I love Cobra Kai. I love everything about it. And apparently like most of the world I only became a fan a few moments ago. Paying for YouTube seems ridiculous right?
Well maybe I should have been paying for YouTube because Cobra Kai has probably knocked Stranger Things out of my Top Five favorite tv shows. And its not because I’m replacing Nostalgia with nostalgia. Cobra Kai barely relies on Nostalgia, and to be fair ST isn’t nearly as dependent on that ineffable emotion as many think. The main thing that makes ST so wonderful is how it depicts friendship.
No, what makes Cobra Kai so good, so absolutely beautiful, is how seriously it takes its characters. And these characters are not deep. They are very simple, normal people. This isn’t complex. What each character needs and wants is clear from the get go. That in itself is very rare in contemporary TV writing. It’s what made Breaking Bad, and makes its spinoff Better Call Saul, the best TV show yet produced. Clear character motivation taken to logical ends.
But Cobra Kai isn’t really great TV in the way that BB was. BB is a tour de force on every level. Amazing acting, production, etc. It is flawless. Cobra Kai honestly has the production quality of something you could find on TBN. The acting especially is weak, and I’m not saying its bad acting. But given the standards that we’ve become used to it simply doesn’t reach those heights. A few members of the cast should not have future careers in this business. But honestly, even the weak acting is part of what makes it appealing. Cobra Kai knows these characters are not tragically deep aka Walter White. Paul Cantor has called him the Macbeth of Meth.
No there’s no hidden Shakespearean depths here. That’s part of what makes it so good. It’s not trying to be more than it is. It is a weird example of subject matter perfectly matching production. The acting ability of Ralph Macchio matches the pathos level of Daniel LaRusso perfectly. It’s very unpretentious. In a world of irony and increasingly pretentious TV, Cobra Kai takes simple solid characters and brings them on the journey they should go on. The complications are completely natural and feel totally expected, yet surprising. That’s perfect storytelling. It’s like waking up Christmas morning and opening a present you didn’t know you wanted, but when you see it you can’t imagine living without it. That sums up what really makes Cobra Kai so absolutely, gushingly wonderful.
The Karate Kid came out the year before I was born. It came out decades ago. And the series has not fared well. Each sequel has been worse than the first…until now. Cobrai Kai comes along and actually improves on the original, making the original more meaningful and more impactful. And I love the original Karate Kid, I cry during every single Mister Miyagi moment throughout the whole series. Every time Miyagi does the selfless thing, the virtuous thing. Every time Miyagi turns the other cheek I lose it. I love it. I think one of my best Federalist pieces was about the original Karate Kid and how really its all about the importance of Fatherhood, and actually a powerful story about unrequited Fatherhood. Which moves me greatly because I can’t be a biological father and I dream someday that I will have spiritual sons and daughters. And I think Cobra Kai is actually teasing out that theme of Fatherhood even more impact fully. I will write a more in depth post about that in the future, but Cobra Kai is dripping with Fatherhood issues.
When I first heard about Cobra Kai I assumed that it would be the How I met Your Mother Interpretation of the original film. Ya know the Wicked to The Wizard of Oz. The true story of how the good guys were all bad and the bad guys were all good. But its not that at all. It brings balance and focus to a narrative that is rightly unbalanced in the Karate Kid, but it never subverts the original. It simply takes it forward logically. It’s the Christmas gift no one knew they wanted, but now that we have it I can’t imagine not having it.
Thank you to everyone involved in making this show happen. You have brought something truly wonderful into the world. A world where people can’t stop talking about awful crap like Cuties. Cobra Kai is the anti irony, anti cynical story that we desperately need right now.