Episode 1 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 7 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 8 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 9 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 10 – | Review Score – 4/5
Cobra Kai was one of the bigger surprises when YouTube dropped it on its Premium service back in 2018. It flipped the script, depicting scruffy Johnny as the antihero we could root for against goodie-goodie Daniel. Well-written and full of snappy dialogue, Cobra Kai did the impossible and brought back a franchise on life-support.
Season 2 came roaring out the gates a year later but did so with a changed focus to the kids, taking away some of the initial intrigue with Johnny and Daniel’s conflict. With a cliffhanger ending and numerous questions left unanswered, Netflix hastily snapped up the rights and green-lit a third and fourth season.
Season 3 of Cobra Kai is busy. In fact, there’s so much going on here and so many plates being spun that I’m being careful not to spoil any of the biggest surprises across these 10 episodes. In that respect, the review below is as spoiler-free as possible.
The story here takes place 2 weeks after the events during the finale; all of our characters are in a figurative (and in Johnny’s case literal) hangover. Miguel is in a coma in hospital, Robby has gone on the run and both Daniel and Johnny are suffering from their own personal issues.
With Kreese taking control of Cobra Kai dojo, the conflict turns into a triple threat of sorts with Johnny and Daniel forced to work together to find Robby before turning their attention back to their own intense rivalry.
All of this builds up to a final conflict where tensions between the different sides spill over to an almighty conflict that ends on another big cliffhanger ready for part 4.
There is a lot going on in this season and across the 10 episodes, Cobra Kai juggles around 9 different story threads. I won’t go into specifics here but suffice to say it makes for a needlessly busy season that tries to do too much with too little time. And the biggest casualty in all this is Johnny Lawrence.
This computer-illiterate antihero is easily the best character in the whole show and he’s criminally under-utilized this season. In fact, it’s Daniel who gets a lot of the screen-time, typified by an early conversation with Sam who asks: “Are we the good guys?” To which Daniel emphatically tells her they are.
This single line of dialogue contradicts the set-up in season 1 and the ensuing result sees both Daniel and Johnny wrestling for screen-time while the kids get the lion-share of dramatic plot points and fighting.
This is especially ironic given the best character work comes from the trio of adults at the centre of this bubbling conflict. Through flashbacks we learn more about John Kreese and his troubled time in Vietnam while Johnny and Daniel are both given compelling arcs, with the latter engaging in an incredibly nostalgic trip to the past. Fans of the Karate Kid franchise are in for a real treat.
There’s actually a lot of interesting ideas in this season but none of them are given anywhere near enough time to grow and become as compelling as they could. That earlier point about 9 separate story threads is not an exaggeration either, the show really does have that much going on.
With each episode clocking in at around 30 minutes or so, it feels like the writers had a lot of ideas and not enough time to showcase everything. Either that or the editors seriously went to town on this one.
Thankfully, some of this busyness can be forgiven by a bombastic, action-packed finale to close things out with. In fact, the entire season builds up to this final fight and it definitely matches some of the best this show has had to offer across the three seasons. For that alone this one is well worth sticking with for the long run.
Cobra Kai set a very high bar for itself when it dropped on YouTube back in 2018 and since then the show has never managed to hit that same illustrious height. While season 3 isn’t bad per-se, it’s disappointingly busy and lacks the same tight cohesion compared to what’s come before.
With more characters, more love triangles and more teen angst than before, Cobra Kai is an enjoyable enough romp but fails to capture what made the first season such a compelling hit.
Cobra Kai Season 3 releases 1st January 2021 worldwide on Netflix!
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Verdict - 7/10