, we hope so. There are still eight episodes to go for the show to prove it’s still the best....around!
Cobra Kai season two comes to YouTube Premium April 25.