Cobra Kai: Mercy
May 23, 2018 3:12 PM - Season 1, Episode 10 - Subscribe

It is the day of the 2018 All Valley Karate Tournament and Cobra Kai is determined to win. Robbie signs up unaffiliated. A familiar face from the past returns.

Decider: “There’s nothing dirty about winning, Sensei. You taught me that.” The entirety of Cobra Kai’s Season 1 finale, “Mercy”—the longest, densest, karate-iest episode of the entire season—boils down to the look on Johnny Lawrence’s at these words from Miguel. Because woo boy, there is something dirty about winning, providing you do so like Miguel, taking him the All-Valley trophy for Cobra Kai by mercilessly targeting Robby Keene’s injured shoulder. Just like Johnny taught him, like he learned from weeks of lessons preaching strength over everything and looking at the three Cobra Kai laws written in black on the dojo wall: “Strike First, Strike Hard, No Mercy.”

Man, Johnny’s face. He’s looking into the past and seeing himself glaring back at him, an angry kid that Johnny accidentally turned into a monster.
posted by ActingTheGoat (13 comments total)
 
Hawk’s victory tattoo flapping scene has gotta be one of the funniest TV bits all year. He had a whipping coming to him, though.

What an unexpected delight this series has been! I’m actually fine with the show ending now and worry the next season might become tedious. But Zabka is a very talented writer and has earned loads of credit here so it will be fun to see how they develop what comes next.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:48 PM on May 23, 2018 [4 favorites]


Even though I was a kid in the 80's, I never got into the Karate Kid movies, so I'm shocked that this turned out to be so likeable. I really appreciate that this show was both good and simple. So many of the good American shows in the last decade are things you have to mentally prepare yourself for--high-concept, out of chronological order, political, deep character studies, etc. Sometimes I just want to be entertained.

This show wasn't just entertaining, it was highly effective. There were several times that it got me hyped up about something, and then when I thought it was about to happen, something genuinely surprising (and therefore even better) happened instead. I thought Johnny and Daniel were about to fight, but then they had breakfast.

I noticed that several episodes were directed by Steve Pink, which makes sense considering his CV is stuff like Grosse Pointe Blank and Hot Tub Time Machine. This show is about some very similar questions. When are you just being nostalgic and when are you getting actual value out of revisiting your past? Why do you want to fight the same battles again? What if you lose?

I guess that the next season will focus more on Daniel--they're hinting that we'll see more of his daughter, and they made Miguel less and less sympathetic, so maybe now we'll hear more from the other side. They made him seem really uncool so far, but I trust that they can and will make me like him more in the future.
posted by heatvision at 3:40 AM on May 24, 2018 [5 favorites]


I've been wondering about Daniel's likability--that scene where Johnny talks about the events of KK from his point of view is probably my favorite in the show. And Samantha seems to be really good at karate, but she also seems conflicted, at best, about doing it. Even from what we've seen so far, it looks like Daniel might have tried to push her into it, and that maybe it didn't take.

There's a throwaway line in one of the episodes, where Amanda says something to Daniel like 'Your businesses have always been successful, except for Mr. Miyagi's Little Trees,' and I want to know what happened there. Like, we know that Daniel surprised Miyagi by spending his college money on a lease in a not-quite-gentrifying area, so that they could open a... bonsai tree store. That didn't have the word 'bonsai' in its name, that attempted to capitalize on the name recognition of a karate teacher with one student who came out of complete obscurity to win a tournament for teenagers. And after some goons steal all their trees, Miyagi sells his truck to keep this boondoggle going. We know from Amanda that the business failed. Miyagi also owns a collection of vintage cars. And Daniel is now a... successful car dealer.

Admittedly, I'm mostly making up the backstory, but that sounds like some 'Giving Tree' shit.
posted by box at 5:03 AM on May 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


They made him (Miguel) seem really uncool so far, but I trust that they can and will make me like him more in the future.

I had been watching this as mostly Miguel's (and Johnny's) story, so I was disappointed at what an angry asshat he becomes towards the end of the season. But they've done a good job at nuance and both echoing the movies while simultaneously switching up POV and motivations, so I expect that Miguel (and Johnny) will get a redemption arc next season. I have a hard time seeing them redeem Kreese, so that will probably help push Johnny back to the light side of the force.

box, that is a somewhat accurate description of Karate Kid 3, if my hazy memory is at all accurate. Of course, I've seen the first Karate Kid who knows how many times and I only saw the sequels the once decades ago. I was meaning to re-watch all of the original Karate Kid movies but have only see the first one so far. I got distracted with a My Cousin Vinny re-watch instead.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:46 AM on May 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


Daniel surprised Miyagi by spending his college money on a lease in a not-quite-gentrifying area, so that they could open a... bonsai tree store. That didn't have the word 'bonsai' in its name, that attempted to capitalize on the name recognition of a karate teacher with one student who came out of complete obscurity to win a tournament for teenagers. And after some goons steal all their trees, Miyagi sells his truck to keep this boondoggle going.

That part is a (selective, but accurate) retelling of the plot of Karate Kid III. (There's also a lot of kicking, a little rappelling, and a lot of Kreese's old-Vietnam-buddy-turned-Captain-Planet-supervillain.)

We know from Amanda that the business failed. Miyagi also owns a collection of vintage cars. And Daniel is now a... successful car dealer.

This much is canon. But, like, the part where Daniel's appropriative, gentrifying bonsai shop bankrupted Miyagi? I could see it. After all, Daniel is the real bully.
posted by box at 1:26 PM on May 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


I actually was trying to say that I felt like they've made Daniel uncool. I'm no expert in eastern culture, but I'm pretty sure that if you're making bonsai trees for people like a factory, you're not doing it right. Plus he's rich and his business gives out tea with chunks, and his super-fancy dojo that he made to outdo Johnny just made my skin crawl. Quit trying to buy and sell culture and enlightenment.

I'm pretty neutral about Miguel because they haven't told us much about yet beyond the bully-defeating story arc. Miguel and Robby have mostly existed to have this Real Son/Replacement Son narrative for Johnny.

I heard that the writers for this show were very interested in making you root for everyone, though, and they did a really good job of that. At one point or another this season, I have been on the side of each main character in the show, I think. (I am not counting Daniel's lousy son Anthony. That kid sucks and 100% reminds me of AJ Soprano.)
posted by heatvision at 3:27 AM on May 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


I just remembered it was that other guy who had the chunky tea. I could kick my chunky self.
posted by heatvision at 5:41 AM on May 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


This turned out so much better than I expected. They could have gone with a straight up remake with teen drama and feel good Miyagi-do, but focusing on the adults with the rest of the stuff as support really paid off.

For me, this was mostly Johnny's story - him finally growing up and examining his unexamined past (the whole Cobra Kai ethos shtick).

Miguel and Hawk face-heel-turning was unexpected, and that Hawk and Miguel go after Robby's arm injury is a big contrast to Kreese explicitly telling Johnny to go after Daniel's leg injury when Johnny was actually trying to be a good sport about it.

I really hope that this is a springboard for Zabka getting more, and more substantial, roles. He really impressed me in this and it doesn't hurt that he has a nuanced and meaty role to chew on (with a side of action and a side of comedy).

Agreed - Daniel was written to be unfulfilled and his success is mostly only on the surface and he's been riding his three touchdowns in a single game one teenage accomplishment (see: cheesy car commercials and superficial cultural appropriation, a talented daughter who isn't impressed with him, and a complete loser son, although he has an absolutely unbelievably awesome wife).

Can't tell which direction the next season is going to take - whether a Kreese/Johnny thing or a Daniel redemption thing like the first season was a Johnny redemption story. I could see Kreese "stealing" Miguel and Hawk from Johnny and turning them into bigger jerks.

Aisha: "Even if you don't join Cobra Kai, we could definitely use another girl out there"
Sam: ...thoughful look...

Sam vs Miguel in next year's final?
posted by porpoise at 1:25 PM on May 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


The look on Johnny’s face when he realizes that the bullied kids that he whipped into shape are heading into dark familiar territory that he was trying to avoid is what sold me at the end. Having Kreese appear casts the die: the Cobra Kai of old times is back whether he likes it or not.
posted by dr_dank at 8:01 PM on May 29, 2018 [3 favorites]


Some great moments in this finale, and some good callbacks for the fans. Echoes of KK3 in particular in that final match. Also, nice callback to KK1 with the random spinny-flippy fancy karate competitor. Heh.

Still, the writing got lazy in this episode--we're not meant to question Robby's presence in the tournament, because hey, of course the big emotional match-up will be between Johnny/Miguel and Daniel/Robby, right? It's just too perfect and symmetrical not to happen! But at no point before now did Robby express an interest in--or even an awareness of--the big tournament. Why is he there? Why this, why now? It seems like the answer is "eh, it's tv, who cares."

I'm apprehensive about the reintroduction of Kreese. If it's "Kreese and Johnny rebuild Cobra Kai," then bleh. But I would love "Daniel and Johnny team up to save the soul of valley karate." Fuck yeah.
posted by duffell at 6:48 PM on July 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


Agreed duffell! - Robby competing in the tournament was telegraphed from orbit* but made very little sense. He's just some mook without a school/ sensei (who could be held accountable) - the insurance liability alone would preclude the organizers from letting him compete.

otoh, this "eh, who cares" is - to me - a very very very 80's thing/ call-back.

Yeah, we were led to believe that Kreese died sometime in the past. The time-frame doesn't really work for me as I felt that the confrontation/ reveal was pretty much immediately after the tournament. I guess Kreese might have heard that Johnny was back in the game and kept an eye out, but my headcannon was that he only found out Johnny was back when Johnny's kid won.

But, reintroducing Kreese was the perfect hook for me - because it opens up a lot of directions that the writers can take with it.

My prediction is that Johnny rejects Kreese (not immediately though, but not due to desire to reject), Kreese eventually takes back Cobra Kai, Robby forgives/ realizes Cobra Kai's jerk-ness wasn't because of Johnny, brings Johnny into Miyagi-do, Daniel and Johnny clash but Johnny shows Daniel his blind spots. LaRusso/Lawrence-do butts head with Cobra Kai.

*he found out his dad was running a dojo - what better way to get back at his dad than to train under his old enemy and then beat his dad's students? Like, see what you lost in abandoning me? We could have been a team! We could have won the world together! Robby definitely deliberately made sacrifices in order to ingratiate himself with Daniel, tellingly that Robby had plans from the get-go.
posted by porpoise at 7:35 PM on July 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


Johnny's, "Life shows no mercy, so neither does Cobra Kai," speech book-ended by him realizing that, "Cobra-kai, do or die!" is not really any way to go through life and trying to steer his student towards fair play is just brilliant. And then Kreese walks through the door?! I'm looking forward to seeing whether Johnny can take his new found realization and stand up to his bully or not.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:51 PM on July 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


I thought about this while on the mower this afternoon. Amanda calls Johnny Daniel's 'childhood karate rival' a couple of times over the course of the series to try to get him to come to his senses. But teenage boys are encouraged to think of themselves as 'grown men.' Both men think that their 30 year old grudge isn't childish but something between men that has to be settled 'like men.'

Which is ridiculous. What does it mean to settle something 'like men?' In America — and I suppose much of the anglophone world — that means 'by fighting.' Literally the most childish way possible to settle something. We see the faintest inkling in Johnny that perhaps he's figured out that 'The Way of the Fist' isn't all it's cracked up to be. I'd like to see a story where Johnny learns how to be a man without using his fists.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:51 PM on August 4, 2018 [1 favorite]


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