This post contains a few spoilers. I've tried to keep them minimal, but if you're the sort who freaks out about that kind of thing, consider this a warning.

  • Welcome to the story of Cobra Kai. Strike First, Strike Hard, No Mercy! Overbrook Entertainment/YouTube
  • Thirty-four years have passed since Johnny Lawrence got his ass handed to him by Daniel LaRusso, and his life has gone downhill ever since. Overbrook Entertainment/YouTube
  • But Johnny still knows how to fight, stepping in to defend a young neighbor from some dirtbags. Overbrook Entertainment/YouTube
  • Remember Johnny's sweet Pontiac? He's still driving it. Overbrook Entertainment/YouTube
  • Our reintroduction to Daniel LaRusso. He's a big-time car dealer now, with a schtick involving karate and bonsai trees. Overbrook Entertainment/YouTube
  • Ralph Macchio puts in a surprisingly nuanced performance. Overbrook Entertainment/YouTube
  • Lawrence and LaRusso face off at the All-Valley Under-18 karate tournament. Overbrook Entertainment/YouTube
  • Now they meet again. It's really awkward. Overbrook Entertainment/YouTube
  • Obviously there are scenes of kids learning karate. Overbrook Entertainment/YouTube
  • Johnny's plan for teaching Miguel Diaz how to be badass mostly involves repeating the things he did in high school. Overbrook Entertainment/YouTube
  • Did Gavin Belson sign that poster? Overbrook Entertainment/YouTube
  • Cobra Kai is a remarkably inclusive and accepting dojo. Overbrook Entertainment/YouTube
  • Yeah, the All-Valley tournament is still a thing. Overbrook Entertainment/YouTube

Sometimes it feels like we're drowning in sequels, prequels, and reboots. It's easy to see why; comfortable and familiar is less risky than new and unknown. But the urge to revisit a successful film or TV show from the past needn't always be resisted. Sometimes, great things can happen, as in the case of Cobra Kai.

You've probably seen advertisements for the new 10-part series on YouTube, and it is surely the highest-profile original content for its YouTube Red service. Cobra Kai is a sequel to The Karate Kid that checks back in on Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence 34 years after their their first showdown at the All-Valley karate tournament. And yes, Ralph Macchio and William Zabka are back in their roles.

The story opens from Lawrence's point of view, and the past three-and-a-bit decades have not been kind to him. He's living in a cheap apartment in Reseda, not dissimilar from the one LaRusso moved to from New Jersey in the original movie. Johnny's a struggling handyman, still driving the same (not-quite so sweet) '84 Pontiac Firebird. Adding insult to injury, he can't escape his rival's success; LaRusso owns a chain of upmarket car dealerships, literally looking down on him in traffic from a massive billboard.

Cobra Kai borrows more than just the characters and locations from The Karate Kid, taking the original plot and weaving elements through the season's arc. A nerdy kid (Miguel Diaz, played by Xolo Maridueña) learns karate to defend himself from a gang of bullies, but it's Johnny who trains him in a now-reopened Cobra Kai dojo. "Strike First, Strike Hard, No Mercy" becomes an empowering philosophy for Diaz and his marginalized friends, the ultimate safe space one where anyone picking you on gets their ass beat.

I don't want to give away too much, because if you had any love at all for the 1984 classic—and it was a classic—you're bound to enjoy Cobra Kai. Between Johnny's tale of redemption and a clever retelling of the original story, the show takes itself just seriously enough that it's frequently funny. It's not as on-the-nose as the 21 Jump Street movie; going that far would have made it impossible to keep the drama that that made The Karate Kid such a good film. And the best news of all? YouTube just greenlit a second season.

Listing image by Overbrook Entertainment/YouTube

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