What to Watch Verdict
'Cobra Kai' just keeps getting better!
🥋Miguel and Sam's journeys running in tandem is a great conversation in regard to physical and mental recovery.
🥋Every Johnny and Daniel scene is a gift.
🥋Daniel's trip to Okinawa is incredible.
🥋Robby regresses some this season, and you hate to see it.
This post contains mild spoilers for Cobra Kai.
It’s difficult to maintain a constant state of greatness, and yet here we are with Cobra Kai. Season 3 found itself facing a difficult task with Miguel’s (Xolo Maridueña) accident at the end of Season 2, but it manages to tackle it as admirably as it’s handled the source material of its past. There’s no disputing that nostalgia vehicles can be a trap, but at no point have we seen Cobra Kai falter. Appropriate, given that “You’re the Best Around” is the Karate Kid theme.
As you’d expect, we kick things off in the hospital with Miguel. Because this is a universe where we watched Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) magically heal Daniel (Ralph Macchio) with his hands, we’re going to accept the fact that the kid isn’t dead after landing spine-first on a railing after a twenty-foot drop and not be a bunch of goons about it. The rest of the kids from Miyagi-do do their best to go about their lives after the tragic incident, but some struggle more than others. Robby Keene (Tanner Buchanan) is on the run, while Sam (Mary Mouser) finds herself with some pretty strong PTSD.
While the kids try to get back to some semblance of normal, the people of The Valley have decided they’re done with all of this karate nonsense. The high school lays down strict new rules about fighting, and The All Valley Tournament has been shut down for good. As is the case with most of these situations, all of these new regulations do nothing to deal with the actual problem.
Speaking of the actual problem, Season 3 of Cobra Kai takes us deeper into John Kreese’s (Martin Kove) story, while expertly illustrating how he manages to manipulate kids like Tory (Peyton List). Players like Amanda (Courtney Henggeler) will finally see that this is much more than a silly faction war between Dojos and do her best to step in by way of proper authorities (and maybe a hit of her own), but Kreese proves just how easily he can bend the system to his will.
All of this is what finally takes us to what is hopefully the end of the Daniel vs. Johnny (William Zabka) rivalry. It was a solid foundation for the show in Season 1, and since then we’ve seen plenty of hints at these dummies learning, but toward the end of Season 3 it became obvious that it’s time to put that all to rest. It’s both dangerously close to being overused, and the only way Daniel and Johnny will be able to save the All Valley and protect their kids.
Sam and Miguel prove the most difficult to reach from the perspectives of their respective teachers. Both Mary Mouser and Xolo Maridueña deliver career-best performances this season while facing physical and mental roadblocks in tandem. The way we see Johnny break through with Miguel’s restrictions might be a little corny for some, but if you’re a music lover it’s going to be exactly your speed. Sam takes a little finessing from multiple concerned parties, but she comes into her own before it’s all said and done.
Season 3’s biggest frustration has to be Robby. These are teenagers, so some regression is expected. With that acknowledged, everything Robby does this season comes from a place of fierce privilege. Guy almost killed a kid. Rather than be concerned about that, there’s a lot of woe-is-me running on his part. When those who have done nothing but give him reasons to trust them intervene, he acts as if he’s been betrayed rather than helped. His journey is A Lot™ this year, and Cobra Kai already has one fiercely misguided leader in Tory.
It's a bit of an aside, but this review wouldn't be doing its job if I didn't at least acknowledge Hawk's (Jacob Bertrand) story this year. I ain't sayin' nothin' about nothin', because it's the kind of thing that's best if you see it first, but applause to all involved with his narrative in Season 3.
While this review is posting in tandem with the release of Cobra Kai’s third season, I’m not here to spoil any cameos that weren’t already revealed in the trailer. Chozen (Yuji Okumoto) and Kumiko (Tamlyn Tomita) are used masterfully, and in a way that will still keep those who aren’t diehard fans of Karate Kid engaged. Daniel’s time in Okinawa is chock full of some of the strongest moments of the season. Which says a lot, because it’s a damn good season!
Cobra Kai is the type of show that just keeps growing along with is characters. It’s a deeply difficult mountain to climb, but there have been no slumps in this series as of yet. Each year brings something new and furthers the story in ways that keep viewers wanting more, and Season 3 is certainly no different. You’re not going to be stuck with an agonizing cliffhanger the way you were last year, but the finale will most certainly keep you asking when Season 4 will debut.
Amelia is an entertainment Streaming Editor at IGN, which means she spends a lot of time analyzing and editing stories on things like Loki, Peacemaker, and The Witcher. In addition to her features and editorial work, she’s also a member of both the Television Critics Association and Critics Choice. A deep love of film and television has kept her happily in the entertainment industry for 7 years.