Cobra Kai. (L to R) William Zabka as Johnny Lawrence, Tanner Buchanan as Robby Keene in Cobra Kai.

‘Cobra Kai’ Delivers Irresistible ’80s Nostalgia and Karate Action in Season 5

4/5 Crane Kicks.

The summer of 2022 kicked off with a heavy dose of ’80s nostalgia courtesy of Top Gun: Maverick. So it seems fitting that we’re wrapping the season up with another reboot of a classic ’80s franchise. Fan-favorite underdog series Cobra Kai returns for a fifth season, continuing the saga of The Karate Kid franchise. After four films and four seasons, the battle for karate supremacy in the Valley continues. When we last left the series, former rivals Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) and Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) made amends and combined their dojos, Eagle Fang and Miyagi-Do, to face off against Cobra Kai in the All-Valley Tournament. They lose to Cobra Kai, which was taken over by O.G. bad guy John Kreese (Martin Kove), and is now firmly in the hands of The Karate Kid Part III villain Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith). Silver framed Kreese for Stingray’s (Paul Walter Hauser) beating, and Kreese was sent to prison. As part of their bet with Silver, Daniel and Johnny must close their dojos, leaving room for Silver to take over the karate game in the Valley.

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Silver makes a formidably cheesy ’80s villain, complete with tiny ponytail. He’s slick, he’s rich, and he’s pouring all his resources and attention into Cobra Kai, opening franchises across the valley. And without their dojo and their students, Johnny and Daniel find themselves adrift. But you can’t keep a good fighter down for long, as Daniel recruits The Karate Kid Part II villain-turned-friend Chozen Toguchi (Yuji Okumoto) to take the Valley back from Silver.

Meanwhile Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) runs off to Mexico to track down his estranged father. Johnny and Robby (Tanner Buchanan) go after him in an impromptu father-son road trip, as they continue to repair their relationship. While Johnny remains a goofy man-child, he’s slowly maturing into a responsible father and mentor. It’s a welcome evolution for the character, as we see him step up both as a parent and as a partner to Carmen (Vanessa Rubio). Johnny may not be the smartest guy in the Valley, but he’s making an effort to get his act together and be a good role model for both Miguel and Robby.

The same can’t be said for Daniel, who’s ham-fisted attempts at revenge against Silver alienate his wife Amanda (Courtney Henggeler). It’s a nice bit of role-reversal as Daniel becomes a hot mess while Johnny gets his act together. Daniel’s daughter Sam (Mary Mouser) also struggles with an identity crisis, quitting karate and breaking up with Miguel after her traumatic tournament loss to Tory (Peyton List). But Tory is haunted by demons of her own, after discovering that Silver bribed the referee.

Naturally, we’re all waiting for Daniel and Johnny (and their respective teens) to assemble once more to defeat Silver. But the season takes its time getting there, wandering through some uneven episodes before bringing the cast back together again. With these early episodes have plenty of humor and soapy melodrama, season five doesn’t kick into high gear into halfway through the season. But when the season does snap into action, it delivers higher stakes, bloodier battles, and a welcome sense of danger. Cobra Kai doesn’t take itself too seriously, but season 5 plays with a more dangerous, darker tone. However, fans of the show will be more than satisfied, as season 5 delivers on everything we love about the series. There are callbacks to the original films, returning familiar faces, and thrilling fight sequences. Cobra Kai remains the All-Valley champ in our hearts.

Season 5 of Cobra Kai premieres on Netflix on September 9.

(featured image: Netflix)

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Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.