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Karate Kid takes a new kick


     Many of us have seen The Karate Kid, a classic 1980s film about a teenager overcoming bullying in a new town through the process of learning karate. With the help of his sensei, Mr. Miyagi, Daniel LaRusso wins the All Valley Karate Tournament by defeating his bully, Johnny Lawrence, with a crane kick. Nearly 40 years later, there is a series called Cobra Kai based on this movie.

     Season one starts off with Lawrence reinventing his former dojo, Cobra Kai. Lawrence enlists his neighbor and sole student, Miguel Diaz, to build Cobra Kai back up into the karate powerhouse it once was. In a fit of envy, Lawrence’s former opponent LaRusso creates his own dojo, Miyagi-Do. Tension mounts between the two rivals when LaRusso recruits Robby Keane, Lawrence’s estranged son. The season ends with Keane and Diaz competing in the All Valley Karate Championship, the very same competition in which Lawrence and LaRusso once competed. This season does a good job

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of laying the groundwork for the following seasons, but the actual dramatic content is much weaker than the rest of the show.

     Season two continues where season one left off, adding a character from Johnny’s past; his former sensei John Kreese. In the original Karate Kid, Kreese influenced Cobra Kai with his “No Mercy” philosophy, inspiring his students to illegally hurt LaRusso in the tournament. This season focuses on the power struggle between Lawrence and Kreese, as Johnny does not want to repeat history with his new students. Season two ends with a major fight scene in the school between the students of Miyagi-Do and Cobra Kai, resulting in Diaz being seriously injured by Keane. In season one there wasn’t an antagonist, so the addition of Krease really makes this season interesting.

     In season three, LaRusso encounters many familiar faces from Karate Kid Part Two when he travels to Japan to rediscover the history of Miyagi-Do. Back at home, Johnny eventually decides to leave Cobra Kai and start his own dojo, Eagle Fang Karate. The season ends with a fight between Johnny, LaRusso and Kreese, leading the two former rivals to team-up in order to defeat Kreese and Cobra Kai in next year's All Valley Tournament. Season three is personally my least favorite season.The content is uninteresting compared to the rest of the show, however the ending is very good and perfectly transitions into season four.

     In the most recent season, Lawrence and LaRusso struggle to form an alliance, despite their different teaching styles. Kreese recruits a friend from his past to help him with Cobra Kai, Sensei Terry Silver, the main antagonist from Karate Kid Part Three. Lawrence and LaRusso eventually decide to split up the jojo, despite encouragement from their students to keep working together. This split leaves LaRusso and Lawrence, as Miyago-Do had the best female student and Eagle Fang had the best male student, which creates problems for both dojos when the tournament decides to split the competition by gender. Cobra Kai capitalizes on the new rules to recruit teenagers all over the Valley to join them, including Keane.

     The first part of the tournament, the skills competition, goes smoothly for Cobra Kai, launching them into first place with Miyagi-Do in distant second. Eagle Fang is eliminated in the semi-finals when Diaz gets injured and forfeits. The finals become a head to head matchup between Miyagi-Do and Cobra Kai, with Eli Moskowitz from Miyagi-Do facing Keane in the male division and Samantha LaRusso from Miyagi-Do facing Tory Nichols from Cobra Kai in the female division. Moskowitz ended up becoming the male champion, but Nichols defeated LaRusso after many false calls from the referee. Cobra Kai becomes All Valley Champions. After the tournament the excitement of Cobra Kai quickly dies down as Nichols discovers that the referee had been paid by Sensei Silver to help her win. Later that evening, Kreese is arrested after being set up by Silver, as Silver believed he was being slowed down in the expansion of the dojo.

This series is one of the best I’ve seen in awhile. The directors do a great job of building on the themes from the previous seasons, and incorporating characters from the original Karate Kid trilogy. The fourth season delivers on what audiences have been waiting for from the very beginning. LaRusso and Lawrence finally decide to put aside their differences and team up, and although it doesn’t go as planned, their arguments provide lots of opportunities for humor. This season also does a great job of balancing the two main plots between the adults and the kids. In all, this show keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.

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