Don’t know if any of you have seen the new series, Cobra Kai, on Netflix. I approached it with slight doubt but thoroughly enjoyed the series. Much more than I expected, in fact.
We all grew up with the story of The Karate Kid, Daniel Larusso, the outsider kid from New Jersey who moves to Reseda in California. His story of bullying and redemption is instantly familiar. A whole generation of boys, this writer included, grew up with Karate Kid as their favourite movie.
Ostensibly, a typical ’80s movie of good guys versus bad, I watched it recently and the film is actually much more nuanced than that. The portrayal of bullying is very realistic-as is the truism that the bully backs down the minute you stand up to him.
Also bucking the trend in a era of cringe-worthy excess, the hero of the piece is not a muscle bound All-American, but a 60 year-old Japanese man. Just another reason to love the movie.
Cobra Kai has an altogether different conceit. Some 34 years later, Larusso is a successful car dealer struggling for balance in his life. Circumstances contrive him to be reacquainted with his nemesis from all those years ago, Johnny Lawrence.
The ensuing years have not been kind to Lawrence. We see him as troubled and disturbed, but fundamentally a good guy. It’s an interesting inversion from the original films.
As well all know, the central pillar of bullying is power. Power, and the abuse of it, is what makes bullying possible. That’s the essence of it. In the original film and its sequels, privileged Lawrence holds the power over poor kid, Larusso.
However, Cobra Kai neatly twists the relationship by making Daniel the powerful one; the successful businessman to Johnny’s down and out character. It’s an interesting role reversal.
The progression of the series plays out the complex relationship between these two well meaning, but flawed individuals.
The rivalry is exacerbated when Johnny coaches a young karate student who ends up dating Daniel’s daughter. The picture is complicated further when Daniel becomes the sensei of Lawrence’s son.
It’s a complicated dynamic and it’s unclear who the good guys are. In the rebooted version, who is the Mr Miyagi figure? Is it Larusso or is Lawrence? By the end of the second season, it’s still not clear.
In truth, both the main protagonists are revealed to be flawed and difficult individuals, each capable of acts of kindness and poor judgement in equal measure.
Neither cover themselves in glory despite their evidently good intentions. In Cobra Kai, unlike its predecessor, it’s not a matter of black and white but muddy shades of grey.
Of course, there are ridiculous moments in the series and some of the fight scenes are downright silly. But there’s a depth and warmth to the series that can’t help but captivate. It’s good stuff.
This is a tv show with plenty of heart and drama, not to mention its fair share of comedy. It’s well worth a watch if you’ve any nostalgia for the movies. You’ll not be disappointed.
P.S. Ireland finish yet another Six Nations campaign in an underwhelming manner. So much potential, but yet the same old story at the end. Criticism will be aimed at Farrell, of course, but it’s misguided.
For all the talk of Irish depth in recent years, how many world class players do Ireland actually have? How many are Lions starters or World XV pedigree? Not too many. Just goes to show, yet again, what an incredible job Joe Schmidt did in overachieving with this group.