Karate Kid fans were in for a treat when Cobra Kai first hit YouTube. As one of the top shows on YouTube Red, it was able to get the attention of Netflix, which acquired rights to the series after YouTube Red was scuttled. With three seasons under its belt, the fourth season of Cobra Kai is set to debut on Netflix on December 31, 2021. Now it’s time to see how well the upcoming season stacks up against the first three seasons, with our Cobra Kai season four review.

The first three seasons of Cobra Kai walked a fine line between 80s cheese, a proper drama series, and the occasional bout of comedic flair. Some episodes were stronger than others, but each season as a whole did well to channel the themes of the first three Karate Kid films. Season four leans a bit more into the 80s wackiness, but still maintains enough of a balance to keep things exciting and make people want more when the credits roll on the final episode.

When we last saw Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), they had just made an agreement to settle their differences and work together to defeat John Kreese (Martin Kove) and Cobra Kai at the next All Valley tournament. If Cobra Kai wins the tournament, Johnny and Daniel have to close their dojos and stop teaching karate, but if Cobra Kai loses, Kreese has to close Cobra Kai for good.

The stakes couldn’t be higher, but closing down Cobra Kai will depend on how well Johnny and Daniel can work together. That’s the running plot thread throughout most of the fourth season. While most of the series regulars have their own battles to fight, as you might expect, Johnny and Daniel still take center stage, along with the return of Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith) from Karate Kid Part III.

This focus on Johnny and Daniel actually causes a bit of an issue because there’s more to the story of season four than just those two. The emotional climax doesn’t land as well as it should because the episodes leading up to it were constantly going back to the Johnny and Daniel situation. While the first three seasons were able to build Hawk (Jacob Bertrand), Miguel (Xolo Maridueña), Robby (Tanner Buchanan), and Sam (Mary Mouser) into meaningful characters with proper story arcs that allowed the audience to develop an emotional attachment, season four isn’t nearly as focused.

Season four tries to squeeze in as many characters and plot lines as it can, and it suffers for it. It’s easily the weakest season of the show so far, but it still manages to make you feel like you’re a kid in the 80s watching Karate Kid again. What you loved about the first three seasons is still here in season four, even if it loses its way a few times. If you didn’t enjoy the first three seasons, there’s definitely nothing in season four that’s going to win you over, but as with any ongoing series, it’s giving the fans more of what they love.

Throughout the 10 episodes of season four, there are plenty of ups and downs. The season starts off strong, and ends fairly strong, although not as impactful as the previous season finales. There are plenty of plot threads to pick up for the already confirmed Cobra Kai season five, but enough mystery to not really know exactly where the next season is heading. The creators of Cobra Kai have also talked about spin-off shows, but with all of these characters, it’s hard to determine exactly who the focus of a spin-off would be.

If you’re a fan of The Karate Kid and love 80s nostalgia, there’s a lot to like about Cobra Kai season four. It’s more of what you loved about the first three seasons, even if the emotional connections and overall plot aren’t quite as strong as the previous seasons. This story could’ve been told in six or seven episodes with sharper writing and a bit more focus, but as far as 80s fun and nostalgia goes, season four brings that in spades.


 

Pros:

  • Everything you loved about the first three seasons of Cobra Kai is back
  • The fight choreography is improved over the previous seasons
  • Some side characters have a lot more to do in this season
  • The plot threads left for season five will leave you wanting more

Cons:

  • The writers tried to fit in too many plot threads without a good payoff for all of them
  • Some characters are included just because, with no real reason for them to be there
  • The season has ups and downs with some great episodes and some lackluster episodes
  • The emotional climax at the end doesn’t land very well because it doesn’t properly build up to it

Score: 6.5/10