Cobra Kai: Ace Degenerate
May 15, 2018 5:31 PM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

34 years after losing the All Valley Karate Championship, Johnny Lawrence decides to reopen the Cobra Kai Dojo while his school adversary, Daniel LaRusso, runs a successful auto business.

Rotten Tomatoes: Johnny’s life is the subject of the upcoming YouTube Red series Cobra Kai. Set some 30 years after the All-Valley Tournament depicted in The Karate Kid, it finds Johnny (William Zabka) on the skids and looking to reclaim the Cobra Kai motto for himself. The teaser trailer for the series, released last week, captured the imagination of fans who never forgot Johnny or his dojo. While many details are still under wraps, here are a few things we know about Cobra Kai, which is expected to debut in the not-to-distant future.

Rolling Stone: How 'Cobra Kai' Brought 'The Karate Kid' Roaring Back to Life

Esquire: The Karate Kid Is All Grown Up and Actually the Bad Guy Now
In a year when our flag-wavingest Republicans have revisited Rocky IV and decided that Ivan Drago was the guy to root for, it only makes sense that we would reboot The Karate Kid with Johnny Lawrence as the good guy.

New York Times: ‘Cobra Kai’: This Rivalry Is Not Quite Ready for a Body Bag
MARIETTA, Ga. — To hear William Zabka tell it, Johnny Lawrence was a victim of circumstance.

As the roundhouse-kicking nemesis of Ralph Macchio’s Daniel LaRusso in “The Karate Kid” (1984), the definitive underdog tale for at least one generation, Johnny was both the story’s villain and a template for similar roles in comedies like “Back to School” and “Just One of the Guys.” The films cemented Mr. Zabka’s pop culture reputation for golden boy bullies just begging for the kicks to the face, literal or otherwise, that inevitably landed in the final act.

Ars Technica: Cobra Kai is a funny and engaging return to The Karate Kid universe

posted by ActingTheGoat (11 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
First two eps surprisingly good. Hit all of my 80s teen buttons.
posted by davidmsc at 10:17 PM on May 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Genius offering the first two episodes for free, it actually got me to sign up to watch the rest, though I'll cancel it before the free trial runs out.

I enjoyed this. At first I thought the scenes with the kids were kind of cheesy but then I realized that the series is basically an 80s movie.

This should almost be a full-series discussion. I'm not sure there's enough to say about each episode on its own.
posted by bondcliff at 7:02 AM on May 16, 2018

This episode is great. Great job showing how much Johnny was trapped in the past. Best scene was Johnny being inspired by the movie Iron Eagle. 10/10 would Zabka again.
posted by Groundhog Week at 10:13 AM on May 16, 2018 [6 favorites]

Just the first ep and having strange feels.

So, Johnny used to be a bully who was bullied by his (much older) sensei. I haven't seen 'The Karate Kid' in so long, did I miss that this was really explicit? Is this show going to do a sex abuse plotline? Martin Kove/ Sensei Kreese has credits for one episode.

Did Johnny continue to be a bully/ jerk afterwards? He's at least casually racist and a crummy person (although the crumminess part is mostly from bitterness and despair, despite his folks having money). I'm reading the show as wanting to explore that it wasn't just the one event (losing a tourney) but the second and third order consequences that has led to the current Johnny. William Zabka has a prolific but sparse work history, I'm liking his work here.

Daniel gaining confidence and turning into a ... schmuck? Jerkface successful car salesman? But it sounds like he hadn't moved on, either.

Holy cow, Daniel's crane kick was an illegal move and would/ should have disqualified him. In retrospect, I agree with that. As for Johnny - he originally avoided going for Johnny's injury, it was Kreese who told him to go for it.

I came in skeptical, actually looking forward to how they play this out next episode.

It feels like a labour of love - none of the original cast were exactly currently A-listers, this project really gives them an opportunity to revive/ vivify their careers.

The thing about Daniel stealing Johnny's girl - that was a Karate Kid 2 thing, where Daniel's in the shower curtain costume? Or was it in the original one?

I had completely forgotten that it was Elisabeth Shue who played Ali.

posted by porpoise at 7:27 PM on May 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Hahahah! Oh geeze, if they keep up what they're doing with ep2, Johnny is indeed a jerk all along and this is his (potential) transformation.

I know Ralph Macchio has a sense of humour in his old age and I want him to tap into that and show up as a complete and total jerkwad.

I can't really see the kid (Xolo Maridueña/ Miguel Diaz) being able to bulk up convincingly (or even wanting to, from a GIS) - the fights might be interesting.
posted by porpoise at 7:42 PM on May 16, 2018

So, Johnny used to be a bully who was bullied by his (much older) sensei. I haven't seen 'The Karate Kid' in so long, did I miss that this was really explicit?

Karate Kid 2 begins in the parking lot immediately after the All Valley Karate Tournament. Kreese assaults 3 of the Cobra Kai and starts choking out Johnny until Mr. Miyagi steps in.

The thing about Daniel stealing Johnny's girl - that was a Karate Kid 2 thing, where Daniel's in the shower curtain costume? Or was it in the original one?

That was the original. Karate Kid 2 is the one where they go to Okinawa.

Holy cow, Daniel's crane kick was an illegal move and would/ should have disqualified him.
I have wondered about that for years. I'm pretty sure youth karate doesn't allow full contact kicks to the face.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 9:13 PM on May 16, 2018 [4 favorites]

So many people love this, including a co-worker who didn't see the original. So I watched the first one. Ugh. Jerks gonna jerk. I have sympathy for folks down on their luck, but I guess he didn't learn anything from being abused by his sensei and is trying to build the same thing all over again? Also, as he was beating up those kids I was like, he's beating up kids. That's going to end badly for him. Yikes. I don't think this show is for me. Also, I did not know that crane kick was illegal! But it does make sense that full contact kicks to the face would be off limits.
posted by Glinn at 2:41 PM on May 18, 2018

Glinn - this will be exactly the show for you.

Nuance comes. It takes a (believable) while, but it works and sets up a whole new antagonist.

Illegal Crane Kicks to the head, its apparently not actually illegal in Show 2018 (as in, lots of kicks to the head are called for a point).
posted by porpoise at 7:50 PM on May 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

The Easter eggs for this program in the YouTube interface made me laugh when I saw them.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:53 PM on May 19, 2018

Perhaps I was already amenable to it after I saw an analysis a few years ago about how Daniel was the actual villain in The Karate Kid, but this episode definitely made me extremely sympathetic towards Johnny Lawrence. I definitely know what it feels like when it seems like there's no way forward from the past or the present.

As a former owner of a red '80s car with oxidizing paint I loved the verisimilitude of the paint on Johnny's Firebird. I do wonder if it's only people of the Reconstructionists generation that see that silhouette and suddenly want a Pontiac all over again?

One thing I'll be curious to see is how they handle Johnny's politics. His reactionary tendencies are really right out in the open. Given how fraught the situation is here in the 21st Century, I'm not sure I'm willing to give them much leeway on that.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:34 PM on May 19, 2018 [4 favorites]

If you’ve never seen Karate Kid II and IIi (or you last watched them when you were a kid in the ‘80s), and you like Cobra Kai, I suggest watching them (both are on Hulu). They’re not great movies, but they seem to be canon in the CK universe, and they help fill in some details about what happened between KK’s ending and CK’s beginning.
posted by box at 5:44 PM on May 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

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