One Line Review: Season 4 starts off well before it devolves into an oddly paced, uneven show with too much focus on the newer characters; there is some pay off in the last two episodes, but they don’t fully make up for what was a disappointing season.
I like Cobra Kai and I loved the first three episodes of Season 4, and I liked the last two episodes, but not as much as previous season finales.
The main problem with Season 4 is the pacing. We begin with the dojos preparing for the All Valley Tournament which is presumably in summer, and therefore at least six months away. At no point are we really given a general timeline for what’s happening. At one point, I wasn’t sure if I’d missed an episode. That was how jarring it was.
I get the sense that the writers didn’t want to focus on the time either, because the characters didn’t really progress over the course of the season. At least not on screen. We’re told that they’ve changed, but I don’t know how much we actually see. There are so many characters at this point that you’d need to pull out their individual scenes. It’s a shame because during season 1, the show was such a gem and you could see the gradual change in Johnny (especially the finale!). Daniel was still some ways behind, but by the end of season 3…they agreed to pair up and take on Cobra Kai together!
Obviously, the hook of the show is that they’re these two high school rivals and we inevitably reset to that point.
The way I see it, the show wrote itself into a corner with the big fight in the high school in Season 2. It went from being hyperreality to completely implausible and… ridiculous. The show can’t work out if it wants to be a teen drama or a satirical look at a man who never really left the 80s, so they toe the line. We’re assaulted with flashbacks, teenage angst and war references all rolled into one.
It’s entertaining, at least in season 2 and 3. By Season 4, it becomes very draining. Johnny is a fan favourite, and while he did get a few chuckles from me, I was mostly disappointed with the character. For one, he leaves his son in the care of a man who’s tried to kill him twice. At no point do we see or hear Johnny expressing concern for Robby. When Robby shows up at his place, Johnny basically tells him to go away. Yet, somehow we’re supposed to feel sympathy for him when he gets his ass beaten, gets drunk and confesses that all he wants is to be there for Robby. Nah.
Daniel LaRusso isn’t much better. He’s so fixated on beating Cobra Kai that both of his children are bullying other people while he quotes Mr Miyagi and acts like he’s better than everyone else. Somehow, the show has turned into a weird battle between the adults where the chess pieces are their children. There’s not much comedy in that. No one is held accountable for their actions. A character called Hawk breaks his best friend’s arm, but all is forgiven because they need him to beat Cobra Kai.
The characters that are held accountable, Tory and Robby are probably the only ones I liked this season. However, that’s because the writers decided to redeem them. I might hate them next season. Again, the writers have these two characters in a corner. Robby kicked his rival Miguel over a balcony, breaking his back and paralysing him. Tory tried to kill her rival, Sam, for kissing her boyfriend. If the end goal is peace, I have no idea how they’re going to do it.
Onto my last point and in Season 1, we had a few main characters. By Season 4 there’s a whoooole bunch of them. It was like Cobra Kai: The Next Generation. And maybe it’s just me but I don’t want to watch a bunch of prepubescent children bullying each other. It was a very weird viewing experience. The lesson here seems to be to get mad and get even. I did hear a viewpoint on a podcast about it being an important theme – bullying, and I can see why they went down that route. I just didn’t care for it.
The worst part is…we have to sit through that just so our main characters can come to realisations – Robby teaches a kid called Kenny karate so he can defend himself against his bully. And in doing so he creates a monster and Kenny becomes a bully. It was all very touching to see Robby realise what he’d done, but like, did I really have to sit through watching these tiny kids beating each other up for him to get it? It was exhausting.
I suppose we’re also seeing how a kid like Kenny becomes a bully in the first place and I will commend the writers for taking it there, but I still wish they’d focused more on pre-existing character arcs before creating new ones.
Anyway, all of that leads to our last few scenes of the season. There was a ‘tearjerker’ moment where Miguel, a kid Johnny has been mentoring since season 1, helps Johnny after one of his binges. Johnny, in his drunken stupor, starts talking about how he wants to be a father to him but he sucks at it. Miguel tells Johnny he loves him and Johnny says, ‘I love you too, Robby’. Robby being the son he’s never been there for. Ouch!
It’s sad but at this point, I’m over the writers using this kind of emotional manipulation to create these ‘heartbreaking’ moments. It never feels real to me. I’m not sure if that confirms if Johnny has been using Miguel as a stand in for his own son. I am sure that the show probably won’t face it until the end. Miguel runs away to Mexico City to find his real father who is a Bad Man™. I am confident that karate will save the day.
It always does.
The second to last scene is between Johnny and Robby. We’ve been building up to it for…two episodes (and okay fine, since season 1). The writers never show us what’s happened between these two characters since Johnny basically told him to fuck off in Season 4, Episode 5 (or whichever episode it was). We then have to watch Robby come to Johnny and pour his heart out. I liked the scene. I just didn’t care for how we got there. It felt like they deliberately ignored a lot of things in order to give Johnny a win.
Overall, it was a mixed season for me. Only the first few episodes and the last two are worth watching. I remember not liking the beginning of season 3 but being sucked in by the end. This season it was the opposite. Having gone back and watched the entire show all together…the earlier seasons are much better.
I’mma still watch, though. Questionable quality aside – it’s still an entertaining way to kill time.
Special mentions: Even though Terry Silver is yet another old man hanging around children and fighting his battles through them, I quite enjoyed the actor’s performance.
I’m not going to lie, I didn’t like Robby in the first two seasons at first but Tanner Buchanan has come a long way since then. I was impressed with his performance too. Consider me a card carrying member of Team Robby Keene.