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Cobra Kai is awesome because it’s still about Daniel and Johnny

In the final round of the All-Valley Karate Tournament, the pinnacle of the classics Karate boyDaniel LaRusso and Johnny LawrenceViolent rivalry of all but settled down. Daniel was injured, with an unauthorized blow that sprained his leg. He hobbled to the mat, determined and a little scared. Johnny, his rival and bully, stalks him like an animal waiting to attack. Daniel wears a spotless white vest while Johnny’s is black. A lesser movie would have left it there. But Karate boy uses one of its final moments to introduce nuance to another black and white story in just three words: foot scan.

Johnny’s teacher, John Kreese, sees Johnny falling behind and orders him to take advantage of Daniel’s wound. William Zabka’s performance was impeccable. His face screamed confusion and anger as he saw the teacher’s ruthless philosophy deployed simultaneously against him and through him. When Kreese tells him “No mercy,” unlike every other point in the movie, he doesn’t respond. He is heartbroken and angry when he follows orders. His attacks go from decisive to frenzied. He yelled through his blows, with wild eyes that looked like they were about to burst into tears. As he capitalized on LaRusso’s injury, the crowd booed more with each move. At the beginning of the final point, he completed his grim task, but within milliseconds he was humiliated with a kick in the face and fell to the ground.

However, this could be an opportunity to prove through failure that Johnny is as evil as the audience wants it to be. The Johnny we’ve come to expect is more likely to throw a cheap shot or a polished insult. Instead, he lost with dignity. Suddenly, the villain we’ve been loathed for the entire movie briefly reveals himself to be just an angry kid with pain in his heart. These adversaries turn out to be more similar than they thought, with the main difference in their lives being the direction their anger was directed. Daniel found Mr. Miyagi and his stoic pacifism. Johnny is captured by Kreese, who better treat him as a cautionary tale.

Competition between LaRusso and Lawrence existed alongside the original film but, as it went along with so many stories, nuance became a matter of time. Johnny’s character becomes focused on his cruelty, and the complex emotional journey depicted in his defeat is forgotten. The “foot sweep” distribution is reduced to forage quotes for unlicensed novelty teen shirts. enter Cobra Kai.

The ultimate fight between Daniel and Johnny in The Karate Kid, shot from the side of the ring

Image: Columbia Pictures

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While a multi-season sequel was certainly not in The Karate Kid franchise’s plans, the unexpected quality (and subsequent success) of the series brought Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence’s rivalry back to life. cultural conversation again. At the start of the series, we see Johnny, now in his 50s, living in the shadow of his own squandered potential. Meanwhile, the wildly successful Daniel, who became the owner of a high-end car dealership in the Valley. Johnny’s limped over his failure and Daniel was happier when he smugly recounted his failure to anyone who would listen. The tables were turned, and Daniel brushed his feet without thinking twice. From the very beginning, the show made it clear that this was a story about competition.

Johnny ends up reopening the Cobra Kai dojo, this time with an interesting wrinkle using his callous philosophy as a way to empower kids to feel like losers. Daniel, believing the Cobra Kai philosophy to be dangerous, took on two of his students. Two consecutive headbutts as Johnny’s “Hack, First, No Mercy” attitude always contrasts with Miyagi-do’s more peaceful, thoughtful approach. The show’s first season culminated in another All-Valley Karate Showdown, this time with audience empathy built on both sides.

Cobra Kai It could have stopped its story progression there and still be an entertaining remix of a story that always leaves you satisfied to watch. But at the end of the first season, Johnny’s star student Miguel won the tournament by taking advantage of his opponent’s injury. Johnny was left with questions about the philosophy that turned his star student into the exact type of person he regretted in his youth when the show introduced a new central tension in the form of a familiar villain. belong. Johnny’s former teacher, John Kreese, smokes a cigar in the darkness of the deserted Cobra Kai dojo and makes an appearance.

From there, the story Pour gasoline on the open fire. Kreese feigns remorse and convinces Johnny to let him teach with her. Student Cobra Kai gave up the dojo to come to Miyagi-Do. Student Miyagi-Do jumps train for Cobra Kai. Friends become rivals, rivals become friends, almost every possible romantic permutation the show can explore is explored. The show becomes less nostalgic about the old world and more like a theatrical anime. The fact that these students are school-going students has a background in their love of karate and the attributive rivalries it creates in their lives. The second season ends with a karate brawl on campus so loud that it puts Miguel in a coma. The third season ends with another scene that takes place inside LaRusso’s house (in one of the best delivery scenes of the series, Courtney Henggeler gestures to the wreckage of her house with a distressed expression and says “a boy!” baby was thrown through our window!”). Each season takes our characters further and further away from the world they inhabited in the original movies and deeper into its logical course: a town where fighting can solve any problem. and everyday life is constantly derailed by unexpected juvenile karate matches. Mr. Miyagi’s pacifism feels quite reasonable in retrospect.

A Cobra Kai figure lies in bed with a neck brace while the doctors work on him

Photo: Netflix

Equal end of season 4, the show itself seems to be an exploration of the futility of violence and rivalry (although still using both to great effect). At the heart of everything is the “villain” that started it all. Zabka plays Johnny with the same complex mixture of pain, attraction, and rage that came when Karate boy hit theaters, but this time it seems audiences are more prepared to adapt to this nuance. If there is a notice that Cobra Kai For its audience, it’s rivals that are rarely long-term rivals. Even Kreese looked destined for a round of redemption as Terry Silver took the top villain spot.

But even as the story expands to accommodate a growing cast of characters, it still makes time for the rivalry that started it all. In season 4, now teaching together, Daniel and Johnny are gearing up for a long-awaited official rematch. Despite cheers from the students from the sidelines, each of them begging for a definitive answer as to which side was better, the battle ended in a double knockout. With two animated games, our heroes find themselves on the carpet with the answer to the question “Who will win?” no closer to their grasp. As a viewer, you can’t help but ask: is there ever really an answer or is it the war that matters? What if the biggest adversaries we have are the forces that push us against each other? What if the reward for beating your opponent was just another opponent?

Via Cobra KaiIts estimate, it’s competition all the way down. Each villain turns out to be another angry child with a heartache, simply ruined by whatever villain comes before him. Probably Cobra Kai trying to find a way to break the cycle. Or maybe it’s just trying to teach us to relax and enjoy the endless, paved road to hell.

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