Cobra Kai Season 3 is undoubtedly unique and different. The first two series drew us in with love triangles, high school hijinks, and heartfelt callbacks to the Karate Kid movies. With its interesting story plotting and turnovers, it has successfully proved that it is one of the best shows to get released in the year 2021.
Season 3, though, takes some time getting over the events of last season. The fallout from Miguel’s fateful fall takes center stage in the opening, to the show’s detriment. Cobra Kai is more preoccupied with clumsily providing a catch-up for lapsed fans. Much of the premiere provides endless reminders and explainers on why certain people are MIA rather than offering any real narrative thrust – a puzzler after how things left off.
Miguel, so often the heart and focus of the show, is sidelined for part of Cobra Kai season 3. The series ponders a future with multiple protagonists to mixed results. Some step forward and fill in the vacuum to good effect, but the experiment doesn’t completely pay off due to the fact we’ve spent so much time with Miguel through the first two seasons. There’s always a gnawing, aching gap waiting to be filled by Johnny’s student.
This isn’t the same Cobra Kai that streamed on YouTube Red. The move to Netflix may not have changed much in terms of production (season 3 was filmed long before the move), but it’s instantly striking how different things feel. There’s a darker edge that, to the show’s credit, goes further than in prior seasons. Don’t expect Game of Thrones-style Red Weddings, though there are similarly frequent stomach knots as the walls close in around several characters. That sense of peril only improves the show – but never loses sight of what brought them to the dance.
It’s easy to forget, amid the dojo dueling and teenage angst-fuelled antics, just how funny Cobra Kai is. The levity often comes courtesy of William Zabka’s Johnny Lawrence, who delivers a deep, multi-faceted performance that ranks as the show’s very best. It’s a testament to the actor that he can spend one episode ogling Playboy centerfolds and wracked with guilt and slumping around with those lost, heavy sea-blue eyes the next without any feeling of disconnect.
It’s clear, then, that Cobra Kai season 3 is comfortable treading on new ground. Even when several major characters find themselves in unfamiliar territory, the show ultimately powers through and delivers its best season yet. Yes, it takes a few episodes for Cobra Kai to find its footing, but the Netflix series refines the show’s trademark OTT karate drama, while also reveling in a riskier, darker season – one that packs a punch for new and old fans alike.