Best Shows 2018: ‘Cobra Kai’ Flips The Script In This Must-Watch ’80s Sequel

Review of 'Cobra Kai' on YouTube Red, and how it manages to surpass the iconic source material.

Poster of Cobra Kai on YouTube Red.
YouTube Red

Review of 'Cobra Kai' on YouTube Red, and how it manages to surpass the iconic source material.

If you’re looking for the best shows of 2018, then strike first, strike hard, and head over to YouTube Red for Cobra Kai. Ever wondered what became of Danny LaRusso after he beat “The Bad Boy of Karate,” or what happened to Johnny Lawrence after Kreese nearly killed him for losing the All-Valley tournament? Do you recognize those two references? Well then Cobra Kai is a must-watch for you.

Even those unfamiliar with the source material will likely love this YouTube Red hit. The first two episodes are streaming for free, and the other eight require a subscription to watch. There is a 30-day free trial for new subscribers, but Cobra Kai alone is worth the $9.99 a month.

But it won’t take you a month to watch this gem. YouTube Red audiences are likely to binge-watch this in one setting. With 10 episodes hovering the 30-minute mark, it plays like an epic five-hour movie more than a series.

Featuring footage of The Karate Kid, the debut episode opens with Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) about to receive the first-place trophy for the 1984 All-Valley Under-18 Karate Tournament. Then we all know what happens from there: it’s announced Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) is going to fight, crane kick, and the hero wins. But it’s more than just a recap, the showrunners make this feel new.

Poster of Cobra Kai, one of the best shows of 2018.
  YouTube Red

As told in the video below (prepare to geek-out), the executive producers used never-before-seen footage from The Karate Kid. Fans can look forward to seeing the closing moments of the movie in a variety of different angles, and the focus being on Johnny rather than Daniel. The last shot of the scene showing Johnny crash to the mat was filmed in 2018, but it looks like it was part of the original film. We then see Johnny on the mat, clenching his fists, and it transitions to 2018 with him lying on his bed. And the stage is set.

One of the many ingredients that makes this show work is that it focuses on Johnny Lawrence. Where in the original movie it portrays him as just the bully, Cobra Kai makes him human. We see right away that he likes to drink first thing in the morning. And it doesn’t take long to learn that he’s divorced, estranged from his teenage son, who can’t stand him, and hasn’t done anything substantial with his life after peaking in high school.

After losing his dead-end job and (rather ironically) saving a teenager, Miguel (Xolo Mariduena), from being bullied by a group of his peers, Lawrence decides to re-open the Cobra Kai Dojo. A great deal of the series focuses on his students (resembling The Loser’s Club from Stephen King’s It), and several intriguing subplots are created. The entire cast really delivers, and several of them have show-stealing moments (keep your eye on Hawk, portrayed by Jacob Bertrand).

Of course, viewers will also be brought up to date on what happened to Daniel. His storybook-like ending seemingly continued through the course of his life; he has an intelligent and gorgeous wife, two well-mannered kids, a lavish home, and he owns a luxury car dealership. And of course, Macchio plays Daniel with a charm like only he can. But we see a conflicted Daniel LaRusso as he struggles with the idea of the Cobra Kai Dojo reopening.

Nothing short of a gift to ’80s pop culture enthusiasts, it’s very surreal seeing Zabka and Macchio reprise their roles. But even with Karate Kid flashbacks, a soundtrack backed with the ’80s, much of the original score, and many of the original actors reprising their roles, Cobra Kai is absolutely fresh. It has enough nostalgia for fans to get their fix, and it provides a new story for us to get behind. Plus, it’s an absolute blast!

Poster from show Cobra Kai on YouTube Red.
  YouTube Red

The show features plenty of wit, crude humor and language, a balanced level of drama, and it still boasts plenty of action. While the crudity may surprise some fans, they don’t go over-the-top with it. Cobra Kai knows its core fanbase, and they’re not 8-years-old anymore. The show provides a serious story without taking itself too seriously, giving us plenty wink-at-the-audience scenes. It also provides many laugh-out-loud moments, and a few heartwarming ones as well.

Cobra Kai is co-created by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, and they have successfully made a show that surpasses the source material. That’s not to take away from the iconic Karate Kid movies (well, at least two of them are iconic), it’s just Cobra Kai is that good. The ending brilliantly builds, and while we do get some closure, there is a cliffhanger that will have you craving a second season.

With brilliant directing, producing, acting, a fresh story, and plenty of nostalgia, Cobra Kai is one of the best shows of 2018.