An homage gone on too long: Cobra Kai season 5 review

Following the results of the All-Valley Tournament, season five of Cobra Kai finds Terry Silver expanding his Cobra Kai empire. Terry Silver wants to make Cobra Kai synonymous with Karate throughout the valley. After watching the first four seasons, you do start to wonder if there is anything other than a karate competition that can spur on these characters, unfortunately that question takes about eight episodes to gain an answer.

Taking place over thirty years after the events of the 1984 All Valley Karate Tournament, the first four seasons were a nice homage to the original film franchise, but that can only go on for so long. Series five re-uses old plots for characters and there isn’t much in terms of character growth for the main cast, which is a shame as being five seasons down, one would expect something a little different for Cobra Kai.

After the defeat of Miyagi-Do, Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Machio) follows the terms of the bet and closes the dojo while not knowing that Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith) bought the victory for Tory Nichols (Peyton List). While the Valley forgets there were two champions, one from Cobra Kai and one from Miyagi-Do, it is very fitting for the whole pace and plot of the season. Some plots and characters are brought in, to be a major impact following on from season four, yet it is forgotten before episode three starts. A notable example of this Miguel Diaz (Xolo Maridueña) and his spontaneous trip to Mexico in search of his father. While the story does loosely end, after sitting through the episodes without any sort of payoff, the writers have lost their way with some of the characters.

Starting the season, I was hopeful that the fifth season would avoid the cliché and receptiveness of a ‘winner takes all’ karate competition and, it was starting to look that way. For the first six episodes, we must suffer watching Daniel LaRusso run around the valley with Chozen Toguchi (Yuji Okumoto), trying to show everyone who Terry Silver really is. Unfortunately, this does drag on and nothing truly progresses within the main plot, or most individual character plots, until the very end of episode six. While it seems the writers are confused around what they intended for Chozen, he is a welcomed addition as he does try and do something a little different, but he is not utilized as much as he could be. 

It is rare for characters to have any semblance of development and the only ones that do are Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) and Robby Keene (Tanner Buchanan). It was refreshing to see these two characters bond and talk through their troubles instead of being on the endless cycle of stale plots and relationship drama that so many other characters are stuck in. While Johnny has the much-needed character development, he still does not lose the humour that everyone has come to like in Cobra Kai. The writers can grow their characters but sadly it seems that aside from Robbie, Johnny and Tory, the rest are left to suffer the same character arcs and dramas they have already gone through in the first four seasons.

One thing the fans of the original movie trilogy will enjoy is the old characters coming back into the show, even if it is for a brief period. Jessica Andrews (Robyn Lively) makes a brief appearance in the show but unfortunately it is overshadowed by overchoreographed, cheesy fight scenes that have been overdone. While it is nice to see where these old characters have ended up after the original movies, you do have to wonder what Cobra Kai will do when they eventually run out of people to bring back or karate competitions that decide the fate of the valley. 

A similar pattern to the previous four seasons is the structure for the latest instalment. A sensi comes into the valley wanting to make Cobra Kai the dojo that everyone wants to be in while Daniel tries to do everything to stop it, for the sake of the soul of the valley. The main difference this time is that Terry Silver is more dangerous than the past Sensi’s and he has a lot more money to further this. Terry uses flashy advertisements on social media, merchandising etc. As the season progresses, we are told that Terry Silver cannot get control of the Valley (which he already has) as he has some sort of master plan. These devilish plans are not revealed until episode eight and it feels very anti climatic. 

Like the previous seasons, there is another all-in karate competition only this time it is the Sekai Taikai, the world championships of karate that have taken five seasons to introduce. Terry aims to have the Sekai Taikai be the Super Bowl of karate, broadcasting across the states and he hopes Cobra Kai will be at the forefront of it. It should not take almost 80% of the season to set up the goals of the characters and frankly, it almost feels as if it was thrown in at the last second. 

Overall, the fifth season of Cobra Kai feels repetitive and while it is supposed to be a homage to the original film franchise, the show does not have its own identity. From the over the top, sudden fight scenes with the eighty’s music, rather than feeling like a timeless acknowledgement of the past, the fifth season of Cobra Kai feels as if the writers are stuck in what they wanted the first season to be with a fear of moving on and carving out their own legacy.

The MVC of this season is Johnny Lawrence. Due to his character development and not losing the essence or humour of the character, without Johnny the season and some characters would still be stuck in the same repetitive tone, which it is for the most part but he tried his best. 

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The first nine episodes were streamed for the purpose of review.
 Season Five of Cobra Kai will stream on Netflix on September 9th, 2022.


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