On Wednesday, Temple of Geek got to preview the first two episodes of Cobra Kai courtesy of Fathom Events. Cobra Kai continues the story of Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence 34 years after the events of the first Karate Kid movie. This show is set to premiere exclusively on YouTube Red on May 2nd 2018. What did we think of the show so far? Continue reading our breakdown of the first two episodes to find out.
Episode 1 – Ace Degenerate
The series starts with a montage of the final moments of the first Karate Kid film. We get an on screen tally that keeps track of the points that Daniel and Johnny received in that fight. The montage ends when we see the final, famous blow delivered to Johnny’s face by Daniel. Johnny is laying on the mat, face down as the camera pans in to his body. We then meet Johnny in present time.
Johnny is not successful by any stretch of the imagination. He seems to just get by. He meets a young teenager early on, known only as Miguel, to whom is a jerk to and we get another montage of a day in his life. We learn that he is a handyman and we follow him to his various jobs until he is finally fired. His day ends when he witnesses Miguel getting bullied in the parking lot. Johnny comes to Miguel’s aid and takes down the bullies, and is then arrested.
We meet Johnny’s step father, played by Ed Asner, from whom we learn is taking care of Johnny financially at the behest of Johnny’s mother. It wasn’t said but it was made out like it was her dying wish. During this meeting, Johnny’s stepfather wants to give up the responsibility of taken care of his step son and presents him a check to “buy him out.”
Jobless, and now no family, Johnny does the only thing anybody in this situation would do. Watch Iron Eagle and get drunk. Johnny appears to take Chappy’s speech at the end of the film to heart as he leans in when… a commercial interrupts the show with a Daniel LaRusso commercial. Daniel now runs a successful car dealership to which he gives every customer a Banzai Tree.
Trying to get Daniel out of his head, Johnny goes on a drive where he keeps having flash backs to him as a teenager and that final fight. He ends up at his old high school and has one final flashback of he old sensai making an example of him. He is snapped out of the flash back when his Pontiac is hit by another vehicle of teenage girls. The girls run off and his car is towed away. Destiny is about to bring the Daniel and Johnny back together when he learns that his vehicle is going to LaRusso’s car dealership for repairs
In the final moments of the episode, Johnny goes to LaRusso’s to attempt to get his car. He is confronted by Daniel, appears to be not holding any grudges, but has no problem making Johnny the butt of his jokes. Daniel offers to repair Johnny’s car for free and asks him to wait while he gets him something. We learn that one of the girls that was in the vehicle that hit Johnny’s car is Daniel’s daughter. Daniel returns to Johnny with a gift, a Banzai Tree, and tells him that he does not hold a grudge because he knows that Cobra Kai was responsible for his behavior as a teenager. The episode ends with Johnny meeting up with Miguel and offering to be his sensai and to become his student at the new Cobra Kai.
Episode 2 – Strike First
This episode more or less gives the audience an introduction to Daniel. We learn that he is married and has two children. The montage shows that his life is quite a contrast from Johnny’s. We see that he is loved by his family, he has an amazing home, and he is quite satisfied with his business. All the happiness comes to a head when Daniel sees the familiar Cobra Kai logo at a strip mall. He instantly starts to have flashbacks of being bullied when he was a kid.
Through out this episode, we learn that Daniel is trying hard to humble his children. In one scene, his son is a jerk to him. We also learn that his daughter has new friends that are one the snobby side. His daughter is named Samantha and we learn that she has moved on from her old friends to join a group of more popular friends. She even has her eye on one of the bullies that were harassing Miguel.
After a party, one that Samantha excused herself from, Daniel comes home to find that his daughter is having her own party. We see him chase the kids off to which after, he was scolded by his wife that if he is not careful, he will lose his daughter. The audience is shown a flashback to which Daniel was teaching Samantha Karate the way he was taught by Miyagi in his youth. He teaches his daughter that Karate is only supposed to be used in self defense. This is a stark contrast to the ways of Cobra Kai.
Miguel is getting his first lesson from sensai Johnny. The first lesson is to strike first, the first of three rules taught to him. In this episode we get to see Miguel more. We learn that he never knew his father and that he lives with his mother. We also learn that his mother does not condone violence, so he is lying to her about where he is spending his afternoons.
At school, Miguel is trying to see where he fits in. He finds himself sitting at a table that consists of the not so popular kids. As he is getting the rundown from his new “friends”, he sees Samantha and her friends enter the cafeteria and sit across from him. He decides in this moment to take his first Karate lesson to heart, strike first, and go speak to Samantha. His act of bravery is suppressed when the group of teenagers that were harassing him took seats at Samantha’s table and started to make fun of him.
Daniel asks Samantha to invite her crush to family dinner. This of course is the main kid that was picking on Miguel and was beat-up by Johnny. While at dinner, Daniel asks him how he received his black eye and bruised knuckles. The teen made up a story about how a man just decided to go crazy on him and his friends and beat them up using Karate. Daniel realizes that he was referring to Johnny and decides to confront his old rival.
Johnny is having Miguel clean to dojo. There is this funny moment when Miguel asks Johnny is there any particular way he should be cleaning the windows to which he replied that he didn’t care. This was a moment that shows the stark contrast between Miyagi and Johnny as teachers. Daniel walks into Cobra Kai and confront Johnny. Not knowing the true story, he assumed that Johnny was back to being the same bully that he was in high school. Johnny not bothering to correct him, stood his ground. LaRusso leaves the dojo with Johnny standing with a smile on his face. A victory, albeit a small one.
I really enjoyed these two episodes. I feel that the show does a great job reestablishing the audience in the world of the Karate Kid. We quickly see how different these two former rivals lives turned out. The show does a really good job of tying in the movies into this show. I feel that we will continue to see this in more episodes when the entire season is released on May 2nd.
There is humor in this show, but it is not constant in your face humor that you may be expecting after seeing the trailers. I don’t know if the humor will get more intense as the show progresses, but right now, I am going to classify this as a Dramedy.
The acting in this show is really good. I have no problem saying that this is William Zabka and Ralph Machio at their best. I don’t think you could ask for a better performance from these two actors. The new characters are good as well. Xolo Maridueña and Mary Mouser are going to be stand outs in this series.
The show appears to be doing a role reversal between Daniel and Johnny. Whether that continues or not is yet to be seen, but it is nice to see a story develop where the villain can become the hero. Now I am not saying that Daniel is a villain, but he will be going after Johnny based on his prior experiences and knowledge of events that are not true.
I want to thank Fathom Events for allowing me to see this screener and I look forward to binging the rest of this season May 2nd. If you do not have YouTube Red, you can sign up for a free trial now and watch the show yourself when it debuts. If you are a fan of the original Karate Kid and want to go back to that world, you do not want to miss this show!