Netflix’s most effortlessly-bingeable series returns for its fifth run with almost indecent haste; Season Four of Cobra Kai debuted just under nine months ago. But it’s good to welcome back the karate-obsessed denizens of the San Fernando Valley and to find them on top form again. The show started showing some slight signs of fraying around the edges in its previous run (some might even have suggested that it was starting to lose its mojo, if not its dojo) but this frantic new ten-episode series sees this most unlikely TV resurrection fighting fit and kicking ass with all the energy and vigour of its first couple of seasons.
Previously on Cobra Kai… The devious Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffiths) is back in town and, having framed John Kreese (Martin Kove) for a vicious assault on Cobra Kai’s geeky Stingray (Paul Walter Hauser), has taken control of the Cobra Kai dojo and plans to turn it into the dominant karate school across the valley and beyond. Season five sees Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio), who has closed his own Miyago-Do, deeply troubled by the philosophy of violence Silver seems to be perpetuating and determines to bring his enemy down one way or another. Old friends return and old rivals become partners as the Valley simmers in a haze of bitter feuds and enduring enmities that threaten to explode in the white heat of bitterness and violence.
Season Five of Cobra Kai is fantastic. The show is firing on all cylinders again now, the various relationships and rivalries that power the sprawling cast of characters (every single one of them well-served by tight, witty, thrilling scripts) turning like the cogs of a well-oiled machine. The action scenes are taken to another level this year – the final episode is basically forty-odd minutes of screen carnage – but the show never forgets its remit to provide moments of warmth and humour (generally courtesy of William Zabka’s deadpan Johnny Lawrence – in one episode he becomes an impatient Uber driver with predictably hilarious consequences) and there’s a genuine feeling of growth as lessons are learned, consequences dealt with and relationship dynamics gently shifted.
Once you’ve come to terms with the idea of a timeless community where it seems that everyone is obsessed with karate to the exclusion of everything else and scenes of teenagers beating the living crap out of one other on a regular basis with little more than the odd bloody nose to show for their pains then it’s really hard to fault Cobra Kai or to even want to. It possesses a refreshing 1980s vibe that ties it symbiotically to the 1980s film series and it exists in its very own Universe that’s warm and welcoming despite its sometimes eye-watering violence. By the end of the series a lot has changed and a number of loose ends seem to have been tied up forever. But an audacious cliffhanger suggests that the Cobra Kai dojo – presumably now back in safe hands – still has some dark days ahead. Season Six right now please, Netflix…
Cobrai Kai is streaming now on Netflix