Cobra Kai: Season 5 Review
This is a non-spoiler review for all 10 episodes of Cobra Kai: Season 5, which arrive Friday, Sept. 9 on Netflix.
Cobra Kai's fifth season breaks tradition with the last two outings, which have premiered at year's end, with a September debut and a conclusion that, for the first time, feels like default closure should the series not return for another run. It's because of things feeling a little too neat and tidy come the finish line that Season 5 feels a little less organic than what's preceded it. That being said, in true Cobra Kai fashion, there are still plenty of crowd-pleasing moments, an abundance of heart-melting sentiment, and some joyous usage of franchise legacy characters that help make these 10 "summer break" episodes most triumphant.
This is the first post-All-Valley Tournament storyline since the show's second season so, much like that year, there's aftermath to deal with, regrouping and recouping to contend with, and healing in need of happening. Thomas Ian Griffith's wealthy and malevolent Terry Silver is now in charge of Cobra Kai and has grand plans for the expansion of the dojo. Meanwhile, Peyton List's Tory and Mary Mouser's Sam are both distraught from their championship bout, even though it was Tory who claimed victory.
Ralph Macchio's Daniel and William Zabka's Johnny are both in the dumps because their respective dojos must now close but while Johnny, who's just happy Kreese is in jail, sees it more as a clean break, Daniel becomes obsessed with taking down Silver, who, as we well know, is usually a few steps ahead of poor Daniel. On top of this, Johnny is now more forward-thinking than ever, having to consider the future in ways he never anticipated while also wanting to his son Robbie (Tanner Buchanan) and his surrogate son Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) to make amends. As usual, Cobra Kai is filled with drama born of simple misunderstandings but it also earns the hell out of its reckonings and reconciliations with creative tricks and rewarding exchanges.
Just to be at a point now where Daniel and Johnny can operate as full friends, and see the actual benefits in each others' style (this season has a fun element where the two seem to switch roles for a while), is incredible. The same can be said for Daniel and Chozen (Yuji Okumoto), and it's actually Chozen's role this season that shines the brightest. Whether he's serving the drama or the comedy, Chozen becomes a much more rounded character in Season 5 as Daniel's bizarre "ride or die" against Terry Silver. Though this year's offering is firmly rooted in the events of The Karate Kid Part III (there's even a new villain brilliantly sprung from a throwaway line in that film) Chozen remains a lingering part of the second movie that still feels worthy of exploring here.
The fact that Daniel and Chozen last left each other on "okay" terms wasn't enough. The series is dead set on making them BFFs, and that's one of its master strokes. It's an absolutely lovely M.O. for a show to have and probably the best way to honor a film series that utilized dumb teenage anger for the sake of action. This messaging is meant to spread throughout the show too, trickling down to Robbie and Miguel, Tory and Sam, Dallas Dupree Young's Kenny and Griffin Santopietro's Anthony, and so on. There's even a brief moment in Season 5 when LaRusso Auto employees Louie and Anoush come to blows... only to make up several minutes later. Whether it takes years or minutes, the theme here is always understanding and forgiveness.
Okay, maybe not when it comes to Terry Silver, who is a tremendous villain this year. Yes, you may have to endure Daniel making some massively boneheaded missteps for a bit, all because he can't see how Silver is causing him to self-sabotage, but things smooth out eventually and people's heads get set right. -- and not just Daniel's, for that matter. He learns from his mistakes but, also, others start to get more on his level, seeing the true, serious damage Silver is capable of inflicting. It's no surprise that Sean Kanan's "Bad Boy of Karate" Mike Barnes returns this year, since it was already announced (though Mike's role may surprise you, in its own way) but Cobra Kai still has more Part III tricks up its sleeve, from cameos to callbacks. Cobra Kai is nothing if not thorough when it comes to the Miyagi-verse.
The series seems unsure of itself as Season 5 rounds the final base and things get wrapped up cleaner than expected.“
Five seasons into Cobra Kai and there's a definite pattern at play, though it still has room for twists and turns. As Martin Kove's Kreese spends his days in prison (framed by Silver for the beating of Stingray), we're left guessing whether or not this will finally be the time he does some actual soul-searching. And just like Season 4 gave Robbie a bullied kid to mentor in Kenny, Season 5 allows Oona O'Brien's Devon to emerge from the ashes of the All-Valley, ready to make Tory's life exponentially more complicated. There's still so much gold to mine here, in what feels like a penultimate season, that it's hard to fault Cobra Kai too much for short-sheeting the finale of this batch of episodes.
That's not to say that things go unexplained, or that there are gaps in the plot, because it all still lines up. There's just a moment of very poor decision-making on the part of our heroes that feels like it should lead them down a much different path than it does. The series seems unsure of itself as Season 5 rounds the final base and things get wrapped up cleaner than expected. That doesn't mean there's no path toward Season 6, since a very big story opens up for our heroes in Episode 8, but there are just elements of this ending that play like the end-end if need be. You never know with Netflix. Of course... you can't wrap this up without bringing in Hilary Swank, right? You just gotta.
This story originally appeared on: IGN - Author:Matt Fowler