'Cobra Kai' Season 3 Review: The Most Powerful 'Karate Kid' Story Yet

When Cobra Kai premiered on Netflix in August it made millions more new Karate Kid fans. Some of us have been waiting for season 3 since May of 2019. It’s almost two years later, and after all this time it’s going to be pretty hard to pace yourself through season 3. You may think you can take a break after a certain episode, but pretty much each one ends with something that makes you continue. 

[Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers for the first two seasons of Cobra Kai but not for season 3.]

Answers to the big ‘Cobra Kai’ questions 

Cobra Kai takes Miguel (Xolo Mariduena)’s status seriously. Season 2 ended with a big question about his well-being, and much of season 3 addresses it. The season premiere is called “Aftermath” and the whole season is about what that aftermath means to every character. 

Obviously, Miguel’s aftermath is the most drastic, but all of the young characters are surprised how they feel after that big fight, and how other students treat them. It’s a season of healing and healing takes time. Trust has to be re-earned. That’s more dramatically satisfying than resolving it all in the season premiere anyway.

A scene between Miguel and Tory (Peyton List) really gets to the heart of what’s at stake, and how teenage feelings process it. This is a particularly big season for Hawk (Jacob Bertrand) too.

There’s also the aftermath for the parents and teachers. The narrative changes on a whim. Randos believe hearsay and suddenly the labels of bully and oppressed victim switch. That’s another reason Cobra Kai is such a valid story. Victory is fleeting, so The Karate Kid may end on a high note, but that’s not Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio)’s life forever. 

‘Cobra Kai’ season 3 gives you everything ‘Karate Kid’ fans want to see 

Season 3 gives you more scenes with Daniel and Johnny (William Zabka) together. Of course, that’s the magic of Cobra Kai. The chemistry and friction those characters and actors have are what keep the story relevant. Zabka gets a full range of genuine drama and perfect comic timing in Johnny’s absurd poder attempts to impress others. 

The Okinawa part really captures the Miyagi spirit. In a way, it allows Cobra Kai to write new Mr. Miyagi scenes even though Pat Morita is no longer with us. Characters still talk about Miyagi and events from the movies as if it’s real history, because it is real history that happened and informs the events of the show. Season 3 addresses all the things Karate Kid fans have wanted to see, and even comes up with some homages we might never have thought of. 

The deadliest John Kreese yet 

Kreese (Martin Kove)’s backstory is poignant and relevant. There’s always a risk of explaining these complex characters, but nothing takes away his menace and it’s as good as present day scenes. 

Kreese finds more ways to push students over the limits. He uses students to his own ends. He makes them crave his approval but even those who win it are only pawns. That’s a poignant take on the seductive nature of evil, or narcissism in general.

A lot of Cobra Kai Season 3 is about students realizing their teachers don’t know everything. You can give advice but no one knows what will happen in life. Miyagi happened to be right for four movies, but adults don’t know everything either. Plus, the dojo students are still teenagers. Their attempts to resolve conflicts are still immature but clever enough to be dangerous, if not a full on battle royale every week

The most fighting of any ‘Cobra Kai’ season

There is more fighting in Cobra Kai Season 3. They construe more encounters that need to be resolved physically. It gives you a chance to see all your favorites in action. With two seasons of training behind them, they are able to perform more frequently. There’s even a car chase in this season. 

There is such palpable tension to the action of Cobra Kai. Bullies are relentless, but constantly defending yourself is stressful even if you’re capable. A character like Tory really embodies the dangers of Cobra Kai teaching. Tory will never be satisfied. She’ll always come back for more. Lose to her and she’ll want to beat you again. Beat her and she’ll have to validate herself. 

It’s that bully mentality that’s dangerous. They’ll destroy everything trying to fill that hole and you empathize with her. You want her to find peace but that’s a lifetime issue. 

There’s a lot of substance in Cobra Kai Season 3, meaning it maintains the high standards they already set in seasons 1 and 2. And this is only the stuff that can be addressed vaguely without giving away spoilers. Once everyone sees season 3 there will be so much more to talk about.

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