Cobra Kai Season 3: A nostalgia-filled return


Cobra Kai – Season 2 – Episode 205

Diego Moreno, Staff Writer

“Karate Kid” first released back in 1984, captivated audiences with enthralling fights and delightful characters like Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita). This left “Cobra Kai,” a television show set thirty years after the original trilogy, much to live up to, but it continues to exceed expectations throughout all three seasons.

“Karate Kid” features Daniel Larusso (Ralph Macchio) fighting in a karate tournament to stop his bullies, including Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), from tormenting him. Trained by master Miyagi, Daniel learns both karate and inner peace in a three movie trilogy that garnered a huge following in the 1980s.

Thirty years later, season two of “Cobra Kai” ends with a harrowing school fight leaving Miguel Diaz (Xolo Mariduena) in a coma and Daniel’s daughter, Samantha Larusso (Mary Mouser), badly injured. Their senseis, now grown Daniel and Johnny, are left to fix the damage done to both property and person. 

Season three starts two weeks after the school fight as Samantha confronts PTSD, Johnny drinks his problems away, Miguel fights for his life and Daniel struggles to keep his business out of jeopardy. Where season two was filled with constant action and fighting, season three takes a more peaceful approach, moving the narrative to the forefront.

Throughout season three, Samantha and Miguel deal with their physical and emotional scars. Samantha is haunted by the loss to her rival Tory (Peyton List), notably struggling to even climb the stairs where they fought. It’s these scenes that made this season memorable; it shows a deeper understanding of characters and what they go through.

Miguel, on the other hand, once the best member of Cobra Kai but is now paralyzed, his major obstacle in season 3 as he must learn to move again while subsequently dealing with confidence issues. Miguel isn’t alone as his mentor Johnny hilariously and ineptly “helps” him every second. Johnny finagles Miguel into illegal rock concerts, lifting him up on a baby swing and lighting his legs on fire. Though not the usual physical therapy methods, it somehow worked.

However, the season had its shortcomings as well. A majority of the time is spent focusing on the development of Samantha and Miguel’s erstwhile love affair, leaving little room for other characters to really shine. Johnny’s former sensei from the movies, and now head of his rival dojo, John Kreese (Martin Kove), has a series of flashbacks establishing his time in Vietnam, but these do little more than add a bit of flavor to an already developed character.

The showstopper of the season is Daniel’s trip to Okinawa, Japan. His adventures enabled the return of Kumiko (Tamlyn Tomita) and Chozen (Yuji Okumoto) from “Karate Kid 2.” Chozen’s return, in particular, gave the writers the ability to reference scenes from the movie, evoking nostalgia. Daniel and Chozen’s sparring finds humor in allowing Chozen to take revenge and regain his honor. 

Okinawa in “Cobra Kai” was vastly different from “Karate Kid 2”, as filming for the show’s scenes took place in Okinawa instead of Hawaii, dialogue included native Uchinanchu and used the correct choreography for the song “Tinsagu nu Hana.” Tomita was the one behind the cultural accuracy as she prepared ahead of time and only agreed to come back if she was able to correctly depict Okinawian culture.

Though the fight scenes are the main appeal of the show, the trip to Okinawa was the best part of the season, demonstrating that media representation can be accurate if the creators and actors fight for and prioritize an accurate depiction of the culture. Tamlyn Tomita’s actions in “Cobra Kai” highlight this, and it brings hope that more actors take a bigger role in representing the cultures they play accurately.

“Cobra Kai”  season 3 managed to continue to captivate audiences through its use of callbacks to scenes such as Daniel’s time with Mr. Miyagi while simultaneously adding more dimension to its characters such as the full story of Johnny and Ali. Overall the season is one that sacrifices action for narrative yet keeps audiences engaged throughout.